Satire and Mr. Pumblechook

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In one of his most famous novels, Great Expectations, Charles Dickens creates several character based on humor. However, Dickens' acerbic wit has a more serious agenda floating just below the surface of the text. In fact, Dickens' wonderfully ridiculous characters serve as metaphorical commentaries of life in England during the 19th century. One of these characters is Mr. Pumblechook, who embodies the obsessive yearn of individuals in Victorian England for social improvement. His numerous and comical encounters with the main character of the novel, Pip, are thought-provoking and induce the reader to ponder upon the snobbery, ambition, and hypocrisy present in an England where social status was more important than integrity.

When Pip is a child and a commoner, Mr. Pumblechook always prods him with condescending remarks and advice. During a Christmas dinner at the start of the novel, Mr. Pumblechook, who is Pip's bother-in-law's uncle, feels like and is treated as the owner of the house. He finds delightful pleasure on harassing Pip, and reminding him of Mrs. Joe's, Pip's sister, "kind" determination of raising him "by hand." He and Mr. Wopsle, another visitor and snobby individual, ridicule Pip by comparing him to a pig, but then the tables turn on Mr. Pumblechook when he's given watered-down brandy. In this comic incident, Dickens mocks Pumblechook in the way he describes his absurd leap, "whooping-cough dance," and apparent insanity. Dickens creates humor by making "a large hard-breathing middle-aged slow man" run wildly around the house to show how this undesirable man compensates for his verbal abuse with a young child like Pip.

Likewise, Dickens satirizes the business class through the description of Pumblechook's trade. Capitalism is a strong system in England at the time, and competition is what drives business. This is evident when Pip notes that Pumblechook works by keeping an eye on the saddler, who does the same to the coach maker, who in return...
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