CLIO 7 (1) - page 19

criminals exiled there became members of the so-
ciety. Victorians were very afraid of social mobility,
as they did not often communicate with those of
a lower class, so assumed they were as uncivilised
as popular authors (other than Dickens) portrayed
them as. At the time there was a reluctance to
arrest those considered most useful to society,
as few of the aristocracy were arrested and those
who were usually released with apologies from the
police force, therefore the fact that those exiled
could create a functioning society was a shock to
the English
This book was published in 1861, but is
set about 20 years earlier in the time where those
who committed petty crimes were often sent to
Australia as a punishment. The book begins when
Pip is a young boy but ends when he is an adult,
which was around the time when Britain issued
a decree banning transportation and freeing the
penal colonies (1868). Due to the majority of the
inhabitants of the country being criminals, many
became part of the new elite of Australia, therefore
meaning that the idea of a criminal becoming rich
enough to fund somebody isn’t that far-fetched.
However, many of those who committed crime
at the time where those who were not taught in a
trade therefore did not have a clear line of work, so
those who became someone in the higher end of
society were usually extremely skilled or practised
in a particular trade, meaning it would be unlikely
for a simple criminal to be one of those who be-
came the aristocracy. Moreover, many of those
exiled were political prisoners, as if they were phys-
ically isolated they could not interrupt the society
of Victorian Britain, yet they couldn’t execute them
for the fear of creating a rebellion; these would be
the main members of the newAustralian govern-
ment. Furthermore, he attempted to escape at the
beginning of the novel, therefore he would be kept
in prison rather than being used to help farm the
land, as most prisoners were.
This novel is more historically accurate than
most of those written at this time, as other writ-
ers focussed on the upper classes, yet Dickens is
famous for his attention the working classes. The
prisoner he helped at the beginning may well have
been able to recreate himself in Australia, as when
the penal colonies were freed many convicts chose
to stay and help build up a new country. However
it is unlikely that he would have been able to raise
enough money to transform a humble blacksmith
into a prestigious gentleman living in London, due
to the enormity of the division of society. Despite
all this, this book still gives us an insight into the
criminal system and class divide of theVictorian
era, showing types of people who were given little
focus at the time.
Louisa Owen 11D
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