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Representation of Social Group in a Particular Way: Analysis of Elite and Miss Havisham

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Text: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Prescribed Question: How and why is a social group represented in a particular way?

My critical response will:

  • Show how different social classes are portrayed in the Victorian Era.
  • Show how Pip’s character is heavily influenced by the world and people around him.
  • Show the turning point at which Pip’s character becomes static.
  • Show the aims and purposes that Dickens wanted to show to the world.
  • Show how the backbone of the story is timeless and how these social groups are there in the modern world.

In Charles Dicken’s novel, Great Expectations, there have been lots of ups and downs throughout the story, which focused on a single protagonist character who’s aim was to improve his social status by climbing up through the social classes. Although the concept of social classes that the novel revolves around dates back to the 19th century, the issue has existed all throughout history and is considered timeless to this day.

It starts by portraying the protagonist Pip having his sister as his legal guardian after the death of their parents. The story portrays the family as working class who only have as much as to feed themselves for the day, they’re portrayed as uneducated, poor and simple. These characteristics have existed all throughout history, however at that time, the industrial revolution has begun. The revolution followed by the pure capitalistic society made it extremely hard for the poor working class to get educated, wealthy or even just better themselves. The role of women set in that era was seen as care givers, while men were providers. The lack of government help (due to right leaning policies) at that time made the only possible way to improve someone’s social class (Pip for example) was to be sponsored by someone from the higher class. This meant that if the person getting sponsored would get insulted (Pip) then he would have no power to standup for himself as this might cause the sponsor to withdraw.

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The elites (Miss Havisham) who lived in castles can be seen as educated, wealthy and prestigious unlike their poor hard-working counterparts. Miss Havisham was regarded as evil, as she froze Estella’s heart and caused her to hate every man. This difference in social class created a social gap between these classes in which they hardly contact each other, and when they do, the poor are often forced to accept whatever is thrown at them. This can be seen when Pip is introduced to Estella, despite the fact that he finds her beautiful and strives to come up to her standards, he always ends up getting words thrown at him, she was his foil. The middleclass people (Pumblechook) can be seen as intermediates between the working class and the elites. They do not posses power however, they demand full respect from the working class but are belittled by the elites. While a convict (Magwitch) is portrayed as filthy, uneducated and dangerous, this can be seen when Pip meets Magwitch at the beginning and then Magwitch starts demanding stuff from Pip.

Pip was affected by these actions and therefore he starts to despise Joe as a whole, from his moral standards, to his ignorance (due to lack of education), to the fact that he’s a blacksmith who’s a poor peasant. He starts to look after himself hoping to self-improve by asking Biddy to teach him whatever she knows to help him become a gentleman. In fact, when Pip gets the chance to flee to London, he almost forgets about Joe. Pip becomes the gentleman he always wanted to become, however, he’s still missing one thing, Estella. Pip always thought that Miss Havisham and Mr. Jaggers were his benefactors, but it then turns out that Magwitch was his benefactor. This tramples all of Pip’s expectations, as he thought that Miss Havisham wanted him for Estella. Pip’s character is dynamic unlike everyone around him, he moved through different phases at his lifetime, until he realized that inner worth was more important that any materialistic or apparent matter. Pip realizes that the convict Magwitch had inner worth as compared to Drummle who was wealthy but unintelligent and abusive. While Miss Havisham who had her heart broken reflected that on Estella’s upbringing, making her despise every man and freezing her heart. Joe and Biddy’s characters were static and did not change throughout the story, they’ve also sympathized to Pip’s character change due to his goal of becoming a gentleman. While the Pumblechook was portrayed as drunk and unstable, he believes that he was the one who guided Pip to his fortune, and therefore brags about that a lot, this makes Pip annoyed.

Pip’s dynamic character portrays that if an individual is trying to change his class, he needs to assimilate the class he idealizes. This means that even if the individual is risking the loss of everyone he loves, then it would be worth the result he obtains. This held true until the fact that Magwitch appeared as his benefactor, by which his perception of the world around him changes. This turning point is what makes Pip’s character static, at this point Pip is not naïve to be looked down on, or too egotistical to be hated for. Pip realizes what’s wrong and right, he bases his personality on character and no wealth, and this is what makes him a true gentleman, in the eyes of the reader. Pip fixes his relationship Joe and Biddy, as he realizes that Joe had a great heart and self-respect.

In conclusion, the point that Dickens wanted to emphasis was that no matter what or who you are materialistically, it cannot give you self-worth unless you deeply deserve that. Social classes divide people instead of bringing them together. Dickens also wanted to show that being in a particular social class, doesn’t provide you with an instant privilege of being good or bad, as respect must be earned and not inherited. The Victorian Era was an extremely hard one, as there was no way to get out of the class you were born in, unless you had a divine gift, or someone supports you. The story reflects Dickens’ own struggle through his life, the characters and events may be different, however the struggle was the same. Today, social classes are only replaced with financial classes, and the struggle stays the same. It’s extremely hard for those at the bottom to climb up the ladder, as opportunities and instruments are not the same, this is what makes it timeless.

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Representation of Social Group in a Particular Way: Analysis of Elite and Miss Havisham. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved June 9, 2023, from
“Representation of Social Group in a Particular Way: Analysis of Elite and Miss Havisham.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
Representation of Social Group in a Particular Way: Analysis of Elite and Miss Havisham. [online]. Available at: <> [Accessed 9 Jun. 2023].
Representation of Social Group in a Particular Way: Analysis of Elite and Miss Havisham [Internet]. Edubirdie. 2022 Sept 27 [cited 2023 Jun 9]. Available from:
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