World of Crime in Great Expectations Essay

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  6
Wordcount:  1504 Words
Date:  2022-02-21


Great Expectations is a story by Charles Dickens. The author of the novel presents his view on the theme of crime. The point of view on the issue of crime comes out clearly in the criticism by the author on the Victorian Penal and judicial system. In the analysis of crime, the author shows his position on the convicts, prisons, death penalty and the transportation. The theme of crime in Great Expectations revolves around Pip who is not a criminal but a victim of criminal activities.

World of Crime in Great Expectations

In the novel Great Expectations, the author was interested in the crime in the society. In Great Expectations, the author makes use of crime not so much as a social issue but as a psychological threat. From the start of the novel, the young Pip get embroiled in a world of criminal activities, and through this, his guilt torments him (Dickens 7). Pip's consciousness in a great deal gets overwhelmed by his guilt until it starts to appear to be part of his behavior. It is used as a powerful instrument by Charles Dickens to portray the novels hero who is full of his 'ambitions' to become a 'gentleman,' and he cannot escape it.

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Charles Dickens develops the theme of crime and uses a great deal of the settings and atmosphere in the novel to achieve his objective. As a child, Pip's life is shrouded by the black beacon and the long black marshes which get steered by the sailors and also a gibbet that has chains hanging to it and that once held a pirate (Dickens 6). The immediate consciousness in Pip is bound in effect by the criminal world literal manifestations. In developing the theme of crime, he creates physical bondage through the use the dark and foreboding imagery to influence the criminality prospect in the principal character in this case Pip.

Intimacy With Crime

To begin with, intimacy with the crime is the first aspect. Pip in a way is forced into some familiarity with the happenings as a result of a crime. Pip as a young man encounters two convicts on the same coach on his way to his childhood home when traveling back from London. Pip is connected with crime and also highlights the acuteness he feels in his breathing at the back of his head and all along his spine in the interaction with the convicts. One of the convicts recognizes him and is the same person who had once accosted him at the Three Jolly Bargeman several years before (Mullan). The fact that he recognizes the other convict seated in a seat behind him sends shivers down his spine. Pip first contact with crime sounds fear to him, and this is manifested in the novel when he realizes Magwitch was financing his lavish life.

Crime as Entertainment

Second, crime as entertainment. The characters in the novel are interested in the theme of crime, for instance, Mr. Wopsle interests his accompanying drinkers through the reading aloud of a newspaper account that involved a highly popular murder captured in chapter eighteen. Wopsle and fellow drinkers seem comfortable with the performance of the testimonies given in an inquest but Jaggers, the Magwitch criminal lawyer, comes in handy to puncture the people's complacency. Jaggers does not agree with the manner they treat the criminal case and the subsequent stories as a source of entertainment. Jaggers as a lawyer understands matters of criminal activities and can draw his knowledge from the state of nature of criminals.

Crime as a Means to Survival

Third, Crime as a means to survival. Charles Dicken's shows that Magwitch Magwitch steals to survive. The author also shows that Magwitch is not entirely a horrible and evil villain, but he may appear like one. Magwitch was born a criminal, but his criminal attributes arise out of necessity (Mullan). The point at which Magwitch gives an account of what truthfully happened represents a more liberal understanding of the criminals' point of view. In chapter 42 Magwitch gives his life story and notes that he became a criminal to survive he says "a-thieving turnips for my living."

Prison and Crime

Fourth, Prison and crime. Many people are tainted by crime, for instance, Compeyson who was a man Miss Havisham expected to marry also becomes another convict. Pip in the walk around in prison in Newgate thinks of how strange it is when he meets the Coiner who is facing execution in a few days. He is waiting to meet Estella, and it brings forth a contrast between her and the jail. Estella is too entangled in crime being the daughter of a convict that Pip encounters at the beginning of the novel. Dickens represents prisoners differently, for instance, those whose criminal life is as a result of the society's toleration of poverty that in turn lead to the rise in the crime level (Mullan). He criticizes the contradiction involved in the implementation of the penalties or punishments, for example, Compeyson who is charged with the same sentence as Magwitch receives a lesser sentence. His criminal activities were for self-gain.

Crime Leads to More Crime

Lastly, Crime leads to more crime. The author uses Magwitch to show crime cause more of it and his life is summed up by a repetition of in jail and the out of jail scenarios. It gets a message across that his entire life gets summarized by the never-ending cycle as a result of jail time. Magwitch says "In jail and out of jail, in jail and out of jail, in jail and out of jail. There, you got it. That's my life pretty much (Dickens)." The failure to deal with the roots causes for instance poverty is what the author suggests to be the cause of the reoccurrences of crime.


In conclusion, when the issue of crime comes to the fore, it brings forth the people perceived or who indeed are bad guys. Pip has not directly committed a crime a crime in Great Expectations but is a victim who benefits from the proceeds of criminal activities. He benefits without the knowledge that Magwitch a convict is his financier. The society has failed to address the cause of crime such as poverty. Magwitch became a criminal to survive and started from his childhood days precipitated by the hardship experience as a result of being poor.

Works Cited

Dickens, Charles. "Great Expectations. 1861." London and New York: Norton (1999). Accessed 24 March 2018.

Charles Dickens book is a mesmerizing mystery and presents a profound examination of the moral values. Pip an orphan living together with his sister and Joe her sisters' husband gets hired by Miss Havisham to be a companion for Estella her adopted daughter and her. Pip's service to the Havishams gets him ambitious and has the desire to rise beyond his current situation in life.

Pip's gets his wish fulfilled by a mysterious benefactor who turns out to be Magwitch, a convict as a result of his criminal activities. Pip's gets the wealth and grows accustomed to a leisure life to only find himself as a suitor competing for Estella's favor. Pip learns that the person who offers him the lavish lifestyle is a convict Magwitch and this shatters his soul. The author uses crime as a theme throughout the novel from the first chapter when Pip meets the convict.

Mullan, John. "Crime in Great Expectations." The British Library, 15 May 2017, Accessed 24 March 2018.

John Mullan presents an accurate representation of the novel with his article on Crime in Great Expectations. He makes use of imagery to develop the theme of crime. The analysis on the characters in the novel is accurate especially on Magwitch who is a convict who has been in and out of jail.

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World of Crime in Great Expectations Essay. (2022, Feb 21). Retrieved from

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