Title page of Vol. 1 of first edition, July 1861
|Series||Weekly: 1 December 1860 – 3 August 1861|
|Genre||Realistic fiction, social criticism|
|Publisher||Chapman & Hall|
|1861 (in three volumes)|
Great Expectations is Charles Dickens's thirteenth novel. It is his second novel, after David Copperfield, to be fully narrated in the first person.[N 1] Great Expectations is a bildungsroman, or a coming-of-age novel, and it is a classic work of Victorian literature. It depicts the growth and personal development of an orphan named Pip. The novel was first published in serial form in Dickens's weekly periodical All the Year Round, from 1 December 1860 to August 1861. In October 1861, Chapman and Hall published the novel in three volumes.
Dickens originally intended Great Expectations to be twice as long, but constraints imposed by the management of All the Year Round limited the novel's length. The novel is collected and dense, with a conciseness unusual for Dickens. According to G. K. Chesterton, Dickens penned Great Expectations in "the afternoon of [his] life and fame." It was the penultimate novel Dickens completed, preceding Our Mutual Friend.
It is set among the marshes of Kent and in London in the early to mid-1800s. The novel contains some of Dickens most memorable scenes, including its opening, in a graveyard, when the young orphan Pip is accosted by the escaped convict, Abel Magwitch. Great Expectations is a graphic book, full of extreme imagery, poverty, prison ships ("the hulks"), barriers and chains, and fights to the death.
Upon its release, Thomas Carlyle spoke of "All that Pip's nonsense." Later, George Bernard Shaw praised the novel as "All of one piece and consistently truthfull." Dickens felt Great Expectations was his best work, calling it "a very fine idea," and was very sensitive to compliments from his friends: "Bulwer, who has been, as I think you know, extraordinarily taken by the book."
Great Expectations has a colourful cast that has entered popular culture: the capricious Miss Havisham, the cold and beautiful Estella, Joe the kind and generous blacksmith, the dry and sycophantic Uncle Pumblechook, Mr. Jaggers, Wemmick with his dual personality, and the eloquent and wise friend, Herbert Pocket. Throughout the narrative, typical Dickensian themes emerge: wealth and poverty, love and rejection, and the eventual triumph of good over evil. Great Expectations has become very popular and is now taught as a classic in many English classes. It has been translated into many languages and adapted many times in film and other media.
- 1 Development history
- 2 Publication history
- 3 Illustrations
- 4 Reception
- 5 Plot summary
- 6 Characters
- 7 Background
- 8 Conciseness
- 9 Point of view
- 10 Theme
- 11 Style
- 12 Novels influenced by Great Expectations
- 13 Film, TV and theatrical adaptations
- 14 Works
- 15 Notes
- 16 References
- 17 External links
As Dickens began writing Great Expectations, he undertook a series of hugely popular and remunerative reading tours. His domestic life had disintegrated in the late 1850s however, and he had separated from his wife, Catherine Dickens. He was keeping secret an affair with a much younger woman, Ellen Ternan. It has been suggested that the reluctance with which Ellen Ternan became his mistress is reflected in the icy teasing of Estella in Great Expectations. 
In his Book of Memoranda, begun in 1855, Dickens wrote names for possible characters: Magwitch, Provis, Clarriker, Compey, Pumblechook, Orlick, Gargery, Wopsle, Skiffins, some of which became familiar in Great Expectations. There is also a reference to a "knowing man," a possible sketch of Bentley Drummle. Another evokes a house full of "Toadies and Humbugs," foreshadowing the visitors to Satis House in chapter 11. Margaret Cardwell discovered the "premonition" of Great Expectations from a 25 September 1855 letter from Dickens to W. H. Wills, in which Dickens speaks of recycling an "odd idea" from the Christmas special "A House to Let" and "the pivot round which my next book shall revolve." The "odd idea" concerns an individual who "retires to an old lonely house…resolved to shut out the world and hold no communion with it."
In an 8 August 1860 letter to Earl Carlisle, Dickens reported his agitation whenever he prepared a new book. A month later, in a letter to Forster, Dickens announced that he just had a new idea.
Publication of All the Year Round
Dickens was pleased with the idea, calling it "such a very fine, new and grotesque idea." He planned to write "a little piece," a "grotesque tragi-comic conception," about a young hero who befriends an escaped convict, who then makes a fortune in Australia and anonymously bequeaths his property to the hero. In the end, the hero loses the money because it is forfeited to the Crown. In his biography of Dickens, Forster wrote that in the early idea "was the germ of Pip and Magwitch, which at first he intended to make the groundwork of a tale in the old twenty-number form." Dickens presented the relationship between Pip and Magwitch pivotal to Great Expectations but without Miss Havisham, Estella, or other characters he later created.
As the idea and Dickens's ambition grew, he began writing. However, in September, the weekly All the Year Round saw its sales fall, and its flagship publication, A Day's Ride by Charles Lever, lost favour with the public. Dickens "called a council of war," and believed that to save the situation, "the one thing to be done was for [him] to strike in." The "very fine, new and grotesque idea" became the magazine's new support: weeklies, five hundred pages, just over one year (1860–1861), thirty-six episodes, starting 1 December. The magazine continued to publish Lever's novel until its completion on 23 March 1861, but it became secondary to Great Expectations. Immediately, sales resumed, and critics responded positively, as exemplified by The Times's praise: "Great Expectations is not, indeed, [Dickens's] best work, but it is to be ranked among his happiest."
Dickens, whose health was not the best, felt "The planning from week to week was unimaginably difficult" but persevered. He thought he had found "a good name," decided to use the first person "throughout," and thought the beginning was "excessively droll": "I have put a child and a good-natured foolish man, in relations that seem to me very funny." Four weekly episodes were "ground off the wheel" in October, and apart from one reference to the "bondage" of his heavy task, the months passed without the anguished cries that usually accompanied the writing of his novels. He did not even use the Number Plans or Mems;[N 2] he only had a few notes on the characters' ages, the tide ranges for chapter 54, and the draft of an ending. In late December, Dickens wrote to Mary Boyle that "Great Expectations [is] a very great success and universally liked."
Dickens gave six readings from 14 March to 18 April 1861, and in May, Dickens took a few days holiday in Dover. On the eve of his departure, he took some friends and family members for a trip by boat from Blackwall to Southend. Ostensibly for pleasure, the mini-cruise was actually a working session for Dickens to examine banks of the river in preparation for the chapter devoted to Magwitch's attempt to escape. Dickens then revised Herbert Pocket's appearance, no doubt, asserts Margaret Cardwell, to look more like his son Charley. On 11 June 1861, Dickens wrote to Macready that Great Expectations had been completed and on 15 June, asked the editor to prepare the novel for publication.
Following comments by Edward Bulwer-Lytton that the ending was too sad, Dickens rewrote it. The original ending has Pip, who remains single, briefly see Estella in London; after becoming Bentley Drummle's widow, she has remarried. It appealed to Dickens due to its originality: "[the] winding up will be away from all such things as they conventionally go." Dickens revised the ending so that Pip now meets Estella in the ruins of Satis House.
His changes at the conclusion of the novel did not quite end either with the final weekly part and the first bound edition, because Dickens further changed the last sentence in the amended 1868 version from "I could see the shadow of no parting from her." to "I saw no shadow of another parting from her". As Pip uses litotes, "no shadow of another parting", it is ambiguous whether Pip and Estella marry or Pip remains single. Angus Calder, writing for an edition in the Penguin English Library, believed the less definite phrasing of the amended 1868 version perhaps hinted at a buried meaning: '...at this happy moment, I did not see the shadow of our subsequent parting looming over us.' 
In a letter to Forster, Dickens explained his decision to alter the original ending: "You will be surprised to hear that I have changed the end of Great Expectations from and after Pip's return to Joe's...Bulwer, who has been, as I think you know, extraordinarily taken with the book, strongly urged it upon me, after reading the proofs, and supported his views with such good reasons that I have resolved to make the change. I have put in as pretty a little piece of writing as I could, and I have no doubt the story will be more acceptable through the alteration."
Earle Davis, writing in his 1963 study of Dickens, wrote that "it would be an inadequate moral point to deny Pip any reward after he had shown a growth of character," and that "Eleven years might change Estella too." Forster felt that the original ending was "more consistent" and "more natural" but noted the new ending's popularity. George Gissing called that revision "a strange thing, indeed, to befall Dickens" and felt that Great Expectations would have been perfect had Dickens not altered the ending in deference to Bulwer-Lytton.[N 3]
In contrast, John Hillis-Miller stated that Dickens's personality was so assertive that Bulwer-Lytton had little influence, and welcomed the revision: "The mists of infatuation have cleared away, [Estella and Pip] can be joined." Earl Davis notes that G.B. Shaw published the novel in 1937 for The Limited Editions Club with the first ending and that The Rhinehart Edition of 1979 presents both endings.
George Orwell wrote, "Psychologically the latter part of Great Expectations is about the best thing Dickens ever did," but, like John Forster and several early 20th-century writers, including George Bernard Shaw, felt that the original ending was more consistent with the draft, as well as the natural working out of the tale. Modern literary criticism is split over the matter.
Dickens and Wills co-owned All the Year Round, one 75%, the other 25%. Since Dickens was his own publisher, he did not require a contract for his own works. Although intended for weekly publication, Great Expectations was divided into nine monthly sections, with new pagination for each. Harper's Weekly published the novel from 24 November 1860 to 5 August 1861 and All the Year Round published it from 1 December 1860 to 3 August 1861. Harper's paid £1000 for publication rights. Dickens welcomed a contract with Tauchnitz 4 January 1861 for publication in English for the European continent.
Robert L. Patten identifies four American editions in 1861 and sees the proliferation of publications in Europe and across the Atlantic as "extraordinary testimony" to Great Expectations's popularity. Chapman and Hall published the first edition in three volumes in 1861, five subsequent reprints between 6 July and 30 October, and a one-volume edition in 1862. The "bargain" edition was published in 1862, the Library Edition in 1864, and the Charles Dickens edition in 1868. To this list, Paul Schlicke adds "two meticulous scholarly editions," one Claredon Press published in 1993 with an introduction by Margaret Cardwell and another with an introduction by Edgar Rosenberg, published by Norton in 1999.
First edition publication schedule
|1–5||1, 8, 15, 22, 29 December 1860||(1–8)|
|6–9||5, 12, 19, 26 January 1861||(9–15)|
|10–12||2, 9, 23 February 1861||(16–21)|
|13–17||2, 9, 16, 23, 30 March 1861||(22–29)|
|18–21||6, 13, 20, 27 April 1861||(30–37)|
|22–25||4, 11, 18, 25 May 1861||(38–42)|
|26–30||1, 8 15, 22, 29 June 1861||(43–52)|
|31–34||6, 13, 20, 27 July 1861||(53–57)|
|35||3 August 1861||(58–59)|
Publications in Harper's Weekly were accompanied by forty illustrations by John McLenan; however, this is the only Dickens work published in All the Year Round without illustrations. In 1862, Marcus Stone, son of Dickens's old friend, the painter Frank Stone, was invited to create eight woodcuts for the Library Edition. According to Paul Schlicke, these illustrations are mediocre yet were included in the Charles Dickens edition, and Stone created illustrations for Dickens's subsequent novel, Our Mutual Friend. Later, Henry Mathew Brock also illustrated Great Expectations and a 1935 edition of A Christmas Carol, along with other artists, such as John McLenan, F. A. Fraser, and Harry Furniss.
Robert L. Patten estimates that All the Year Round sold 100,000 copies of Great Expectations each week, and Mudie, the largest circulating library, which purchased about 1,400 copies, stated that at least 30 people read each copy. Aside from the dramatic plot, the Dickensian humour also appealed to readers. Dickens wrote to Forster in October 1860 that "You will not have to complain of the want of humour as in the Tale of Two Cities," an opinion Forster supports, finding that "Dickens's humour, not less than his creative power, was at its best in this book." Moreover, according to Paul Schlicke, readers found the best of Dickens's older and newer writing styles.
Not all reviews were favourable; Margaret Oliphant's review, published May 1862 in Blackwood's Magazine, vilified the novel. Overall, Great Expectations received near universal acclaim. Critics hailed it as one of Dickens's greatest successes although often for conflicting reasons: GK Chesterton admired the novel's optimism; Edmund Wilson its pessimism; Humphry House in 1941 emphasized its social context; while in 1974, JH Buckley saw it foremost as a bildungsroman. John Hillis Miller wrote in 1958 that Pip is the archetype of all Dickensian heroes, and in 1970, QD Leavis asks "How We Must Read Great Expectations." In 1984, Peter Brooks, in the wake of Jacques Derrida, offered a deconstructionist reading. The most profound analyst, according to Paul Schlicke, is probably Julian Moynahan, who, in a 1964 essay surveying the hero's guilt, made Orlick "Pip's double, alter ego and dark mirror image." Schlicke also names Anny Sadrin's extensive 1988 study as the "most distinguished."
On Christmas Eve, around 1812, Pip, an orphan who is about seven years old, encounters an escaped convict in the village churchyard while visiting the graves of his mother, father, and siblings. The convict scares Pip into stealing food and a file to grind away his shackles, from the home he shares with his abusive older sister and her kind, passive husband Joe Gargery, a blacksmith. The next day, soldiers recapture the convict while he is engaged in a fight with another convict; the two are returned to the prison ships from which they escaped.
Miss Havisham, a wealthy spinster who wears an old wedding dress and lives in the dilapidated Satis House, asks Pip's "Uncle Pumblechook" (who is actually Joe's uncle) to find a boy to play with her adopted daughter Estella. Pip begins to visit Miss Havisham and Estella, and falls in love with Estella, as Miss Havisham encourages him. Pip visits Miss Havisham multiple times; Joe accompanies Pip for the last visit. Later, when Pip has set out learning Joe's trade, an apprentice blacksmith, an unknown person attacks Joe's wife, leaving her with unintelligible speech and disturbed vision. Biddy arrives to help with her care and becomes 'a blessing to the household'.
Whilst Pip is still apprentice at Joe's forge, a lawyer, Mr. Jaggers, approaches him and tells him he is to receive a large sum of money from an anonymous benefactor and must immediately leave for London, where he is to become a gentleman. Assuming that Miss Havisham is his benefactress, he visits her at Satis House to say good-bye before he sets out for London.
Pip sets up house with Herbert Pocket at Barnard's Inn. Herbert tells Pip the circumstances of Miss Havisham's romantic disappointment, her jilting by her fiancé. Pip goes to Hammersmith, to be educated by Mr Matthew Pocket and gets money from Jaggers to set himself up to reflect his enhanced social status. Joe visits Pip at Barnard's Inn. At Miss Havisham's request, via Joe, Pip visits Satis House and meets Estella again. Pip and Herbert exchange their romantic secrets - Pip that he adores Estella and Herbert that he is engaged to Clara. Pip meets and escorts Estella in London.
Pip and Herbert build up debts. Mrs Joe dies and Pip returns to his village for the funeral. Pip's income is fixed at £500 per annum when he comes of age at twenty-one. Pip takes Estella to Satis House. She and Miss Havisham quarrel. At Assembly Ball in Richmond Estella leads on Bentley Drummle. Abel Magwitch, the convict he helped, who was transported to New South Wales where he eventually became wealthy, reveals himself to Pip as his benefactor. Magwitch has wanted to return to see Pip and the gentleman he has become, yet is cautious as he fears he will be hanged as a returned transport if he is caught. Pip and his friends Herbert Pocket and Startop hatch a plan for Magwitch to flee by boat.
Pip tells Miss Havisham that he is as unhappy as she can ever have meant him to be. He asks her to finance Herbert Pocket. Estella tells Pip she is to marry Bentley Drummle.
Miss Havisham, questioned by Pip, tells him that Estella was brought to her by Jaggers aged two or three. In the midst of her depression and remorse, Miss Havisham accidentally sets her dress on fire. Pip saves her, but she eventually dies from her injuries, lamenting her manipulation of Estella and Pip. Jaggers tells Pip Estella's true story.
A few days before the escape, Joe's former journeyman, Orlick, who was responsible for the attack on Mrs. Joe, attacks Pip. Herbert Pocket and his friends save Pip and prepare for the escape.
During the escape, Magwitch kills his enemy Compeyson, a con artist and Miss Havisham's fiancé. Police capture Magwitch and jail him. Pip visits a deathly ill Magwitch in jail and tells him that his daughter Estella is alive. Barely alive, Magwitch responds with a squeezing of Pip's palm and dies shortly after but before his execution. Pip has fallen ill when he is confronted with arrest for an unpaid debt; he awakens to find Joe has come to his rescue. Joe nurses Pip back to health and pays off the debt. Pip realises that in his fruitless pursuit of Estella and wealth, he has callously ignored Joe. Realising the error of his ways, Pip returns to propose to Biddy, a friend from his childhood in Kent, only to find that she and Joe have just married.
Pip asks Joe for forgiveness, and Joe forgives him. As Pip has lost his fortune upon Magwitch's death, he is no longer a gentleman. Pip promises to repay Joe and goes to Egypt, where he shares lodgings with Herbert and Clara and works diligently as a clerk.
Eleven years later, Pip visits the ruins of Satis House and meets Estella, whom her dead husband, Bentley Drummle, had abused. She asks Pip to forgive her, assuring him that misfortune has opened her heart and that she now empathises with Pip. As Pip takes Estella's hand and leaves the ruins of Satis House, he sees "no shadow of another parting from her."
Pip and his family
- Philip Pirrip, nicknamed Pip, an orphan and the protagonist and narrator of Great Expectations. In his childhood, Pip dreamed of becoming a blacksmith like his kind brother-in-law, Joe Gargery. At Satis House however he meets Estella, a contact which destroys his peace of mind. He tells Biddy that he wants to become a gentleman. As a result of Magwitch's anonymous patronage, Pip travels to London and becomes a gentleman. Pip assumes his benefactor is Miss Havisham, and discovering that his true benefactor is a convict shocks him.
- Joe Gargery, Pip's brother-in-law, and his first father figure. He is a blacksmith who is always kind to Pip and the only person with whom Pip is always honest. Joe is very disappointed when Pip decides to leave his home and travel to London to become a gentleman rather than be a blacksmith.
- Mrs. Joe Gargery, Pip's hot-tempered adult sister, who raises him after their parents' death but constantly complains of the burden of raising Pip. Orlick, her husband's journeyman, attacks her, and she is left disabled until her death.
- Mr. Pumblechook, Joe Gargery's uncle, an officious bachelor and corn merchant. While holding Pip in disdain, he tells "Mrs. Joe" (as she is widely known) how noble she is to raise Pip. As the person who first connected Pip to Miss Havisham, he claims to have been the original architect of Pip's precious fortune. Pip despises Mr. Pumblechook as Mr. Pumblechook constantly makes himself out to be better than he really is. When Pip finally stands up to him, Mr. Pumblechook turns those listening to the conversation against Pip.
Miss Havisham and her family
- Miss Havisham, wealthy spinster who takes Pip on as a companion for her adopted daughter, Estella. Embittered after being jilted at the altar by her fiance some years before, Havisham is an eccentric woman who perpetually wears her wedding dress. She conceives a hatred for all men, and plots to wreak a twisted revenge by teaching Estella to torment and spurn all men, including Pip, who loves her. Miss Havisham is later overcome with remorse for ruining both Estella's and Pip's chances for happiness. Shortly after confessing her plotting to Pip, she dies as the result of being badly burned when her dress accidentally catches fire.
- Estella, Miss Havisham's adopted daughter, whom Pip pursues throughout the novel. Estella represents the life of wealth and culture for which Pip strives. Since Miss Havisham ruined Estella's ability to love, Estella cannot return Pip's passion. She warns Pip of this repeatedly, but he will not or cannot believe her. Estella does not know that she is the daughter of Molly, Jaggers's housekeeper, and the convict Abel Magwitch, given up for adoption to Miss Havisham after her mother was arrested for murder.
- Matthew Pocket, Miss Havisham's cousin. He is the patriarch of the Pocket family, but unlike her other relatives, he is not greedy for Havisham's wealth. Matthew Pocket tutors young gentlemen, such as Bentley Drummle, Startop, Pip, and his own son Herbert.
- Herbert Pocket, the son of Matthew Pocket and Miss Havisham's presumed heir. Pip first meets Herbert as a "pale young gentleman" who challenges Pip to a fistfight at Miss Havisham's house when both are children. He later becomes Pip's friend, tutoring him in the "gentlemanly" arts, and sharing his apartment with Pip in London.
- Cousin Raymond, an ageing relative of Miss Havisham who is only interested in her money. He is married to Camilla.
- Georgiana, an ageing relative of Miss Havisham who is only interested in her money. She is one of the many relatives who hang around Miss Havisham "like flies" for her wealth.
- Sarah Pocket, another ageing relative of Miss Havisham, described as "a dry, brown corrugated old woman, with a small face that might have been made out of walnut shells, and a large mouth like a cat's without the whiskers."
From Pip's youth
- The Convict, an escapee from a prison ship, whom Pip treats kindly, and who turns out to be his benefactor. His real name is Abel Magwitch but he uses the aliases Provis and Mr. Campbell.
- Mr. and Mrs. Hubble, simple folk who think they are more important than they really are. They live in Pip's village.
- Mr. Wopsle, clerk of the church in Pip's village. He later gives up the church work and moves to London to pursue his ambition to be an actor, adopting the stage name Mr. Waldengarver.
- Biddy, Wopsle's second cousin; she runs an evening school from her home in Pip's village and becomes Pip's teacher. A kind and intelligent but poor young woman, she is, like Pip and Estella, an orphan. She acts as Estella's foil. Orlick was attracted to her, but she did not return his affections. Pip ignores her affections for him as he fruitlessly pursues Estella. After realising the error of his life choices, Pip returns to claim Biddy as his bride, only to find out she has married Joe Gargery. Biddy and Joe later have two children, one named after Pip whom Estella mistakes as Pip's child in the original ending.
Mr. Jaggers and his circle
- Mr. Jaggers, prominent London lawyer who represents the interests of diverse clients, both criminal and civil. He represents Pip's benefactor and Miss Havisham as well. By the end of the story, his law practice links many of the characters.
- John Wemmick, Jaggers's clerk, called "Mr. Wemmick" and "Wemmick" except by his father, who is referred to as "The Aged Parent", "The Aged P.", or simply "The Aged." Wemmick is Pip's chief go-between with Jaggers and looks after Pip in London. Mr. Wemmick lives with his father in John's "castle," which is a small replica of a castle, complete with a drawbridge and moat, in Walworth.
- Molly, Mr. Jaggers's maidservant whom Jaggers saved from the gallows for murder. She is revealed to be Magwitch's estranged wife and Estella's mother.
- Compeyson (surname), a convict and Magwitch's enemy. In some editions of the book, he is called "Compey." A professional swindler, he was engaged to marry Miss Havisham, but he was in league with Arthur Havisham to defraud Miss Havisham of her fortune. He pursues Abel Magwitch when he learns that he is in London and drowns when, grappling with Magwitch, he falls into the Thames.
- Dolge Orlick, journeyman blacksmith at Joe Gargery's forge. Strong, rude and sullen, he is as churlish as Joe is gentle and kind. He ends up in a fistfight with Joe over Mrs. Gargery's taunting, and Joe easily defeats him. This sets in motion an escalating chain of events that leads him to secretly injure Mrs. Gargery and try to kill Pip. The police discover and arrest him.
- Bentley Drummle, a coarse, unintelligent young man from a wealthy noble family. Pip meets him at Mr. Pocket's house, as Drummle is also to be trained in gentlemanly skills. Drummle is hostile to Pip and everyone else. He is a rival for Estella's attentions and eventually marries her and is said to abuse her. He dies from an accident following his mistreatment of a horse.
- Clara Barley, a very poor girl living with her gout-ridden father. She marries Herbert Pocket near the novel's end. She dislikes Pip at first but eventually warms up to him.
- Miss Skiffins occasionally visits Wemmick's house and wears green gloves. She changes those green gloves for white ones when she marries Wemmick.
- Startop, like Bentley Drummle, is Pip's fellow student, but unlike Drummle, he is kind. He assists Pip and Herbert in their efforts to help Magwitch escape.
Great Expectations's single most obvious literary predecessor is Dickens's earlier first-person narrator-protagonist David Copperfield. The two novels trace the psychological and moral development of a young boy to maturity, his transition from a rural environment to the London metropolis, the vicissitudes of his emotional development, and the exhibition of his hopes and youthful dreams and their metamorphosis, through a rich and complex first person narrative. Dickens was conscious of this similarity and, before undertaking his new manuscript, reread David Copperfield to avoid repetition.
The two books both detail homecoming. Although David Copperfield is based on much of Dickens personal experiences, Great Expectations provides, according to Paul Schlicke, "the more spiritual and intimate autobiography." Even though several elements hint at the setting — Miss Havisham, partly inspired by a Parisian duchess, whose residence was always closed and in darkness, surrounded by "a dead green vegetable sea," recalling Satis House, and the countryside bordering Chatham and Rochester — no place name is mentioned,[N 4] nor a specific time period, which is indicated by, among other elements, older coaches, the title "His Majesty" in reference to George III, and the old London Bridge prior to the 1824–1831 reconstruction.
The theme of homecoming reflects events in Dickens's life, several years prior to the publication of Great Expectations. In 1856, he bought Gad's Hill Place in Higham, Kent, which he had dreamed of living in as a child, and moved there from faraway London two years later. In 1858, in a painful divorce, he separated from Catherine Dickens, his wife of twenty-three years. The divorce alienated him from some of his closest friends, such as Mark Lemon. He quarrelled with Bradbury and Evans, who had published his novels for fifteen years. In early September 1860, in a field behind Gad's Hill, Dickens burned almost all of his correspondence, sparing only letters on business matters. He stopped publishing the weekly Household Words at the summit of its popularity and replaced it with All the Year Round.
The Uncommercial Traveller, short stories, and other texts Dickens began publishing in his new weekly in 1859 reflect his nostalgia, as seen in "Dullborough Town" and "Nurses' Stories." According to Paul Schlicke, "it is hardly surprising that the novel Dickens wrote at this time was a return to roots, set in the part of England in which he grew up, and in which he had recently resettled."
Margaret Cardwell draws attention to Chops the Dwarf from Dickens's 1858 Christmas story "Going into Society," who, as the future Pip does, entertains the illusion of inheriting a fortune and becomes disappointed upon achieving his social ambitions. In another vein, Harry Stone thinks that Gothic and magical aspects of Great Expectations were partly inspired by Charles Mathews's At Home, which was presented in detail in Household Words and its monthly supplement Household Narrative. Stone also asserts that The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices, written in collaboration with Wilkie Collins after their walking tour of Cumberland during September 1857 and published in Household Words from 3 to 31 October of the same year, presents certain strange locations and a passionate love, foreshadowing Great Expectations.
Beyond its biographical and literary aspects, Great Expectations appears, according to Robin Gilmour, as "a representative fable of the age." Dickens was aware that the novel "speaks" to a generation applying, at most, the principle of "self help" and believed to have increased the order of daily life. That the hero Pip aspires to improve, not through snobbery, but through the Victorian conviction of education, social refinement, and materialism, was seen as a noble and worthy goal. However, by tracing the origins of Pip's "great expectations" to crime, deceit, and even banishment to the colonies, Dickens unfavourably compares the new generation to the previous one of Joe Gargery, which Dickens portrays as less sophisticated but especially rooted in sound values, presenting an oblique criticism of his time.
The format of the weekly periodical more-or-less limited Dickens, notes Paul Davis. It required short chapters, centred on a single subject, and an almost mathematical structure. Pip's story contains three stages: his childhood and early youth in Kent, dreaming to rise above his humble station; his time in London after receiving the eponymous "great expectations"; and his final disillusionment when he discovers the source of his fortune and slowly realises the vanity of his false values. The novel further divides each stage into twelve parts of equal length. This symmetry contributes to the impression of completion, underlined by a number of commentators, including George Gissing, who, when comparing Joe Gargery and Dan'l Peggotty (from David Copperfield), preferred the former, as he was a stronger character who lives "in a world, not of melodrama, but of everyday cause and effect."
G. B. Shaw called the novel "compactly perfect"; similarly, Algernon Swinburne stated, "The defects in it are as nearly imperceptible as spots on the sun or shadow on a sunlit sea." This impression of excellence also comes from, according to Christopher Ricks, "the briskness of the narrative tone."[N 5] Pip's thoughts while he is in London, preparing for a visit from Joe, his oldest friend and protector demonstrates this:
Not with pleasure, though I was bound to him by so many ties; with considerable disturbance, some mortification, and a keen sense of incongruity. If I could have kept him away by paying money, I certainly would have paid money.
Similar brevity is key to the "decantation", stated Ricks, particularly in the second sentence, showing Pip's chilling, pitiless indifference but "without making a terrific demonstration of mercilessness."
Further, as explained by Henri Suhamy in his course on Great Expectations, beyond the chronological sequences and the weaving of several storylines into a tight plot, the sentimental setting and morality of the characters form a consistent "pattern". He describes this pattern with two central poles, that of "foster parents" (Miss Havisham, Magwitch, and Joe) and that of "young people" (Estella, Pip, and Biddy) between two other poles called "Dangerous Lovers" (one of Compeyson, the other of Bentley Drummle and Orlick). Pip is the centre of this web of love, rejection, and hatred.
This is "the general frame of the novel", as of the overwhelming crisis when Pip realises his and Estella's situations. Suhamy specifies that the term "love" is generic, applying it to both Pip's true love for Estella and the social attraction Estella harbours for Drummle, the former of which she cannot feel and the superficiality of the latter she does not conceal. Similarly, Suhamy adds, Estella's "rejection" of Magwitch becomes a matter of interpretation; the young lady does not know he is her father but still holds contempt for everything that appears below her station.
Great Expectations appears then as a tragedy, since the characters suffer physically, psychologically or both, or die, often violently, while suffering. Happy resolutions of the web of love remain elusive, while the web of hate thrives throughout the novel. The only happy ending is Biddy and Joe's friendship sealed in marriage by the birth of two children, since the final reconciliations, except that between Pip and Magwitch symbolizing Pip's maturation, do not alter the general order. Though Pip extirpates the web of hatred, the first ending denies him happiness and the second leaves his future uncertain, punctuating his storyline with a question mark.
Point of view
Although the novel is written in first person, the reader knows - as an essential prerequisite – that Great Expectations is not an autobiography but a novel, a work of fiction with plot and characters, including a narrator-protagonist and pure virtual creations of Dickens's imagination that, by the mere virtuosity of his words, remains the real master of the game and alone orchestrates the subtle complexity of the different strata of speech.
In addition, as Sylvère Monod pointed out, the treatment of the autobiography differs from David Copperfield: Great Expectations does not draw from events in Dickens's; "at most some traces of a broad psychological and moral introspection can be found".
However, according to Paul Pickrel's analysis, Pip is both narrator and protagonist; as such, he recounts with hindsight the story of the young boy he was, who did not know the world beyond a narrow geographic and familiar environment. The novel's direction emerges from the confrontation between the two layers of time. At first, the novel presents a mistreated orphan, repeating situations from Oliver Twist and David Copperfield, but the trope is quickly overtaken. The theme manifests when Pip discovers the existence of a world beyond the marsh, the forge, and the future Joe envisioned for him, the decisive moment when Miss Havisham and Estella enter his life. This is a red herring, as the decay of Satis House and the strange lady within signals the fragility of an impasse. At this point, the reader knows more than the protagonist, creating dramatic irony that confers a superiority that the narrator shares.
It is not until Magwitch's return, a plot twist that unites loosely-connected plot elements and sets them into motion, that the protagonist's point of view joins those of the narrator and the reader. In this context of progressive revelation, the sensational events at the novel's end serve to test the protagonist's point of view. Thus proceeds, in the words of A. E. Dyson, "The Immolations of Pip".
The eponymous "Expectations" refers to its Victorian definition, "a legacy to come". The title immediately announces that money plays an important part in the novel and its themes but is only part of a broader package whose coherence John Hillis-Miller highlights in his book, Charles Dickens, The World of His Novels.
Exclusion and hope
John Hillis-Miller first shows that, as in many Dickensian novels, most characters, and in the beginning, the protagonist, are "outcasts" living in insecurity. Thus, Pip, orphaned, grows up in a world full of sinister tombs, dangerous swamps, and threatening masses of prison ships emerging from the fog that dominate the shores. His existence reproaches him: "I was always treated as if I had insisted on being born in opposition to the dictates of reason, religion and morality".
Great Expectations is written in first person and uses some language and grammar that has fallen out of common use since its publication. The title Great Expectations refers to the 'Great Expectations' Pip has of coming into his benefactor's property upon his disclosure to him and achieving his intended role as a gentleman at that time. Great Expectations is sometimes seen as a bildungsroman, a novel depicting growth and personal development, in this case, of Pip.
Some of the major themes of Great Expectations are crime, social class, empire and ambition. From an early age, Pip feels guilt; he is also afraid that someone will find out about his crime and arrest him. The theme of crime comes into even greater effect when Pip discovers that his benefactor is in fact a convict. Pip has an internal struggle with his conscience throughout the book. Great Expectations explores the different social classes of the Georgian era. Throughout the book, Pip becomes involved with a broad range of classes, from criminals like Magwitch to the extremely rich like Miss Havisham. Pip has great ambition, as demonstrated constantly in the book.
Novels influenced by Great Expectations
Dickens' novel has influenced a number of writers, Sue Roe's Estella: Her Expectations (1982), for example explores the inner life of an Estella fascinated with a Havisham figure. Miss Havisham is again important in Havisham: A Novel (2013), a book by Ronald Frame, that features an imagining of the life of Miss Catherine Havisham from childhood to adulthood. Rosalind Ashe's Literary Houses, (1982), second chapter is a paraphrasing of Miss Havisham's story with details about the nature and structure of Satis House, and coloured imaginings of the house within. Miss Havisham is also central to Lost in a Good Book (2002), an alternate history, fantasy novel by Jasper Fforde, which features a parody version of Miss Havisham. It won the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association 2004 Dilys Award. Magwitch is the protagonist of Peter Carey's Jack Maggs, which is a re-imagining of Magwitch's return to England, with the addition, among other things, of a fictionalised Dickens character and plot-line. Carey's novel won the Commonwealth Writers Prize in 1998. Mister Pip (2006) is a novel by Lloyd Jones, a New Zealand author. The winner of the 2007 Commonwealth Writers Prize, Lloyd Jones's novel is set in a village on the Papua New Guinea island of Bougainville during a brutal civil war there in the 1990s, where the young protagonist's life is impacted in a major way by her reading of Great Expectations.
Film, TV and theatrical adaptations
Like many other Dickens novels, Great Expectations has been filmed for the cinema or television numerous times, including:
- 1917 – Great Expectations, a silent film, starring Jack Pickford, directed by Robert G. Vignola.
- 1922 – a silent film, made in Denmark, starring Martin Herzberg, directed by A.W. Sandberg.
- 1934 – Great Expectations film starring Phillips Holmes and Jane Wyatt, directed by Stuart Walker.
- 1946 – Great Expectations, the most celebrated film version, starring John Mills as Pip, Bernard Miles as Joe, Alec Guinness as Herbert, Finlay Currie as Magwitch, Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham, Anthony Wager as Young Pip, Jean Simmons as Young Estella and Valerie Hobson as the adult Estella, directed by David Lean. It came fifth in a 1999 BFI poll of the top 100 British films.
- 1954 – a two-part television version starring Roddy McDowall as Pip and Estelle Winwood as Miss Havisham. It aired as an episode of the show Robert Montgomery Presents.
- 1955 - An Orphan's Tragedy, a Hong Kong film adaptation starring a teenage Bruce Lee. Filmed in Cantonese, the setting was moved to early 20th century Hong Kong and characters were renamed, where Pip was renamed as Frank whom was portrayed by Lee.
- 1959 – a BBC television version starring Dinsdale Landen as Pip, Helen Lindsay as Estella, Colin Jeavons as Herbert Pocket, Marjorie Hawtrey as Miss Havisham and Derek Benfield as Landlord.
- 1967 – a television serial starring Gary Bond and Francesca Annis.
- 1974 – Great Expectations – a film starring Michael York as Pip and Simon Gipps-Kent as Young Pip, Sarah Miles and James Mason, directed by Joseph Hardy.
- 1981 – Great Expectations – a BBC serial starring Stratford Johns, Gerry Sunquist, Joan Hickson, Patsy Kensit and Sarah-Jane Varley. Produced by Barry Letts, and directed by Julian Amyes.
- 1983 – an animated children's version, starring Phillip Hinton, Liz Horne, Robin Stewart, and Bill Kerr.
- 1986 – Great Expectations: The Untold Story, starring John Stanton, directed by Tim Burstall is a spin-off movie depicting the adventures of Magwitch in Australia.
- 1989 – Great Expectations, a film starring Anthony Hopkins as Magwitch and Jean Simmons as Miss Havisham, directed by Kevin Connor.
- 1998 – Great Expectations, a film starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow, directed by Alfonso Cuarón. This adaptation is set in contemporary New York, and renames Pip to Finn and Miss Havisham to Nora Dinsmoor. The film's score was composed by Scotsman Patrick Doyle, a regular collaborator of Kenneth Branagh.
- 1999 – Great Expectations, a film starring Ioan Gruffudd as Pip, Justine Waddell as Estella, and Charlotte Rampling as Miss Havisham (Masterpiece Theatre—TV)
- 2000 – "Pip", a South Park episode that parodies and retells the Charles Dickens novel, and stars the South Park character Pip.
- 2011 – Great Expectations, a three-part BBC serial. Starring Ray Winstone as Magwitch, Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham and Douglas Booth as Pip.
- 2012 – Great Expectations, a film directed by Mike Newell, starring Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch, Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham, and Jeremy Irvine as Pip.
Stage versions have included:
- 1939 – London stage adaptation made by Alec Guinness, which was to influence David Lean's 1946 film, in which both Guinness himself and Martita Hunt reprised their stage roles.
- 1975 – Stage Musical (London West End). Music by Cyril Ornadel, starring Sir John Mills. Ivor Novello Award for Best British Musical.
- 1988 - Glasgow Mayfest, stage version by the Tag Theatre Company in association with the Gregory Nash group
- 1995 – Stage adaptation of Great Expectations at Dublin's Gate Theatre by Hugh Leonard.
- 2002 - Melbourne Theatre Company four hour re-telling, in an adaptation by company director Simon Phillips
- 2005 - Royal Shakespeare Company adaptation by the Cheek by Jowl founders Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, with Sian Phillips as Miss Havisham
- 2013 – West End adaptation written by Jo Clifford and directed by Graham McLaren. Paula Wilcox as Miss Havisham, Chris Ellison as Magwitch.
- Charles Dickens (1993), Great Expectations, Ware, Herfordshire: Wordsworth Classics, ISBN 1-85326-004-5, an unsigned and unpaginated introduction
- Charles Dickens (1993), Great Expectations, Oxford: Clarendon Press, ISBN 978-0-19-818591-8, introduction and notes by Margaret Cardwell
- Charles Dickens (1996), Great Expectations, London: Penguin Classics, ISBN 0-141-43956-4, introduction by David Trotter, notes by Charlotte Mitchell
- Charles Dickens (1896), Les Grandes Espérances (in French) 2, Translated by Charles Bernard-Derosne, Paris: Hachette
- Charles Dickens (1954), De Grandes espérances, La Pléiade (in French), Translated by Lucien Guitard, Pierre Leyris, André Parreaux, Madeleine Rossel (published with Souvenirs intimes de David Copperfield), Paris: Gallimard, ISBN 9782070101672
- Michael Stapleton (1983), The Cambridge Guide to English Literature, London: Hamlyn, ISBN 0600331733
- Margaret Drabble (1985), The Oxford Companion to English literature, London: Guild Publishing
- Andrew Sanders (1996), The Oxford History of English Literature (Revised Edition), Oxford: Oxford University Press, ISBN 0-19-871156-5
- Paul Schlicke (1999), Oxford Reader's Companion to Dickens, New York: Oxford University Press
- Paul Davis (1999), Charles Dickens from A to Z, New York: Checkmark Books, ISBN 0816040877
- John O. Jordan (2001), The Cambridge companion to Charles Dickens, New York: Cambridge University Press
- David Paroissien (2011), A Companion to Charles Dickens, Chichester: Wiley Blackwell, ISBN 978-0-470-65794-2
- Robin Gilmour (1981), The Idea of the Gentleman in the Victorian Novel, Sydney: Allen & Unwin, ISBN 9780048000057
- Paul Davis (2007), Critical Companion to Charles Dickens, A Literary Reference to His Life and Work, New York: Facts on File, Inc., ISBN 0-8160-6407-5
About the life and work of Charles Dickens
- John Forster (1872–1874), The Life of Charles Dickens, London: J. M. Dent & Sons, edited by J. W. T. Ley, 1928
- John Forster (1976), Life of Charles Dickens, London: Everyman's Library, ISBN 0460007823
- Hippolyte Taine (1879), History of English Literature, Translated from French by H. Van Laun, New York
- G. K. Chesterton (1906), Charles Dickens, London: Methuen and Co., Ltd.
- G. K. Chesterton (1911), Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dicken, London: J. M. Dent
- S. J. Adair Fitz-Gerald (1910), Dickens and the Drama, London: Chapman & Hall, Ltd.
- Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1911), Appreciations and Criticisms of the Works of Charles Dickens, London
- George Gissing (1925), The Immortal Dickens, London: Cecil Palmer
- Humphry House (1941), The Dickens World, London: Oxford University Press
- Una Pope Hennessy (1947), Charles Dickens, London: The Reprint Society, first published 1945
- Hesketh Pearson (1949), Dickens, London: Methuen
- Jack Lindsay (1950), Charles Dickens, A Biographical and Critical Study, New York: Philosophical Library
- Barbara Hardy (1952), Dickens and the Twentieth Century. The Heart of Charles Dickens, New York: Edgar Johnson
- Edgar Johnson (1952), Charles Dickens: His Tragedy and Triumph. 2 vols, New York: Simon and Schuster
- Sylvère Monod (1953), Dickens romancier (in French), Paris: Hachette
- John Hillis-Miller (1958), Charles Dickens, The World of His Novels, Harvard: Harvard University Press, ISBN 9780674110007
- E. A. Horsman (1959), Dickens and the Structure of Novel, Dunedin, N.Z.
- R. C. Churchill (1964), Charles Dickens, From Dickens to Hardy, Baltimore, Md.: Boris Ford
- Earle Davis (1963), The Flint and the Flame: The Artistry of Charles Dickens, Missouri-Columbia: University of Missouri Press
- Steven Marcus (1965), Dickens: From Pickwick to Dombey, New York
- K. J. Fielding (1966), Charles Dickens, A Critical Introduction, London: Longman
- Christopher Hibbert (1967), The Making of Charles Dickens, London: Longmans Green & Co., Ltd.
- Harry Stone (1968), Charles Dickens' Uncollected Writings from Household Words 1850–1859, 1 and 2, Indiana: Indiana University Press, ISBN 0713901209
- F. R. & Q. D. Leavis (1970), Dickens the Novelist, London: Chatto & Windus, ISBN 0701116447
- A. E. Dyson (1970), The Inimitable Dickens, London: Macmillan, ISBN 0333063287
- Angus Wilson (1972), The World of Charles Dickens, Harmondsworth: Penguin Books, ISBN 0140034889
- Philip Collins (1975), Charles Dickens: The Public Readings, Oxford: Clarendon Press
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- Virginia Woolf (1986), Andrew McNeillie, ed., The Essays of Virginia Woolf: 1925–1928, London: Hogarth Press, ISBN 978-0-7012-0669-7
- Harry Stone (1979), Dickens and the Invisible World, Fairy Tales, Fantasy and Novel-Making, Bloomington and Londres: Indiana University. Press
- Michael Slater (1983), Dickens and Women, London: J. M. Dent & Sons, Ltd., ISBN 0-460-04248-3
- Fred Kaplan (1988), Dickens, A Biography, William Morrow & Co, ISBN 9780688043414
- Norman Page (1988), A Dickens Chronology, Boston: G.K. Hall and Co.
- Peter Ackroyd (1993), Charles Dickens, London: Stock, ISBN 978-0099437093
- Philip Collins (1996), Charles Dickens, The Critical Heritage, London: Routletge
About Great Expectations
- Richard Lettis and William Morris, ed. (1960), Assessing Great Expectations, San Francisco: Chandler, texts from Forster, Whipple, Chesterton, Leacock, Baker, House, Johnson, van Ghent, Stange, Hagan, Connolly, Engel, Hillis Miller, Moynahan, Van de Kieft, Hardy, Lindberg, Partlow
- Julian Moynahan (1960), "The Hero's Guilt, The Case of Great Expectations", Essays in Criticism (10, 1), Oxford: Oxford University Press, pp. 60–79
- Henri Suhamy (1971), Great Expectations, cours d'Agrégation (in French), Vanves: Centre de Télé-Enseignement, p. 25
- Edgar Rosenberg (1972), "A Preface to Great Expectations: The Pale Usher Dusts His Lexicon", Dickens Studies Annual, 2
- Edgar Rosenberg (1981), "Last Words on Great Expectations: A Textual Brief ln the Six Endings", Dickens Studies Annual, 9
- "Dickens and the Uncanny: Repression and Displacement in Great Expectations", Dickens Studies Annual 13, 1984
- George J. Worth (1986), Great Expectations: An Annotated Bibliography, New York: Garland
- Anny Sadrin (1988), Great Expectations, Unwin Hyman, ISBN 978-0048000514
- Michael Cordell, ed. (1990), Critial Essays on Great Expectations, Boston: G. K. Hall, pp. 24, 34
- Michael Cotsell, ed. (1990), Critical Essays on Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, Boston: G.K. Hall, texts from Chesterton, Brooks, Garis, Gissing, et al
- Elliot L. Gilbert (1993), "In Primal Sympaphy : Great Expectations and the Secret Life", Critical Essays, pp. 146–167
- Roger D. Sell, ed. (1994), Great Expectations : Charles Dickens, London: Macmillan, texts from Brooks, Connor, Frost, Gilmour, Sadrin et al.
- William A. Cohen (1993), "Manual Conduct in Great Expectations", ELH (English Literary History), 60, Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University, pp. 217–259
- "Great Expectations and The Climacteric Economy", Victorian Studies 37, 1993, pp. 73–98
- Nicholas Tredell (1998), Charles Dickens: Great Expectations, Cambridge: Icon Books (distributed by Penguin)
- Bleak House alternates between a third-person narrator and a first-person narrator, Esther Summerson, but the former is predominant.
- Nineteen double sheets folded in half: on the left, names, incidents, and expressions; on the right, sections of the current chapter.
- George Gissing wrote: "Great Expectations (1861) would be nearly perfect in its mechanism but for the unhappy deference to Lord Lytton's judgment, which caused the end to be altered. Dickens meant to have left Pip a lonely man, and of course rightly so; by the irony of fate he was induced to spoil his work through a brother novelist's desire for a happy ending, a strange thing, indeed, to befall Dickens."
- In Great Expectations, only London is named, along with its neighbourhoods and surrounding communities.
- Briskness here evokes abruptness.
||This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the French Wikipedia. (October 2012)|
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- Online editions
- Great Expectations at Internet Archive
- Great Expectations at Project Gutenberg
- Great Expectations – Easy to read HTML version
- Great Expectations – PDF scans of the entire novel as it originally appeared in All the Year Round
- Original manuscript – held at Wisbech & Fenland Museum, Wisbech
- David Parker's article on the London Fictions site about the London of Great Expectations
- Map of Dickens' London
- 1953 Theatre Guild on the Air radio adaptation at Internet Archive