I'm currently studying the novel "Great Expectations"- analysing Mr Jaggers' character. Dickens was very tough on lawyers in his novels; he doesn't show them in a favourable light. Why do you think that may be?

1 Answer
Sep 1, 2016

It reflects his own experiences.


Dickens had an unhappy childhood and this is reflected in his novels. His father was a debtor so Dickens had experience of the debtors' prison and the legal system. He did not hold it in very high regard.

This was reflected in many of his novels. In Great Expectations Jaggers is hard and does not reveal Pip's actual benefactor. However he is acting under the instructions of Magwitch and so he is acting within the law.

In Bleak House Tulkinghorn is another lawyer portrayed unsympathetically and who is indeed murdered. The case of Jarndyce versus Jarndyce, which is central to the novel also reflects Dickens' distaste and contempt for all aspects of the legal system and judiciary.

However Dickens takes a more conciliatory line in David Copperfield. Mr Wickfield is kind to David but his weakness is alcohol and he consequently suffers at the manipulating hands of Uriah Heep. Also David's first wife Dora Spenlow is the daughter of a lawyer in the partnership Spenlow and Jorkins and he is also cast in a favourable light.

Generally however Dickens did take a hard line to the legal system and attitudes towards poverty .Debt often plays a role, for example Mr Micawber in David Copperfield, and the role of the Marshalsea Prison in Little Dorritt where debtors are held.