Class & Marriage in the Victorian Era

As I was reading the chapters for this week, I was struck by something in Herbert’s story. In chapter 22, he explains to Pip the tragedy of Miss Havisham and the wedding that never was. In his description of Miss Havisham’s bridegroom, Herbert seems to indicate that the man had little money or status, and that he was really supported by Miss Havisham. I was surprised by this because Herbert makes no explicit reference to the class difference between the couple, only references it through other comments. He doesn’t say anything about the marriage being taboo, and nothing else in his story or the book up to this point indicates this either. I had expected this to cause at least a few issues, but it didn’t.

Perhaps why I was so prepared for the class divide to be focused on more than it is in these chapters of Great Expectations is because it was such a significant obstacle in Wuthering Heights. Cathy married Edgar because he was of her class, and therefore suited to her. But Cathy did not love Edgar, she loved Heathcliff. In a conversation with Nelly, she states that she wants to be with Heathcliff, and wants to marry him, but that doing so would shame her. This in effect, is really the main driving force of Wuthering Heights. I just expected the reaction to be similar in Great Expectations; at least significant enough for Herbert to mention in his story.

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