Exploring the Intricate Role of Lawyers in Great Expectations: Power, Justice, and Symbolism

lawyers in Great Expectations

In Charles Dickens’ classic novel “Great Expectations,” the role of a lawyer holds significant importance. The legal system of the time and the portrayal of lawyers in the story shed light on various themes and symbolisms. This article delves into the multifaceted aspects of lawyers in “Great Expectations” and analyzes the character of Jaggers, a prominent lawyer in the novel.

Understanding the Role of a Lawyer in “Great Expectations”

In “Great Expectations,” the legal system serves as a backdrop, influencing the lives of the characters and shaping the narrative. Lawyers are portrayed as figures of power and influence, navigating through the intricacies of the law to uphold justice.

The Legal System in “Great Expectations”

Within the novel, the legal system is depicted as complex and inaccessible to the common people. The procedures, courtrooms, and legal jargon create an intimidating environment, highlighting the divide between the privileged and the disadvantaged.

Lawyer as a Symbol of Power and Influence

Lawyers in “Great Expectations” symbolize power and influence. They possess the knowledge and skills to manipulate the legal system, often using it to their advantage. This portrayal emphasizes the disparities in society, where those with legal expertise hold significant sway over the outcome of cases and the lives of individuals.

Lawyer as an Advocate for Justice

Despite the negative portrayal, lawyers in the novel also serve as advocates for justice. They have the ability to fight for the rights of the innocent and seek redress for those who have been wronged. This duality of lawyers’ roles adds depth to their portrayal in “Great Expectations.”

Character Analysis: Jaggers, the Prominent Lawyer

Among the lawyers depicted in “Great Expectations,” Jaggers stands out as a pivotal character. His introduction, personality, and impact on the protagonist, Pip, shape the course of the story.

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Jaggers’ Introduction and Personality

Jaggers is introduced as a formidable and enigmatic character. With his powerful presence and sharp intellect, he commands respect and instills fear. His austere demeanor and the constant cleaning of his hands create an air of mystery around him.

Jaggers’ Role in Pip’s Life

Jaggers becomes a central figure in Pip’s life, playing a pivotal role in his transformation from a humble blacksmith’s apprentice to a gentleman. He is responsible for Pip’s sudden fortune, and his involvement raises questions about the true nature of Pip’s “great expectations.”

Jaggers’ Impact on the Plot

Jaggers’ influence extends beyond Pip’s personal journey. As a lawyer, he is entangled in various legal matters and acts as a catalyst for significant plot developments. His involvement in cases of crime, deceit, and familial relationships brings suspense and intrigue to the narrative.

The Symbolism of Lawyers in the Novel

Lawyers in “Great Expectations” are imbued with symbolism, representing both positive and negative aspects of society and the human condition.

The Dichotomy of Lawyers in “Great Expectations”

The novel presents a dichotomy in the portrayal of lawyers. On one hand, they are depicted as manipulative and calculating individuals who exploit the legal system for personal gain. On the other hand, lawyers also fulfill the role of protectors and guardians of justice.

Lawyers as Manipulators and Enforcers

Certain lawyers in the story, like Jaggers’ associate Mr. Wemmick, are portrayed as manipulators and enforcers of the law. They use their legal prowess to secure their interests, even if it means disregarding moral principles. This illustrates the dark side of the legal profession and the potential for abuse of power.

Lawyers as Protectors and Guardians

Contrasting the negative portrayals, lawyers like Jaggers also serve as protectors and guardians of justice. They take on cases of the vulnerable, ensuring their voices are heard and their rights are defended. This aspect of lawyers emphasizes the potential for positive change within the legal system.

The Legal Themes Explored in the Novel

“Great Expectations” explores various legal themes that reflect societal issues prevalent during the Victorian era.

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Social Class and Injustice

The novel delves into the injustices perpetuated by the rigid social class system of the time. Lawyers, as intermediaries between the privileged and the marginalized, navigate the complexities of class divisions, shedding light on the disparities and inequality inherent in society.

Crime and Punishment

The legal system’s treatment of crime and punishment is another recurring theme in the novel. Through the portrayal of lawyers and their involvement in criminal cases, Dickens examines the notions of guilt, innocence, and the pursuit of justice.

Redemption and Forgiveness

Lawyers in “Great Expectations” are also vehicles for exploring themes of redemption and forgiveness. Characters like Jaggers and Mr. Jaggers’ housekeeper, Molly, embody the potential for personal transformation and the power of forgiveness within a legal context.

The role of lawyers in “Great Expectations” is multifaceted, representing both the flaws and virtues of the legal system. Through characters like Jaggers, the novel explores the complexities of justice, social class, and the human condition. Dickens’ vivid portrayal of lawyers adds depth to the narrative and serves as a reflection of the society he critiques.


Q: Did Charles Dickens have a background in law?
A: No, Charles Dickens did not have a formal legal background, but he extensively researched the legal system of his time to provide an authentic portrayal in his novels.

Q: Are lawyers depicted favorably or unfavorably in “Great Expectations”?
A: Lawyers are depicted in a nuanced manner, both favorably and unfavorably, reflecting the diverse nature of the legal profession.

Q: How does Jaggers influence Pip’s character development?
A: Jaggers’ involvement in Pip’s life plays a crucial role in shaping his transformation and challenging his moral values.

Q: What social issues does “Great Expectations” explore through the legal themes?
A: The novel delves into social class divisions, injustice, crime, punishment, and the potential for redemption and forgiveness within a legal context.

Q: What is the significance of lawyers as symbols of power and influence?
A: Lawyers in “Great Expectations” symbolize the disparities in society, highlighting the influence they wield over the lives of individuals and the outcomes of legal cases.

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