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“Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens and “To Kill a Mocking-Bird” by Harper Lee

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Although written almost 100 years apart there are several similarities between the two books in the way which childhood is portrayed there are, however, many major differences as well.

To kill a mocking-bird is based in the 1940s in a town called Maycomb, situated in Alabama. The story is set around a Family called the ‘Finch’s’. Atticus Finch who works in the law courts in Maycomb town. Jem Finch, son of Atticus and brother to Scout, who is the narrator of the story. Scout narrates the story as though she is looking back upon her life. The main theme to the book is racial discrimination and how people are judged upon the way they act. Atticus is defending a man called Tom Robinson who is being accused of the raping of Mayella Ewell; through out the novel Atticus is trying to help Tom Robinson against the discrimination from practically every non-Negro in the county. Also there is another story line as well, with the children (Jem, Scout and Dill) and a character called Boo Radley, who all though isn’t seen until the end of the book, is mentioned constantly.

Great Expectations is also based around a child looking back upon their lives. The main character is a lad called Pip, and unlike Scout and Jem has no parents to support him. Pip lives with his sister and her husband Mr and Mrs Joe Gargery. Pip is visiting the gravestones of his parents when an escaped convict named Magwitch pleads for his help. Pip later on meets two ladies called Miss Havisham and Estella, and on the meeting of these people decides he wants to become a gentleman. At the age of twenty he receives a fortune and sets of for London where he becomes a true gentleman. When Joe comes to visit Pip acts very snobby and forget his routes. While in London he meets up with Estella again, at which time realises he has fallen in love with her. He feels that the benefactor to the fortune may have been Miss Havisham but later finds out that is actually Magwitch. Miss Havisham soon after dies, and Estella marries a gentleman who Pip does not like. Magwitch tells Pip that he knows that he loves Estella and that she is his daughter. Pip returns to Miss Havisham’s house to find Estella there at which time he declares his love for her.

Although in each book the main character has lost a parent they have their role models. Scout has Calpurnia, who is the Finch’s Negro cook who also looked after Scout and Jem. Jem describes Cal in a way that she was her mother saying that “Our battles where epic and one-sided. Atticus always took her side” as though Cal treated her as if Scout was her own.

To Pip Joe is like his substitute parent, but still his best friend, “Best friends forever Pip”.

In both books the children deal with the meeting of characters who they don’t know but affect their lives in a major way, for example Boo Radley and Miss Havisham who are recluses to the book change the way the children see certain aspects of life. Boo Radley makes Scout realise that you cant prejudge someone by what people have said, because unless you have seen for yourself then who are you to judge.

In both novels the aspect of law and criminals comes about, and affects the characters a great deal. Magwitch starts off in the tale as someone with no real meaning, he is just an escaped convict that Pip helps out. Towards the end of the story Magwitch has seen to change Pip’s life drastically, what with giving Pip the fortune and being the father of Estella who Pip is in love with. The case with Tom Robinson and Mayella Ewell changes Scouts life due to the way she looked at people before and after the court case. Before there was a big issue with her a Walter Cunningham and how she wasn’t one to accept his ways, but after the court case her attitude changes and she has a fight with someone at school who is accusing her father of being a Negro lover.

Although there are many similarities there is also a lot of differences, the setting and period being one. In Great Expectations Pip finds his surrounding bleak and unfriendly, “I found out for certain that this is a bleak place, overgrown with nettles”, “Dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it”. These settings are somewhat different to those in to kill a mocking-bird, in which the setting is hot and as though the days lasted forever “days were 24 hours but seemed longer”.

Jem and Scout remain to be sympathetic throughout the story, where as after receiving his great expectations he doesn’t become fully likeable until the end of the tale. After becoming a gentleman he begins to treat people of a lower class different to those of the same nature as himself. When Joe comes to see him in London, he seems to turn a blind eye to him, as if Pip is too good for the likes of Joe and Biddy anymore.

Atticus plays a huge part in Scouts life, apart from being her father; he is also more like a friend who she can confide in. Atticus gives Scout lots of advice, and he doesn’t treat her as a young girl but more of an adult, “You never really understand a person until you consider thing from his point of view – Until you climb into his skin and walk around in it”. Pip on the other hand is very isolated and although he has Joe, he doesn’t understand pips feelings and emotions, and also the way he feels for Estella.

Atticus feels that childhood is not to be wasted and so is anxious to prolong his children’s childhood and protect them for as long as possible. Pip is expected to work from a young age and so his childhood was very short.

Pip feels that he doesn’t have any real friends he has Biddy and yet they are still not very close. Scout and Jem have each other and they also have Dill.

Both novels are interesting and enjoyable to read, they are both about childhood and yet are so different in how the childhoods are portrayed. To kill a mocking-bird shows that childhood is a time of freedom and imagination, and although the story ends in tragedy is an impression of how life will continue much as before after the events in the book. Great expectations is the opposite to this and shows that childhood is a time of loneliness and fear, and how the events in your childhood can effect you for many years afterwards.

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