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Great Expectations

Great Expectations


by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations Criminality Quotes

How we cite our quotes: (Chapter.Paragraph)

Quote #1

They took up several obviously wrong people, and they ran their heads very hard against wrong ideas, and persisted in trying to fit the circumstances to the ideas, instead of trying to extract ideas from the circumstances. (16.8)

After Mrs. Joe is attacked, fancy London detectives come down to investigate—and get absolutely nowhere, because they come up with verdicts before investigating the crime more thoroughly, and they try to prove their verdicts. If this is the way the London legal system works, no wonder the city is overrun with criminals.

Quote #2

As I declined the proposal on the plea of an appointment, he was so good as to take me into a yard and show me where the gallows was kept, and also where people were publicly whipped, and then he showed me the Debtors' Door, out of which culprits came to be hanged: heightening the interest of that dreadful portal by giving me to understand that "four on 'em" would come out at that door the day after to-morrow at eight in the morning, to be killed in a row. This was horrible, and gave me a sickening idea of London: the more so as the Lord Chief Justice's proprietor wore (from his hat down to his boots and up again to his pocket-handkerchief inclusive) mildewed clothes, which had evidently not belonged to him originally, and which, I took it into my head, he had bought cheap of the executioner. Under these circumstances I thought myself well rid of him for a shilling. (20.19)

Pip's (and our) first introduction to London life appropriately (or inappropriately) involves a tour of the yard where criminals are publicly tortured or executed. Fun, fun, fun. But these aren't necessarily horrible, heinous, bloody crimes that would induce such public punishment (in our 21st century minds)—we hear about the "Debtors' Door" suggesting that people are often punished for issues of money and debt (not exactly the bloodiest crimes ever). There's close relationship between crime, money, and survival.

Quote #3

I consumed the whole time in thinking how strange it was that I should be encompassed by all this taint of prison and crime; that, in my childhood out on our lonely marshes on a winter evening I should have first encountered it; that, it should have reappeared on two occasions, starting out like a stain that was faded but not gone; that, it should in this new way pervade my fortune and advancement. (2.33.43)

Again and again, Pip aids in the breaking of laws. And not just in little ways like double parking or jays-walking, but in big ways like harboring an escaped and exiled convict. However, do we ever feel in our guts like Pip is doing something morally wrong when he takes in Magwitch or steals food for Magwitch? Do we ever say to ourselves, "Oh Pip, we really wouldn't do that. You should definitely kick Magwitch out into the stormy night"? Not really. If Magwitch is deemed by society to be representative of everything corrupt and rotten within it, then how do we feel about society? You think maybe society doesn't really know what's going on?

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