Historical Context :Great Expectations was published in 1861, but the period of the events is between
1812 and 1840. This period was marked by many social inequalities; especially,
Social hierarchy. England constituted of three major classes : the upper class, the
middle class, and the lower class. The upper and middle classes lived comfortably;
while the lower class experienced misery. England witnessed a series of economic,
social and political changes. The Industrial Revolution started at the end of the 18th
and the continued to the 19th century. Factories developed to replace the domestic
system of production There was also improvements in the tools of communication:
telegraph, telephone, radio. England’s increasing industrialization attracted more
inhabitants of the rural areas to the towns. The Industrial Revolution brought
prosperity to the wealthy and made the poor even poorer. Individuals belonging to
the lower class worked in the new-built factories for long hours with low wages.
Children were sent to work at a young age to help in the family’s income. This
period also was famous for its social and political reforms; the 1832 reform act was
very popular in that it enabled more people to vote, but it had little significance in
the amelioration of the working class situation. the coming of queen Victoria to the
throne,1837, brought significant changes in all areas, the skilled working class
managed to get better jobs, but the unskilled workers remained struggling to
survive . This struggle was portrayed in Great Expectations because Charles
Dickens wanted to give a voice to this marginalized group. Through Pip’s little
family, we can see the struggle of Joe in the forge to provide for the family ; Pip
without any access to education and Mrs. Joe at home because of the patriarchal
society. The Middle class was represented through the lawyer Jaggers and
wemmick ; no one can deny that this class lives above the average . The life of the
upper class is portrayed by Miss Havisham and her adopted daughter Estella .
Consequently, Great Expectations is one of the early poems dealing with social
criticism and aiming for a more equal society.