How does Dickens portray life as hard in Victorian times in the opening chapters of Great Expectations?
Charles Dickens, born in 1812, has been well known for writing about the social injustices of the Victorian era to bring an awareness of the conditions of the working classes to the wider public, and in providing his protagonists with opportunities to transcend their birth rites. He, himself, grew up in relative poverty: with his father imprisoned for unpaid debts, Dickens worked labelling bottles until he returned to his education for four years before embarking on a career in journalism, where his literary legacy began. Dickens' 'Great Expectations' follows this example: Pip, like Dickens, lives his formative years on the marshes of Kent before seeking a better life in London. The young Pip, having helped an impoverished convict on a cold Christmas Eve, becomes apprenticed to his brother-in-law as a blacksmith before going on to become a gentleman through the kindness of an unknown benefactor.
Dickens' novel raises the issues of injustices done to the working classes through Pip's childhood, and through the plight of Magwitch, the unlikely benefactor. We are presented with a grim view of life for those without the advantage of money, and even of those with - Miss Havisham's riches scarcely amend for the destruction of her heart - through Dickens' imaginative use of setting, character and language. Each aim to tell what Dickens saw as the truth about the Victorian era; that is of a heartless, uncaring and often brutal ruling class, epitomised by Miss Havisham and Estella, on a helpless and impoverished working and so called 'under-class'.
'Great Expectations' opens on graveyard on the edge of a desolate marsh. Immediately, we are thrust into a scene of hardship and bleak reality: the graveyard houses both Pip's parents and "five little brothers" of his, a sign of the high mortality rate amongst children in the era. The marsh itself is a...