Great works take us beyond the plot, beyond the details of the story-line, and enable us to see the world created therein, in light of our own, and vice versa — therefore allowing us to grow in ways that we otherwise may not have. In seeing the strengths and weaknesses of the characters, we can better understand our own. In comprehending their needs at the time, we can reflect upon our own current ones — seeking to avoid the same traps and pitfalls they experienced and that continue into our day.
We can think of poor Jo, his abandonment, and his lack of medical care, which can prompt us to remember those who, even today, remain in such need. We can consider Ada, Esther, Caddy, and Mrs. Dedlok, as it relates to the various aspects and effects of feminine refinement and beauty (both outward and inward, all to one degree or another). We can think of John Jarndyce as an example of altruism, patience, forgiveness, and avuncular love. We can think of the superficiality and pretense of the elder Mr. Turveydrop; the neglectfulness and misguided escapism of Mrs. Jellyby; the animosity and avarice of the Smallweeds; the haughtiness and classism (born of ignorance as opposed to malevolence) of Mr. Dedlock; the humble nobility of Mr. Woodcourt; and so on. Upon such reflection, we can see our own shortcomings and strengths and maybe learn something about ourselves, and about our current society, that we otherwise would not have (which may, perhaps, facilitate within us a desire, an impetus, to effect the necessary changes in our lives… both within and without).