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Great Expectations


Great Expectations By Charles Dickens Charles Dickens Dickens was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire to John Dickens, a naval pay clerk, and his wife Elizabeth Dickens. – PowerPoint PPT presentation

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Title: Great Expectations

Great Expectations
  • By Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens
February 7, 1812 June 9, 1870
  • Dickens was born in Portsmouth, Hampshire to John
    Dickens, a naval pay clerk, and his wife
    Elizabeth Dickens.
  • When he was five, the family moved to Chatham,
  • When he was ten, the family relocated to Camden
    Town in London.
  • His early years were an idyllic time. He thought
    himself then as a "very small and
    not-over-particularly-taken-care-of boy".

  • He talked later in life of his extremely strong
    memories of childhood and his continuing
    photographic memory of people and events that
    helped bring his fiction to life.
  • His family was moderately well-off, and he
    received some education at a private school but
    all that changed when his father, after spending
    too much money entertaining and retaining his
    social position, was imprisoned for debt.

  • At the age of twelve, Dickens was deemed old
    enough to work and began working for ten hours a
    day in Warren's boot-blacking factory, located
    near the present Charing Cross railway station.
  • He spent his time pasting labels on the jars of
    thick polish and earned six shillings a week.
    With this money, he had to pay for his lodging
    and help to support his family, which was
    incarcerated in the nearby Marshalsea debtors'

  • Dickens began work as a law clerk, a junior
    office position with potential to become a
  • He did not like the law as a profession and after
    a short time as a court stenographer he became a
    journalist, reporting parliamentary debate and
    traveling Britain by stagecoach to cover election
  • His journalism formed his first collection of
    pieces Sketches by Boz and he continued to
    contribute to and edit journals for much of his
  • In his early twenties he made a name for himself
    with his first novel, The Pickwick Papers.

Great Expectations
  • Dickens wrote and published Great Expectations in
    1860-1861, and though the novel looks back to an
    earlier time (1812-1840), the period of
    composition itself is noteworthy.
  • Great Expectations looks back upon a period of
    pre-Victorian development that had become, by
    1860, thoroughly historical. However, as a
    Victorian novel, Great Expectations is itself the
    product of a dynamic moment in history.

Themes of Great Expectations
  • Ambition and Self-Improvement
  • Social Class
  • Crime, Guilt, and Innocence

Ambition and Self-Improvement
  • Affection, loyalty, and conscience are more
    important than social advancement, wealth, and
  • Dickens establishes the theme and shows Pip
    learning this lesson, largely by exploring ideas
    of ambition and self-improvementideas that
    quickly become both the thematic center of the
    novel and the psychological mechanism that
    encourages much of Pips development.

  • At heart, Pip is an idealist whenever he can
    conceive of something that is better than what he
    already has, he immediately desires to obtain the
  • When he sees Satis House, he longs to be a
    wealthy gentleman
  • when he thinks of his moral shortcomings, he
    longs to be good
  • when he realizes that he cannot read, he longs to
    learn how.
  • Pips desire for self-improvement is the main
    source of the novels title because he believes
    in the possibility of advancement in life, he has
    great expectations about his future.

Social Class
  • Throughout Great Expectations, Dickens explores
    the class system of Victorian England, ranging
    from the most wretched criminals (Magwitch) to
    the poor peasants of the marsh country (Joe and
    Biddy) to the middle class (Pumblechook) to the
    very rich (Miss Havisham).
  • The theme of social class is central to the
    novels plot and to the ultimate moral theme of
    the bookthe inadequacy of material social
    advancment to bring true happiness.

  • Pip achieves this realization when he is finally
    able to understand that, despite the esteem in
    which he holds Estella, ones social status is in
    no way connected to ones real character.
  • Drummle, for instance, is an upper-class lout,
    while Magwitch, a persecuted convict, has a deep
    inner worth.
  • Perhaps the most important thing to remember
    about the novels treatment of social class is
    that the class system it portrays is based on the
    post-Industrial Revolution model of Victorian
    England. Dickens generally ignores the nobility
    and the hereditary aristocracy in favor of
    characters whose fortunes have been earned
    through commerce.

  • The theme of crime, guilt, and innocence is
    explored throughout the novel largely through the
    characters of the convicts and the criminal
    lawyer Jaggers.
  • From the handcuffs Joe mends at the smithy to the
    gallows at the prison in London, the imagery of
    crime and criminal justice pervades the book,
    becoming an important symbol of Pips inner
    struggle to reconcile his own inner moral
    conscience with the institutional justice system.
  • In general, just as social class becomes a
    superficial standard of value that Pip must learn
    to look beyond in finding a better way to live
    his life, the external trappings of the criminal
    justice system (police, courts, jails, etc.)
    become a superficial standard of morality that
    Pip must learn to look beyond to trust his inner

Crime, Guilt, and Innocence
  • Magwitch, for instance, frightens Pip at first
    simply because he is a convict, and Pip feels
    guilty for helping him because he is afraid of
    the police. By the end of the book, however, Pip
    has discovered Magwitchs inner nobility, and is
    able to disregard his external status as a
    criminal. Prompted by his conscience, he helps
    Magwitch to evade the law and the police.
  • As Pip has learned to trust his conscience and to
    value Magwitchs inner character, he has replaced
    an external standard of value with an internal

The original ending
  • Dickens chose to change the ending of Great
    Expectations, because according to one of his
    friends, Bulwer-Lytton (who himself was an
    author), the ending he had conceived originally
    was too unhappy for the public to react
    favourably to his book. The ending you read goes
    like this
  • I took her hand in mine, and we went out of
    the ruined place and, as the morning mists had
    risen long ago when I first left the forge, so,
    the evening mists were rising now, and in all the
    broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to
    me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her.
  • Heres the original, what do you think?

  • It was four years more, before I saw herself.
    I had heard of her as leading a most unhappy
    life, and as being separated from her husband who
    had used her with great cruelty, and who had
    become quite renowned as a compound of pride,
    brutality, and meanness. I had heard of the death
    of her husband (from an accident consequent on
    ill-treating a horse), and of her being married
    again to a Shropshire doctor, who, against his
    interest, had once very manfully interposed, on
    an occasion when he was in professional
    attendance on Mr. Drummle, and had witnessed some
    outrageous treatment of her. I had heard that the
    Shropshire doctor was not rich, and that they
    lived on her own personal fortune.

  • I was in England again -- in London, and
    walking along Piccadilly with little Pip -- when
    a servant came running after me to ask would I
    step back to a lady in a carriage who wished to
    speak to me. It was a little pony carriage, which
    the lady was driving and the lady and I looked
    sadly enough on one another. "I am greatly
    changed, I know but I thought you would like to
    shake hands with Estella, too, Pip. Lift up that
    pretty child and let me kiss it!" (She supposed
    the child, I think, to be my child.) I was very
    glad afterwards to have had the interview for,
    in her face and in her voice, and in her touch,
    she gave me the assurance, that suffering had
    been stronger than Miss Havisham's teaching, and
    had given her a heart to understand what my heart
    used to be.

Was Charles Dickens a Christian?
  • Because of the Scriptural reference at Magwitch's
    death as well as other Biblical nods in Great
    Expectations, students often ask if Charles
    Dickens was a Christianespecially in light of
    the breakup of his marriage.
  • The short answer is God only knows.
  • However Dickens would have defined himself as a
    Christian and many others have pronounced him a

He Actually Wrote an Account of Jesus Life which
he forbade to be sold.
  • In a letter described in the introduction to his
    The Life of Our Lord, as "perhaps the last words
    written by Dickens" he describes his own tendency
    to incorporate but not preach his beliefs in his
    writings in a time when many used their faith as
    a way to political and economic advantage
  • I have always striven in my writings to express
    veneration for the life and lessons of Our
    Savior, because I feel it. . . But I have never
    made proclamation

Thus this is not a Simple Question to Answer
  • One, we scholars know that he was far from
    perfect. Late in his life Dickens marriage
    floundered. This is common enough, but he placed
    the blame for the breakup publicly, in the
    magazine or which he was the editor, entirely
    upon her. Even among his closest friends, the
    opinion was held that he behaved badly towards
    Elizabeth who in spite of this remained
    respectful of him and later of his memory
    throughout their separate lives. On the other
    hand, claims that Dickens had an affair with the
    young (the age of his daughter) actress Lawless,
    is more the product of a sexualized modern
    mindset than a Victorian one. Also one terrible
    event should not define an individuals faith not
    for King David and not for Charles Dickens.

  • Second, he was a Unitarian, which for many
    conservative believers means a belief system
    without any overt claims of Christs divinity.
    However, his friend Foster maintains that he was
    drawn to the movement because of its active
    interest in the poor and that he, in fact,
    remained orthodox in his belief throughout his
    life. It is true that especially in the
    Victorian period there were many Unitarians who
    remained orthodox and in fact evangelical in
    their Christian beliefs. As for evangelicals,
    especially Methodists, Dickens had formed a very
    low opinion of them early in his life for their
    tendency to allow anyone who claimed to spirit to
    be a minister. Meanwhile he did not trust the
    high church tendencies within the very formal
    elements of the Church of England. His friend
    Foster while maintaining the safety of Dickens'
    belief, rather ambiguously refers to it as being
    characterized by a "depth of sentiment rather
    than clearness of faith" (ii, 147).

  • Third in a time when faith was often used as a
    way to raise oneself up socially, Dickens refused
    to make public pronouncements about his belief
    system. In fact not long before he died he was
    queried by a clergyman about the ideas of
    Christianity within his novels. In response he
    wrote I have always striven in my writings to
    express veneration for the life and lessons of
    Our Savior, because I feel it. . . But I have
    never made proclamation of this from the
    housetops (Qtd. in the Forward to Life of Our
    Lord 4). Yet in spite of these questions Dickens
    seems to have held to the last a reliance upon
    faith When Dickens bade farewell to his
    sixteen-year-old son Plorn, who was off to
    Australia, he wrote "I put a New Testament among
    your books, for the very same reasons, and with
    the very same hopes that made me write an easy
    account of it for you, when you were a little
    child...." (Qtd in Johnson, ii 1100).

In spite of this vagueness of orthodoxy there is
no debate among scholars that Christian
principles and Christian images of at the center
of Dickens attitudes towards the poor and
towards the reclamation of individuals.
  • Steven Marcus, the famous Dickens scholar, says
    forthrightly that of course Dickens was a
  • The English writer George Orwell said of Charles
    Dickens he believed undoubtedly.