Great Expectations: the World of Laws, Crime and Punishment

3378 Words Oct 20th, 1999 14 Pages
<center><b>The World of Laws, Crime and Punishment in Great Expectations</b></center>
<br>Great Expectations criticises the Victorian judicial and penal system. Through the novel, Charles Dickens displays his point of view of criminality and punishment. This is shown in his portraits of all pieces of such system: the lawyer, the clerk, the judge, the prison authorities and the convicts. In treating the theme of the Victorian system of punishment, Dickens shows his position against prisons, transportation and death penalty. The main character, a little child who has expectations of becoming a gentleman to be of the same social position of the girls he loves, passes from having no interest on criminality and its penalties to be very
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Regarding the colonialist question, the Victorians believed that the easiest and cheapest way of eliminating the criminal element from the British society was sending them as far as they could and never allowing them to return under threat of having them executed. Many prisoners were convicted because of little thefts such as stealing pocket-handkerchiefs, watches, and jewellery, and the forgery of banknotes. All these little offences, considered as serious crimes, represented a threat to the Victorian commerce. Dickens writes about transportation in the 1860s, when it ceased to be a system of punishment. Probably, Dickens wanted to show how unfair it was to eliminate criminality of the Victorian society by sentencing convicts to transportation as it were not a social problem.
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<br>The hulks, the name that received the ships that transported convicts to the penal colony Australia, were used as floating prisons. In the novel, Dickens offers the reader a portrait of the convicts when being transported to the hulks:
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<br>"At that time it was customary to carry Convicts down to the dockyards by stage-coach (...) The two convicts were handcuffed together, and had irons on their legs-irons of a pattern that I knew well. They wore the dress that I likewise knew well. Their keeper had a brace of