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In his fiction, Dickens found it necessary not only to orphan himself of the parents who shamed him but also to re-create them in ideal shapes—and sometimes, too, to be fair to them.
That is what happens in Great Expectations.
Pip is a village orphan brought up roughly by his unmotherly sister her bosom bristles with pinsthe wife of gentle blacksmith Joe Gargery. In the first chapter of the novel, on the memorable day when he becomes aware for the first time of his identity and his place in a hostile world, Pip meets, in the graveyard where his parents lie buried, a shivering, ravenous, and monstrous man, an escapee from the prison ships across the marshes, who terrorizes Pip into stealing food and drink for him.
The convict is eventually recaptured, but not before Pip and Joe has come to pity him or before he has lied that it was he who stole a pie and brandy from the Gargery larder.
Next, Pip also meets the rich, weird recluse Miss Havisham, who lives in a darkened and dusty room where time has stood still, dressed always in a yellowing wedding dress. Pip leaves for London, and inevitably a wedge is driven between him and his best friend, illiterate Joe, of whom Pip sinks so low as to become ashamed.
Pip is horrified and disgusted: His money is contaminated. The lesson of love and human decency that he must learn comes very hard indeed. Yet he learns it: By the time poor Magwitch is reclaimed by justice, Pip is prepared to stand holding his hand in the public court.
Thankfully, Magwitch dies in prison before he can be hanged. Pip himself now falls seriously ill and is nursed back to life by Joe. No one, however, can turn back the clock: It is also a novel that depicts the powerful influence of environment as well as of heredity: Magwitch, the convict, and bitter Miss Havisham were themselves both abused and lonely as children.
For all of its somber coloring, however, the novel is also riotously funny in the characteristically Dickensian mode of excess:In our opinion, Great Expectations is a work which proves that we may expect from Dickens a series of romances far exceeding in power and artistic skill the productions which have already given.
Academic Writing is a Waste of Time – Unless You Use Our Help. Have you ever tried counting how much time writing a single paper takes?
Ever added up the time spent on writing essays and other assignments within a term? One of the most powerful ways to educate yourself, to open your mind to alternative ways of experiencing the world, and thus to counteract the influence of social conditioning and the mass media, is to read backwards—to read books printed 10 years ago, 20 years ago, 50 years ago, years ago, years ago, years ago, 1, years ago, even 2, years ago and more.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS Selected Bibliography Compiled by Rachael Scarborough King for the Dickens Universe The recommended text is the most recent Penguin Classics edition. Sites about Great Expectations.
by Charles Dickens. With many plot twists and personality conflicts, the main character Pip grows up, falls in love, gains an education, works, probably marries his sweetheart.
Critical Essays on Charles Dickens' "Great Expectations" (Critical Essays on British Literature) Hardcover – Large Print, August 1,