Review 1 - My MVNU

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
• When he was five, the family moved
to Chatham, Kent.
• When he was ten, the family
relocated to Camden Town in
• His early years were an idyllic time.
He thought himself then as a "very
small and not-over-particularlytaken-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' prison.
• Dickens began work as a law clerk, a junior office
position with potential to become a lawyer.
• 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 life.
• 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
• Social Class
• Crime, Guilt,
and Innocence
Characters From
Great Expectations
They keep on Coming Back
• Hero and Narrator
• Readers follow this character from
childhood to young adulthood.
• Bildungsroman – novel of development
• The question of evil: cultural or just
naturally vicious.
• Vulnerable from the beginning
• Critics believe strongly autobiographical
The Convict
• Terrifies Pip, one of the worst
of his culture. Despised by
“good people.”
• He is a strange
combination of horror for
Pip as well as pity.
• Reminds Pip of a starving
Joe Gargery
• Best of friends as
ever we were. . .
What Larks!”
• .the closest
• His brother-in-law Joe is
thing to a father Pip has—but he is
viewed by Pip more as a Peer than an
• “It is a terrible thing to be ashamed of
Mrs. Joe
• Pip’s first wound—home is
not a place of love but of
frustration and discontent.
• The terrible truth that
abused children often become what they
hated and dreaded.
Other Characters Introduced
Mr. Pumblechook,
After Mr. Wopsle had said grace, my sister said to me, "Do
you hear that? Be grateful." "Especially," said Mr.
Pumblechook, "to them which brought you up by hand."
Mrs. Hubble asked, "Why is it that the young are never
grateful?" which Mr. Hubble solved by answering,
"Naturally wicious." Joe spooned into my plate, at this
point, about half a pint of gravy.
Analysis of Chapters
Chapter One
• Dickens begins the novel with a child
coming to a new understanding of himself.
• Before he comes to that moment, however,
the narrator describes how Pip begins life
making assumptions about himself which
while childishly charming are also quite
clearly wrong.
• This idea of faulty perceptions will be
important throughout this novel.
• The child's perspective and its connection to
the early formation of self. This is what one
friend calls a "satari" moment or an
epiphany--a time when a new truth is
revealed to the speaker.
• In Pip's case, this truth is that he is, in fact, a
very small person in a very large and
frightening world. It is Pip's very poor luck
that he should be also be standing close to a
starving convict.
• The church “go head over heels before
me.” The turning of Pip is of course a
wonderful depiction of a child's perspective
but also an indication of what indeed is
beginning to happen to Pip.
• His world is being turned upside
down. Meanwhile, the turned over church
and the tilting of poor Pip by the convict are
realistic in their depiction of trauma and
danger, but they are also fine examples of
Dickens' humor
Chapter two
• "brought up by hand." A pun upon the
phrase being "brought up by
hand." Although we quickly realize it
applies in Pip’s mind to the violence of her
nature, the phrase actually means that a
baby received milk "by hand" or by a bottle
or spoon rather than from his or her
mother's breasts.
• Of course the lack of mother’s milk is also a
reminder of the lack of love in Pip’s life.
“Me a black smith’s wife”
• One of issue raised in this that “Mrs. Joe” is
socially unquiet. She married Joe because
she needed a husband socially but she
considers his life and career below her own
• Note that she fawns of Uncle Pumblechook
because he drives a cart—ironically this
pompous windbag is actually related to Joe
not her.
• A picture of a dysfunctional marriage with
an aggressive woman. Mrs. Joe is a classic
example of a Shrew, a type of character we
will meet in Shakespeare's "Taming of the
• Hercules in strength and also in
weakness. Hercules was very unlucky in
his choice of wives. In fact his final death
was caused by the trickery of a centaur and
a jealous wife.
• Joe as a child?

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