Victorian Times/ Great Expectations Essay, Research Paper
There are many things about the Victorian Age that are different from our way of life today. Evidence of this can be found in such elements of the 1800’s as courting manners, child- rearing, transportation, housing and careers. The novel and film Great Expectations give many examples of the contrast of the present and the past.
Victorians were a very class-conscious society. These days, just about anyone can manage to have fairly nice clothes, a decent car, a place to live, and reasonable job security. Not so in Victorian times. Great Expectations clearly illustrates the rich and poor extremes of the society. As a boy, Pip was seen as obviously poor by Estella, due to his calling knaves jacks, and having coarse hands and thick boots. She was disgusted even to be around him simply due to this fact. Pip simply couldn’t afford many nice clothes because he was a blacksmith’s son. The other end of the dress spectrum is shown by Pip’s trip to the tailor later in the book. His money has all of a sudden made him an important man and he can have only the finest clothes. He spends much of the book walking around London decked out in suits and a top hat like he’s better than everyone. While dress prejudices still exist in today’s times, they are not as drastic as they seemed to be in the Victorian period.
If you’re looking to go to a bar and pick up a one-night stand, the 1800’s are not the spot for you. Many marriages were arranged or were marriages of convenience. There were not very many common-law relationships and not a lot of premarital sex. Victorians were very preoccupied with how things appeared and making sure they were behaving properly. The illustration of this in Great Expectations was the supposed arranged marriage between Pip and Estella. This shows that betrothments were not unheard of. Most of the marriages in the book, however, although they had more to do with money and status than love, were mutual agreements between husband and wife. Today, in Western society at least, most marriages are based on love first.
As far as the philosophy of child-rearing, it was not to give a child a free, nurturing environment to say the least. The philosophy was to bring a child up by hand. Victorians felt it was their duty to teach a child a lesson about being proper at every opportunity. In Great Expectations, at least before Mrs. Joe is crippled, Pip spends a lot of his time being yelled at, beaten, or forced to drink tar. Such things would be frowned on and in fact maybe illegal in today’s society.
No one in Victorian times was cruisin’ around town in a Corvette. They got places with two feet and a heartbeat, and the occasional horse-drawn carriage. This is illustrated throughout Great Expectations obviously as everyone walks or takes a coach. Today is naturally very different. We have cars, bikes, trains, airplanes, and space shuttles. Our society has a lot easier time getting around than the Victorians did.
Housing and careers sort of tie in together with dress and class consciousness. Property and jobs were more inherited in those days than today. If your father was a widget salesman, you would be a widget salesman and so would your son. This is shown in Great Expectations by the Joe’s father – Joe – Pip blacksmith chain. On the other hand, Belinda Pocket expected to be in the nobility but ends up living in a dream world run by her servants. While heredity may have provided a sense of security, it also detracted from the freedom of choice we enjoy today.
All these points clearly indicate the fact that the 1800’s were a very different time than today, and the use of examples from Great Expectations helps to illustrate this fact.