trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle,

Category: Writing & Reading | Type: Discussion | Title: Great Expectations (in Context) | Author: Charles Dickens | Ch: Chapter I

Pip suffers survivor guilt. Nature is hostile to human life (see below), but through will, the same will that named himself, he succeeded at "getting a living in that universal struggle" (Darwin published The Origin of the Species in 1859) when his five male siblings failed and his parents were to weak to continue. 

Approximately one-half of the infants born at this period died before their fifth birthday. The average life expectancy, after five, was 44.8 years, but the duration as well as quality of life depended on which class one was born into and whether one was born in the country or the city, far more deadly, owing in part to cholera epidemics.

At about the time Dickens is writing the novel the average life expectancy for Gentlefolk in Manchester is 38, Traders and Farmers 20, and Laborers 17. "In London the mortality rate was twice as great in the East End [poor] as in the West. In adjacent streets it varied from 38 to 12" (.G.M. Young, "Portrait of An Age" in Early Victorian England, II. 

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