Social criticism in The Great Gatsby and Great Expectations

Essay by turobdesseUniversity, Master'sA-, April 2004

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Authors often use their works to convey criticisms of society. Such works of literature do not directly criticize specific real people or events. They do however present a sense of the writer's concern with issues of social injustice and misguided values. Two strong examples of social criticism through literature are Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. In both novels the writers project their social criticisms to the reader through the use of characterization and setting. Great Expectations was written and set in mid-Victorian England, having been first published as a serial in "All The Year Round" a weekly English periodical. Dickens used this form of publication to incrementally dose his readers with his criticisms of Victorian English Society. In this work the writer uses setting to influence character; thereby showing how social problems arise from people conform too the political, social and economic elements of society.

The Great Gatsby was written and set in "jazz-era" 1920's America. With this novel Fitzgerald criticizes a different society than that of Great Expectations that has different problems. However the author still uses the relationship between setting and character to bring to life a critical portrayal of American 1920's society.

With Great Expectations Dickens strongly criticizes three social problems that afflict Victorian England: the treatment of children, the injustice of the social class structure and the inhumanity of government and Law. In the authors time children were objectified as a virtually cost free commodity of labor to support the industrial revolution. Dickens expresses criticism of the abuse of children in Britain through characterization in Great Expectations. The most poignant example of this is the storys protagonist Phillip Pirrip, referred to throughout the novel as Pip. Pip portrays the abuse of children through example. During childhood he receives...