Charles Dickens

Great Expectations (1860-61)

 

“Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded together, as I may say, and one man’s a blacksmith, and one’s a whitesmith, and one’s a goldsmith, and one’s a coppersmith. Diwisions among such must come, and must be met as they come.”

About Charles Dickens: (1812-1870)

*          Born  February 7th, 1812 and died June 9th, 1870.

*          None of his novels have ever gone out of print.

*          His novels were written and released in chapters, which was the common form at the time.

*          His father went to a debtor's prison when he was no longer able to keep up with his lavish spending style. As a result, Charles had to work in a boot polish factory.

*          He had ten children with his wife Catherine Hogarth.

*          He was able to buy Gad's Hill Place due to his overwhelming popularity. This place had much sentimental meaning to Charles, as he dreamt of living in it as a young boy. Also, it was the scene of some events in Shakespeare's Henry IV, part 1.

*          Was in the only first-class carriage to stay on the track in a rail accident where all the cars fell off a bridge that was being repaired. He tended to the wounded and dying before the rescuers arrived.

About Great Expectations (published 1860-1861 in episodes):

Theme: Social position (or rather, the behavior, lifestyle, choices, etc. expected from someone in a particular position in society) tends to influence a person's identity and development.

Basic Plot: The story is divided into three phases of Pip's life expectations:

*          In the first expectation, Pip lives a humble existence with his ill-tempered sister and her strong but gentle husband, Joe Gargery. Pip is satisfied with this life and friends until he is hired by an embittered wealthy woman, Miss Havisham, as a companion to her and her beautiful but haughty adopted daughter, Estella. After years as companion to Havisham and Estella, he spends more years as an apprentice to Joe, to become a blacksmith. This life is suddenly turned upside down when a London attorney, Mr. Jaggers, informs Pip that he is to come into the "Great Expectation" of a handsome property and be trained to be a gentleman at the behest of an anonymous benefactor.

*          The second stage of Pip's expectations has Pip in London, learning the details of being a gentlemen, having tutors, fine clothing, and joining cultured society. As he adopts the physical and cultural norms of his new status, he also adopts the class attitudes that go with it, and when Joe comes to visit Pip and his friend and roommate Herbert to deliver an important message, Pip is embarrassed to the point of hostility by Joe's unlearned ways, despite his protestations of love and friendship for Joe. At the end of this stage, Pip is introduced to his benefactor, again changing his world.

*          The third and last stage of Pip's expectations alters Pip's life from the artificially supported world of his upper class strivings and introduces him to realities that he realizes he must deal with, facing moral, physical and financial challenges. He learns startling truths that cast into doubt the values that he once embraced so eagerly, and finds that he cannot regain many of the important things that he had cast aside so carelessly.

Characters:

*          Philip Pirrip, nicknamed Pip – an orphan, and the protagonist. Pip is to be trained as a blacksmith, a low but skilled and honest profession, but strives to rise above his class after meeting Estella.

*          Miss Havisham - Wealthy spinster who takes Pip on as a companion, and who Pip is led to believe is his benefactor. Miss Havisham does not discourage this as it fits into her own spiteful plans.

*          Estella [Havisham] - Miss Havisham's adopted daughter, who Pip pursues romantically throughout the novel. Estella represents the life of wealth and culture that Pip strives for. Since her ability to love any man (or anyone for that matter) has been ruined by Miss Havisham, she is unable to return Pip's passion. She warns Pip of this repeatedly, but he is unwilling or unable to believe her.

*          The Convict - an escapee from a prison ship, whom Pip treats kindly, and who turns out to be his benefactor, at which time his real name is revealed to be Abel Magwitch, but who is also known as Provis and Mr. Campbell in parts of the story to protect his identity.