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“Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens and “To Kill A Mockingbird” by Harper Lee

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Great Expectations was a best seller in its time and is one of the novels that Charles Dickens is most famous for. It is said that Great Expectations reflected on parts of his childhood but was denied as being autobiographical. At the age of twelve, Dickens had to leave his school because his father was sent to jail. He was made to work in a factory for a year. I feel that he has portrayed inept parents, prisons and ill-treated children into his novel.

Even though Harper lee’s “To Kill A Mockingbird” is set at a completely different time to “Great Expectations”, it is still the same genre, which is Buildingsroman. Buildingsroman is a novel that describes a characters childhood through to adulthood. Both books were written as if a person was looking back on their childhood.

Harper Lee studied law and her father was also a lawyer. Her mother suffered from a mental illness so she incorporated that into the novel by having Jem and Scout brought up without a mother. Scout and Jem have not really been affected by the absence of their mother and I think that Harper Lee is trying to get across the point that she hasn’t been affected either as long as you have a good and moral father. Harper Lee lived in Monroeville, South USA. This town could have been a model for which Maycombe County was set. What makes this book more realistic is that she grew up in the 1930s and that is when the book was set although it wasn’t written until the 1960s. Her father was a lawyer and grew up knowing about trials and cases of all sorts of crimes. She knew about the Scotsboro’ Trials and this is what the Tom Robinson trial could have been based on.

We first see in chapter 1, Dill introducing himself to Scout and Jem.

“I’m Charles Baker Harris…I can read.”

This may seem like an irrelevant thing to say when introducing your self but at the time that this was written, education was a very important part of everyday life. Dill sees it as important to let everyone know he can read because many people could not read. The people that usually couldn’t read were the ethnic minorities because they were seen as outcasts and not allowed in mainstream schools and either had to be taught at home or sent out to work to bring in money for the family.

In “To Kill A Mockingbird” education is very important because you are not classed as much unless you are literate. The Ewell family are the lower than low in the community and each year the children only go to school for one day a year to get their names on the register. This is because the father feels that education isn’t important and he’d rather have them working at home on his land. Atticus feels that education is very important and started teaching Scout to read and write at home before she even started school.

In “Great Expectations” education is important because it is “A way out from your present life”. Pip feels that the only way he can escape the poverty of his old life is to become educated and move away to make his fortune.

Education is not just about what you learn in school but what you learn in life. Your parents or guardians should teach you wrong from right and about morality, which is just as important as mathematics or English.

Atticus always tries to do his best for his children even though he’s a single parent. He will try to teach them other people’s points of view and opinions, and to respect them whether you agree or not. This is brought on when Scout doesn’t agree with Miss Caroline’s way of teaching and the fact that Miss Caroline had a go at scout when she tried to stick up for Walter Cunningham. Scout doesn’t really understand Atticus’ meaning so gives her some guidance.

“You never really understand a person until you consider things from their point of view…until you climb into his skin and walk around.”

Atticus is trying to teach his children that you can never judge someone unless you know what it is like to be them. Scout and Jem mature after this although this may be because they are being “forced” to see things from another person’s point of view.

Harper Lee portrays the character of Atticus as being a firm parent but also kind, caring and gentle as well.

“Atticus ain’t ever whipped me since I can remember, I wanta keep it that way.”

The children have Atticus’ trust and respect and they want to keep it that way. He is firm but never uses force to keep Scout and Jem in order.

This in not the case in “Great Expectations”: with Pip and his sister. One of the first things that we learn about Pip is that he is an orphan and has therefore been brought up by his sister Mrs. Joe Gargery and her husband, the blacksmith, Joe Gargery. Joe seemed to care for Pip great deal.

“He was a foolish, mild, good natured, sweet-tempered, easy-going dear fellow.”

He was kind to Pip and did the best he could to give him a good life, whereas his sister was the complete opposite. She never showed any love or affection for Pip and had “established a great reputation with herself and the neighbours” because she had brought him up “by hand”. This means she uses force and violence to keep him under control. Mrs. Joe Gargery also has “Tickler”, which is a piece of cane that she uses to keep Pip in line. Dickens portrays Joe Gargery as a caring and loving parent, whereas he’s showing Mrs. Joe Gargery as a typical bad parent who is only bringing Pip up because it’s her duty to do so. Joe Gargery and Atticus are both portrayed as the loving parents/guardians who try to do their best for their children.

Estella is also an orphan like Pip but has been adopted by Miss Havisham. Estella is thought of as “proud and pretty” and does everything she can to make Pip feel lower than herself. Miss Havisham is a very rich woman, so when she requests for Pip to be Estella’s “playmate”, Mrs. Joe Gargery is only too pleased to send him because she feels that she is able to gain something from this visit. Because of the way Estella has been brought up she takes an instant dislike to Pip. She feels that she should not have to associate with someone of Pips upbringing. She feels that he is not worthy of her because he is not of her class. Twenty years ago, Miss Havisham was due to marry but was jilted at the altar and has brought Estella up so she can wreak revenge on the male sex. Because Estella has been brought up like this she knows no better.

In a way they are using each other. Miss Havisham gets her revenge and Estella lives a life of luxury for going along with it. Estella knows when she is well off and doesn’t want to end up like Pip, who she refers to as a “…common labouring boy!” Estella took great pleasure in making Pip feel bad about him.

“…gave me the bread and the meat without looking at me… as if I were a dog in disgrace.”

Here Charles Dickens portrays how children can be ill-used to suit the parent or guardian, and that they are being brought up in a way, which is solely for the adults benefit. He also shows that children of such a young age will judge each other because of their parents or guardians influences. It is clear that Dickens is showing Miss Havisham as a bad parent.

The main child characters may be Estella and Pip but the novel also features the Pocket children. The very first impression we have of the Pocket children is that,

“Mr and Mrs Pocket’s children were not growing up or being brought up, but tumbling up.”

This is Dickens view on the children’s upbringing but he has portrayed it as Pips view.

The children have been left in the care of the two nursemaids while Mrs Pocket relaxed and read her book. Mrs Pocket can hardly take care of herself let alone the children.

“If that don’t make six times you’ve dropped it, mum!”

The nursemaid is referring to Mrs Pocket’s handkerchief. Dickens portrays Mrs Pocket as being not very responsible if she can’t even look after her own handkerchief. Mr and Mrs Pocket hired the two nursemaids because “there were no fewer than six little Pockets present, in various stages of tumbling up.”

Dickens shows Mrs Pockets lack of parenting skills even more when she was handed the baby. She “inexpertly danced the infant a little in her lap.” Mrs Pocket didn’t know how to handle the baby so she gave orders for them to have a nap, whether they needed to or not.

“This I made a second discovery…the nurture of the little Pockets consisted of alternately tumbling up and lying down.”

We draw to the conclusion that the only way she can control her children is to let them wonder round freely or make them take a nap if they become a nuisance.

Dickens aims to portray Mrs Pocket as a bad parent who can’t bring her children up in the right way.

In both “Great Expectations” and “To Kill A Mockingbird” there is an influential character in both the children’s lives, which is not a parent or guardian.

Scout, Jem and Dill spend their whole summers trying to get “Boo to come out”. Boo Radley lives in a house down the street but hasn’t been seen in many years. Scout, Jem and Dill make up games and act out stories about Boo and his family. The children don’t know it at the time but Boo is going to play a great part in the children’s survival and growing up. In “Great Expectations” Pip encounters a convict called Magic. Magwitch has escaped from the nearby prison and is on the run. Without Pips help, Magwitch would be caught and locked up. For this help Magwitch is forever grateful and becomes Pips unknown benefactor.

These two characters are responsible for the children growing up the way they do. In Scout and Jems case, Boo ensured that the children were actually alive to grow up when Mr Ewell tried to kill them and in “Great Expectations” Magwitch made sure that Pip lived a life of comfort where he had everything he needed and would grow up to be a gentleman.

The languages in these two novels are similar. There is much detailed descriptions of places, settings etc. The characters are fully described by the authors. There is much dialogue in both of the novels and in each novel you find that some characters use local dialect relevant to the area they live. You find this in “To Kill A Mockingbird” when Scout and Jem visit Calpurnias church with them. When Calpurnia works at the Finch’s home she talks like they do but when she goes to her black church she adapts back to black dialect.

In “Great Expectations” similes and metaphors are also used:

“The man was limping on towards this latter, as if he were the pirate come to life.”

The most obvious difference between “Great Expectations” and “To Kill A Mockingbird” is the class and wealth divide. In “To Kill A Mockingbird” the Finch family are white but poor. They are well respected and Scout and Jem have no problems at school because of how rich they are. The divide is between white people and black people. The blacks are seen as inferior and are segregated by the community.

In “Great Expectations” the divide is between the rich and the poor, which is made obvious by Estella’s dislike to Pip. Pip and his family are a poor working class family and Estella is rich so doesn’t like associating with Pip.

I conclude that both “Great Expectations” and “To Kill A Mockingbird” approach childhood and upbringing in a similar way.

Both of the authors have string views of the social and moral issues happening at the time. Both novels are unified by the themes of childhood and growing up. It is clear that in “Great Expectations” and “To Kill A Mocking Bird”

Even though there are many similarities there are also some evident differences.

The main idea that we should get out of reading both of these novels is to respect people for them and not for what they own or how they look.

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