Imagery is a crucial device employed in literary texts that affects how readers interpret dominant ideologies of the society represented in the text. In the case of Great Expectations, Charles Dickens successfully enacts the stratified class structure and power relationship by employing imagery in the form of characterization, pathetic fallacy and figurative language. Through such imagery, the novel specifically conveys a critique of a society where capital indicates social position, where wealth defines opportunity, and where social class enforces a strong sense of stratification. It also comments on the possibility of class mobility and the relationship between social class and morality.
The representation of the class structure in the novel highlights the division of wealth, power and cultural capital in distinguishing individuals in an increasingly capitalist society. Dickens explores the injustice of the upper class’ control over the working class. Class distinction is evident in the characterization of Mrs. Joe and Miss Havisham. Mrs. Joe “always wore a coarse apron, fastened over her figure behind with two loops, and having a square impregnable bib in front, that was stuck full with pins and needles” (page 8). On the other hand, Miss Havisham “was dressed in rich materials – satins, and lace and silks” (page 57). Mrs. Joe’s appearance defines her as a blacksmith’s wife and of the working class, whilst Miss Havisham’s wedding dress represents her wealth and upper class lifestyle. The imagery used to display the contrasting appearances of these two characters emphasizes the link between social class and lifestyle. Class discrimination is also shown through Pip’s vulnerability when in the presence of upper class characters such as Estella and Miss Havisham. For example, Pip describes Estella giving him food “as insolently as if I were a dog in disgrace”(page 62). The animal imagery that Pip is compared to degrades his humanity and makes him aware of...
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