Child Characters in Great Expectations Essay

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Child Characters in Great Expectations

      The first part of Dickens' novel, Great Expectations, is an account of the childhood of, Pip, the main character of the novel.  In these beginning chapters Dickens paints an extremely vivid picture of childhood.  The reader is able to enter Pip's mind and see the world through the eyes of a child.  This is possible because Dickens understood the thoughts and feelings of children and applied this to Pip's every thought and action when he wrote the novel.  Dickens had an obvious gift for creating child characters in his works.  The word "pip" itself refers to a seed from a plant.  Seeds need to be nurtured if they are to grow and flourish.  In order to understand both Dickens' talent and his compulsion to write about children it important to realize that through the characters in his novels he took up the plight of all children.  In Dickens' view of childhood, he felt that children have certain needs: guidance in a nurturing home, to be free from emotional and physical abuse, to have a good education, and to be allowed to use their imaginations.  In order for children to succeed in life he felt these needs must be met.  Through his portrayal of child characters in the novel, Great Expectations, Dickens' demonstrates how adults rarely, nor adequately provided for the particular needs that children have.


Dickens often wrote about children in his stories who were crippled, such as Tiny Tim in A Christmas Carol.  However, Dickens chose to create most of his main child characters with no physical maladies.  As Collins points out, these characters were impeded emotionally in some way: "Most of his child heroes and heroines are born sound in wind and limb...

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... be unhappy.  One may wonder why Dickens always seemed to make the world weigh so heavy on the little shoulders of so many of his characters.  One reason is that Dickens appears to have created these suffering characters was that he wanted to protest the injustices toward children that he saw in Victorian society.  He illustrated what these children needed and what they were missing.  Just as a "seed" that is not nurtured cannot grow, children who are not loved and cared for can not grow up to live happy lives.

Works Cited

Bell, Vereen. "Parents and Children in Great Expectations." Victorian Newsletter 27 (1965): 21-24.

Collins, Philip. Dickens and Education. New York: St. Martin's P, 1964.

Rawlins, Jack P. "Great Expectations: Dickens and the Betrayal of the Child." Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900. 23 (1983): 667-683.


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