Teacher resources and professional development across the curriculum

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In Search of the Novel: Ten Novels

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens


Mysterious people enter the life of the young orphan called Pip. Once, in a misty graveyard, he is accosted by an escaping convict needing help. Pip brings a file and food and witnesses a desperate struggle with an unknown man. Pip is later entertained and bedeviled by the strange Miss Havisham and a beautiful young protege, Estella. Years later, Pip comes into a mysterious fortune. The now arrogant Pip boards a coach to London to join the ranks of the idle rich young gentlemen. He assumes that he is being groomed to marry Estella. The convict returns to reveal that it is he who is responsible for Pip’s fortune. Eventually, after learning much about human frailty and steadfastness, malevolence and kindness, Pip becomes a wiser man. Many years later, he meets again the dazzling beauty Estella in the ruins of Miss Havisham’s garden, where he comes to terms with the illusions and promises of his “great expectations.”


"Mr. Dickens may be reasonably proud of Great Expectations,” the Saturday Review of London opined in 1861. “He has written a story that is new, original, powerful, and very entertaining…Great Expectations restores Mr. Dickens and his readers to the old level. It is in his best vein, and although unfortunately it is too slight, and bears many traces of hasty writing, it is quite worthy to stand beside Martin Chuzzlewit and David Copperfield. It has characters in it that will become part of common talk, and live even in the mouths of those who do not read novels. Mr. Dickens has always had one great fault…This fault is that of exaggerating one particular set of facts, a comic side in a character, or a comic turn of expression, until all reality fades away, and the person who is the centre of the extravagance becomes a mere peg…on which the rags of comedy hang loosely…But if this new tale is marked with faults of its predecessors, it appears to us to surpass them in one point. There are passages and conceptions in it which indicate a more profound study of the general nature of human character than Mr. Dickens usually betrays.”

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