Charles Dickens was born on February7,1812, and spent the first nine years of his life living in the coastal regions of Kent, a county in southeast England. Dickenss father, John, was a kind and likable man, but he was incompetent with money and piled up tremendous debts throughout his life. When Dickens was nine, his family moved to London. When he was twelve, his father was arrested and taken to debtors prison. Dickenss mother moved his seven brothers and sisters into prison with their father, but she arranged for the young Charles to live alone outside the prison and work with other children pasting labels on bottles in a blacking warehouse. Dickens found the three months he spent apart from his family highly traumatic. Not only was the job itself miserable, but he considered himself too good for it, earning the contempt of the other children. After his father was released from prison, Dickens returned to school. He eventually became a law clerk, then a court reporter, and finally a novelist. His first novel,The Pickwick Papers,became a huge popular success when Dickens was only twenty-five. Great Expectations was first published as a weekly series in 1860 and in book form in 1861. Early critics had mixed reviews, disliking Dickens' tendency to exaggerate both plot and characters, but readers were so enthusiastic that the 1861 edition required five printings.Itwas set in early Victorian England, a time when great social changes were sweeping the nation.The Industrial Revolution of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries had transformed the social landscape, enabling capitalists and manufacturers to amass huge fortunes. Although social class was no longer entirely dependent on the circumstances of ones birth, the divisions between rich and poor remained nearly as wide as ever.More and more people moved from the country to the city in search of greater economic opportunity. Throughout England, the manners of the upper class were very strict and conservative: gentlemen and ladies were expected to have thorough classical educations and to behave appropriately in innumerable social situations. These conditions defined Dickenss time, and they make themselves felt inGreat Expectations. Pip, the novels protagonist, lives in the marsh country, works at a job he hates, considers himself too good for his surroundings, and experiences material success in London at a very early age, exactly as Dickens himself did. In addition, one of the novels most appealing characters, Wemmick, is a law clerk, and the law, justice, and the courts are all important components of the story. Pips sudden rise from country laborer to city gentleman forces him to move from one social extreme to another while dealing with the strict rules and expectations that governed Victorian England. Ironically, this novel about the desire for wealth and social advancement was written partially out of economic necessity.In form,Great Expectationsfits a pattern popular in nineteenth-century European fiction depicting growth and personal development, generally a transition from boyhood to manhood such as that experienced by Pip.I have read the Russian version of this book and I liked the plot very much. Then I read it in original version. I especially liked the way author showed Pips growth from little boy to a gentleman, also his feelings, changes in his outlooks. The part where he starts to realize that social class or money do not matter, when one has no human values and qualities, is my favorite part in the novel. After reading this book I analysed and uncovered new life-situations for us, the young, and came to the conclusion that in spite of the importance of education, proper behavior, it is not less important to gain and maintain certain values and stay true to them throughout the whole life.
On Christmas Eve of 1812, Pip, a boy aged 7, encounters an escaped convict in the village churchyard while visiting his mother and father's and younger brothers' graves. The convict scares Pip into stealing food for him and afileto grind away his leg shackles. He threatens Pip not to tell anyone and do as he says or his friend will cut out Pip's heart and liver. Pip returns home, where he lives with Mrs. Joe (whose name is later revealed to be Georgiana Maria), his older sister, and her husband Joe Gargery. His sister is very cruel and beats him as well as her husband with various objects regularly; however Joe is much kinder to Pip. She was the one who "brought him up by hand". Early the next morning, Pip steals food and drink from the Gargery pantry (including a pie for their Christmas feast) and sneaks out to the graveyard. It is the first time in Pips life hes felt truly guilty. This is an important event in the book because the convict will never forget the kindness (albeit forced) that Pip showed to him. The convict, however, waits many years to fully show his gratitude. During Christmas dinner with the minister Dan, Mr. Wopsle, Mr. and Mrs. Hubble, and Uncle Pumblechook, Pip and Mrs. Joe's moderately wealthy uncle, no one notices the missing food or brandy until Uncle Pumblechook drinks some brandy and spits it out. Pip realizes that he filled the brandy jug not with water, but with tar-water, (a foul tasting tonic made of pine tar and water often used for medicinal purposes), instead. He had brought some of the brandy to the convict and had to replace it somehow. Pip sits at the table being told how lucky he is by all the relatives all the while in fear that someone will notice the missing pie. However, the moment his sister goes to the pantry to retrieve the pie and discovers it is missing. Soldiers approach the house and ask Joe to repair their handcuffs and invite Joe, Pip and Mr. Wopsle to come with them to hunt for some escaped prisoners from the local jail. As they hunt through the marshes outside the village, they accost two convicts while engaged in a fight. One of them is the convict helped by Pip; the convict freely confesses to the theft of the file and "some whittles" of food in order to shield Pip. The police take the two to the Hulk, a giant prison ship, and Pip is carried home by Joe, where they finish Christmas dinner. A while after Pips encounter with the convict, Pip's life returns to normal. He continues to attend the local school which is run by Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt, and becomes friends with Biddy, an orphan who was adopted by the Wopsles; even though no more was said of the incident with the convict and he has been absolved of any wrong doing, he still feels guilty for the theft. A wealthy old woman named Miss Havisham asks Pip's Uncle Pumblechook to find a boy of a certain age and bring him to her home to play. Pumblechook immediately selects Pip and brings him to Miss Havisham's, who lives in the village in Satis House. Miss Havisham is a spinster who wears an old wedding dress with one shoe on and has all the house clocks stopped at 20 minutes to nine. She hasn't seen sunlight in years and claims to have a broken heart and just wants to see Pip play cards with Estella, a young girl she has adopted.
Pip's first encounter with Miss Havisham and Estella is a strange one. He discovers Miss Havisham is a shut-in who has boarded up the windows around the entire house so as not to allow any light in. She remains seated in a tattered chair where she instructs Pip to play cards with Estella. Here, Estella is cruel to Pip, calls him names and laughs at him. Miss Havisham seems to delight in this ill-treatment of Pip and asks him repeatedly what he thinks of Estella in turn by whispering it in her ear. Miss Havisham continuously praises Estella for her pride and her beauty. Hurt and angry, Pip leaves Satis House to walk the grounds and cries. Estella brings him food however she begins to make fun of him again as she sees that he has been crying and teases him for doing so. Outside, Pip is accosted by a young man of about the same age who tries to engage him in a fight. He calls Pip out but Pip refuses to fight with him at first, however, after this has gone on for a time, Pip swings at and strikes the young man, knocking him to the ground. The young man repeatedly encourages Pip to hit him even though he is clearly losing and becoming increasingly battered and bloody. After the fight is over, the two part ways; Estella, having seen the fight, lets Pip kiss her, excited that two young men are fighting for her, and he returns to the forge. Pip's first encounter with Miss Havisham and Estella is a strange one.Pip realizes that he is in love with Estella. Pip behaves badly in society (mostly over jealousy of Estella) and squanders his allowance, running into debt. He is rescued on his 21st birthday, when he is notified by Jaggers that he is awarded 500 pounds (equal to £36,000 today) and an increased steady allowance, until such a time as his benefactor will appear and make himself known to Pip. Pip originally believes Miss Havisham is his benefactress. For several years Estella had been studying abroad in Europe. Upon her return, Pip finds Estella much changed and her attitude refined. She apologizes for her earlier cruelty however, seeing Pip's affections warns him that he should not fall in love with her. Pip ignores these repeated warnings as he long harbored the belief that Miss Havisham (as his benefactress) intended them for each other. Estella continues to warn him that her heart is cold and cannot love him and entreats him to take her seriously, but he refuses, still believing they will be married and that her heart is not as cold as she claims. During this time, Mrs. Joe dies. Pip's benefactor turns out to be instead Abel Magwitch, the convict whom Pip helped, who had been transported toNew South Wales, where he had eventually