Importance of Social Class in the Eyes of Charles Dickens

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Importance of Social Class in the Eyes of Dickens

In many ways there are things about the Victorian Age that are vastly different from our way we live today. In the 1800’s elements such as courting manners, having children, transportation, housing and careers are all proof of this. The novel Great Expectations gives many examples of the difference in the present and past times of society. Victorians were a very class-conscious society. These days, just about anyone can somehow manage to have fairly nice clothes, a decent car, a place to live, and reasonable job. Not so in Victorian times. 
Through his novel’s main characters, Charles Dickens explores and portrays the struggle of 
the individual to organize his own life, among influential social expectations. Born on February 7, 1812, Charles Dickens was the second child of John and Elizabeth Dickens’ eight children. They lived in Portsmouth, located on England's southern coast. John Dickens was stationed in Portsmouth as a clerk in the Navy Pay Office. The family was of lower-middle-class origins, his father having come from servants and his mother from minor bureaucrats. Dickens' father was lively and generous but had an unfortunate predisposition to live beyond his means. His mother was affectionate and rather incompetent in practical matters. In 1814 John Dickens was transfered from the post in Portsmorth to one in London. The Dickens family moved to Chatham three years later to be closer to their father who was working at the post. Dickens' mother taught him to read when he was nearly five and for the next few years Dickens read every book he could get his hands on. He quickly read through his father's collection of Shakespeare, Cervantes, Defoe, Smollett, Fielding, and Goldsmith. Every one of these authors left a mark on the young mind of Charles Dickens. Dickens started school when he was about eight or nine, but in 1824 his education was put on hold when his father was imprisoned for debt in 1824 along with the rest of his family. He was then forced to work at Warren’s Blacking Factory, a shoe-polish factory, to support himself. The event of trying to survive in the slums of England haunted him all of his life, and he would later devote many of his books to the retelling of his experiences. When his father was released from prison after receiving a small inheritance Dickens was saved from these circumstances. Dickens returned to school against his mother’s wishes for about two years. Around 1827 he found a job working as a clerk in a law firm. While working as a clerk Dickens taught himself shorthand, soon after he became a reporter for the Mirror of the Parliament, and the True Sun. by 1833 he had started publishing his short stories under the pename of Boz. Soon after in 1836 he married his wife and mother of his ten children. The Social conditions of Charles Dickens’ time were stable, and although there were clear distinctions between classes, they were referred to by “rank” or “order”. The lower class and impoverished people made up an estimated 70% of Britain’s population. 27% were of the middle class, and only 3% were classed as dukes, knights, and assorted gentry. Most people had little possibility of achieving higher or lower social status, and could only break away from their destitution by immigrating to the colonies. . They called it a “limited” monarchy. The lower working class saw it for what it really was, a system that was based on an agreement between the landowners, and the monarchy. The limited monarchy was definitely liberal, but by no means democratic. The economy in Victorian England was a confusing mess of laws and aristocrats who cared little for the poor. The government had to make many laws to help find housing for the impoverished working class, and sometimes the labor bosses had to pay for their workers housing. As illustrated in the nineteenth century throughout modern literature, the Victorians were in the center of social,...
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