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is one in which fortunes can be suddenly made and just as suddenly lost.Professor John Bowen explores how the novel’s characters negotiate and perform class in this atmosphere of social and financial instability.It has been all the more provoking to the former class, that each surprise was the result of art, and not of trick; for a rapid review of previous chapters has shown that the materials of a strictly logical development of the story were freely given.
But he also knew the kind of suffering and exploitation that goes with class difference and never underestimated or flinched away from the cruelty and degradation that go with a class-divided society.
In his charitable work and reforming journalism, he did everything he could to change things for the better, by helping the poor and trying to diminish class antagonisms.
When Pip becomes wealthy, for example, has to learn to perform a whole new identity, learning how to speak, dress, and even eat in ways that will be recognised by others as genteel.
These scenes of class apprenticeship are often very funny ones, as when Herbert Pocket gently advises Pip that ‘in London it is not the custom to put the knife in the mouth, – for fear of accidents’ (ch.
is plotted in an extraordinary way, as the shocking revelation that the source of Pip’s wealth is not, as he believes, Miss Havisham but Magwitch the convict, radically undermines his whole sense of self -identity.
There are two possible plots that a lesser novelist than Dickens might have used: a romance plot, which would have led to marriage to Estella; or a plot more like gives us neither of those plots; instead, it ruins them.
This is one reason that he behaves so badly, particularly towards Joe; although he feels profoundly guilty, Pip is still unable to be fair or generous to him.
We see the power of class through the plot of the novel as well as its characterisation.
Pip has built up a fantasy of himself as someone destined to be a gentleman.
When he suddenly learns the falsity of this, as his ‘criminal’ past appears in the present in the shape of Magwitch, he is almost destroyed by the discovery, and his whole sense of self is simultaneously tainted and emptied out.