Great Expectations Essay

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Charles Dickens wrote his enduringly popular novel, Great Expectations, between December 1860 and September 1861. As was usual for this most prolific of novelists, the book was first published in serial form, and the instalments would be as eagerly awaited as the ‘soap operas’ of today. This novel, however, contains an interesting and informative retrospective by the author on aspects of his life, hidden from even those closest to him, which he had first addressed in the painfully autobiographical David Copperfield some ten years earlier (a difficult decade for Dickens in his personal life) and to some extent alters the perception of himself which Dickens had there vicariously presented. The intricate plot of Great Expectations surrounds the life of an orphaned boy, Pip, who is brought up ‘by hand’ by his rather cruel sister and her kindly husband, Joe, the local blacksmith, to whom Pip turns for the only affection available. He sees Joe less as a father-figure than ‘a larger species of child, and as no more than my equal’ and this rather telling reference to ‘equality’ is to be one of the major themes of the book, i.e. Victorian class-consciousness and notions of what constitutes a ‘gentleman’. (One of the reasons Dickens chose, in fact to write the book was to redress the imbalance he felt he had created in the earlier creation of the ‘gentleman’ Copperfield and his snobbery towards the lads with whom he was compelled to work in the factory to which he had been consigned; Dickens had suffered a similar fate as a child and never spoke of it though he never forgot it.). Pip’s encounter at the beginning of the novel, in the graveyard where his parents are buried and from the stones of which he gains his only sense of self, with the terrifying convict, Magwitch, whom he is compelled to help yet for whom he feels compassion, is quickly followed by his being called to

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