May 23, 2000
Charles Dickens's Great Expectations under Marxist Thought
I. Introduction of Charles Dickens's Great Expectation: "Seen through 1900s eyes, Pip is a nineteenth-century yuppie manque. He comes into some money, leaves the homeboys behind, and sets out to do whatever it takes to get rich in the city. Like many a Wall Street hotshot, however, Pip soon realizes that he has set his sights on the wrong new life. That is the rub with new lives: You have got to pick carefully. Fortunately, Pip has a benevolent convict pulling strings for him in the wings, but these days the Magwitches of the world are not nearly so nice."
II. Methodology: Great Expectations is a story about Capitalism; and Marxism is the theory which criticizes the defaults and limitations of Capitalism. Therefore, I will apply Marxist theories in this essay to support my argument. Marxism has many branches. Under the theory of Classical Marxism, I find that Marx's class struggle and repression is useful for explaining those main characters' situation in Dickens's Great Expectations. And structuralists' theory such as Althusser's idea of ideology, which is derived from the manipulation of dominant power, also can help define those main character's identities. Therefore, I will apply Marxists' theories to discuss the relationship between society and man in nineteen centuries. I will also suggest that Dickens may look down the development of Capitalism in British, thus he suggests bourgeoisie-may-be seeking their paradise outside of British.
III. Classical Marxism
A. Definition of class struggle: Conflicts between different classes in a community resulting from different social or economic positions and reflecting opposite interests. In Marxist thought, the struggle for political or economic powers carried on between capitalists and workers.
1. Pip tries to become a gentleman.
2. Orlick attacks Mrs. Joe Gargery and Pip, and he also robs Mr. Pumblechook
3. Magwitch supports Pip to become a gentleman.
B. Repression: the repression in British makes the rising bourgeoisie Pip and Herbert seek another utopia in Cairo because they find less opportunity of success in British.
C. Traditional theory and critical theory: about man
IV. Structural Marxism
1. Louis Althusser's idea of ideology: "Ideology is a representation of the imaginary relationship of individuals to their real conditions of existence" (Althusser, 298).
2. Subject/individual ¡÷ identity
3. The bourgeoisie's ideology or Capitalist ideology: Under the restricted law, money can represent one's social position, and furthermore, one's identity.
4. Pip's identity.
B. Definition of Hail and Interpellation: "Hailing is the process by which language identities and constructs a social position for the addressee. Interpellation is the larger process whereby language constructs social relations for both parties in an act of communication and thus locates them in the broader map of social relations in general" (Fiske, 308).
5. The conversation among Pip, Joe and Miss Havishame: Hail
6. Magwitch's self-defense: interpellation
V. Conclusion: Charles Dickens's Great Expectations presents the conditions of lower class strives to get into higher class. The title is "great expectations", but it seems the main characters find less hope in British. Under the structure of 19th centuries Capitalism, the middle class controls the main social power. To become successful means to become a gentleman. However, these burgeoning gentlemen can only find their utopia and identity outside of British. Dickens implies his disagreement with British social norm by letting his gentlemen seek their expectations out of their native country.
Dickens, Charles. Suffolk: Henderson, 1995.
Max, Horkheimer. Critical Theory: Selected Essays. Taipei: Hongwen, 1985. 211.
Rivkin, Julie and Michael Ryan, Eds. "Part Four: Marxism". Literary Theory: An Anthology. Malden: Blackwell P., 1998. 226 - 328.