Social Networks in Great Expectations and London in 1819

One part of Great Expectations that I found interesting was Pip and his family’s experience with the convicts, and specifically, Pip feeding the convict. Of course, Pip feeding the convict was done out of fear, but when the convict is being led off and admits he stole the food, Pip’s father sympathetically notes that Pip does the right thing in feeding him. To me, this denotes a communal safety net in the less fortunate, a mutual network of sustenance that has to be maintained, no matter who desires it, because the government, or any other larger social entity, is not doing it for them. Herein comes England in 1819, and specifically, the lines “Golden and sanguine laws which tempt and slay/ Religion Christless, Godless– a book seal’d/A senate– Time’s worst statute unrepeal’d.” This seems the most apt analysis of England during the Victorian period, for it portrays England as a place that is left without a protector, and moreover, the poor are left without a protector. Because of this then, and since larger social entities have abdicated their responsibility to protect the marginalized or simply chosen not to, the lower classes (Pip and his family) have had to create a social network between other lower class families to create a support system. Interestingly, this social network is not limited, and spans to the class of felons. This is important for two reasons. First, it demonstrates that the social welfare network was not limited, and attempted not to marginalize itself (obviously, this is not true in whole), and second, it demonstrates a certain lack of faith in the legal system. Already, Shelley has underlined the fact that laws are for the most part classed against the poor and this distrust carries on in Pip and his family. As such, the connection here formed is that of the social network Pip and his family symbolize, while also receiving context of why this had to happen from London in 1819.

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