Wealth and materialism

This theme is also discussed in the section Structure: Thematic structures.

Money, or the lack of it, plays an important part in the novel:

  • the capacity to pay Jaggers as a defence lawyer may mean the difference between freedom and imprisonment, life and death for those accused of crime
  • Pip and Herbert are quite unable to handle their finances and find themselves in severe difficulties
  • Miss Havisham also uses her money to create in Estella someone who will enable her to take revenge on men.
  • Magwitch intends to do good with his money, but, in fact, causes Pip many difficulties
  • on the other hand, Pip's money (and later Miss Havisham's) is able to do good for Herbert

Individuals and groups of people are shown to be predatory about money:

  • when Pip is invited to visit Miss Havisham, his sister and others immediately begin to think about what she might ‘do' for Pip in monetary terms
  • Miss Havisham's relatives visit her on her birthday, not out of love, but because they hope that she will leave them money in her will
  • when Pip finds out about his expectations, people in the town, including Mr. Pumblechook, change their behaviour towards him, in the hope that they too will benefit.

In these senses, money is linked to the novel's moral themes: see also Structure: moral structure. Ultimately, the novel seems to say

  • wealth is no guarantee of happiness
  • inherited wealth carries great dangers
  • it is in hard work to earn a modest living that contentment may be found.

In this way, Dickens is echoing biblical teaching about Poverty and wealth.

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