Great Expectations is Charles Dickens’s thirteenth novel and his penultimate (completed) novel; a bildungsroman which depicts the personal growth and personal development of an orphan nicknamed Pip.
It is Dickens’s second novel, after David Copperfield, to be fully narrated in the first person. The novel was first published as a serial 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.
It is set among marshes in Kent, and in London, in the early to mid-1800s, and contains some of Dickens’ most memorable scenes, including the opening, in a graveyard, where the young Pip is accosted by the escaped convict, Abel Magwitch. Great Expectations is full of extreme imagery – poverty; prison ships and chains, and fights to the death – and has a colourful cast of characters who have entered popular culture.
These include the eccentric Miss Havisham, the cold and beautiful Estella, and Joe, the kind and generous blacksmith. Dickens’s themes include wealth and poverty, love and rejection, and the eventual triumph of good over evil.
Great Expectations is popular both with readers and literary critics, and has been translated into many languages, and adapted numerous times into various media. Upon its release, Thomas Carlyle spoke disparagingly 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, new and grotesque idea”.
Book Review by Kimber
Oh, the beauty and the agony tears at me as I think about this stunning story.
Oh, the beauty and the agony tears at me as I think about this stunning story. The characters are vivid and the settings so well written that I was transported to the graveyard alongside young Pip and his convict, fear streaking through me as it was for that small boy torn by a near-impossible decision. And I’m there with Pip and kind-hearted Joe in the forge. I can feel the fire on my skin and taste hot metal on the back of my tongue. In my mind, I hear the crackling of the decades-old crinoline of Miss Havisham’s skirts rustling against the marble floors of the mausoleum she calls home. Amid the stopping of Miss Havisham’s clock, the cool radiance that is Estella vibrates from the pages, bringing her to life.
If you haven’t read Great Expectations, I encourage you to do so. Yes, it was first published in 1861, and the syntax is more eloquent than that we’ve become accustomed to, but once this tale grabs hold, you will forget the language and year it was written and be all in with these new friends. The love, the heartbreak and the lessons still hold true today. Some choices, once made, can leave long-reaching scars on the hearts of those we never knew we touched. A good deed can ripple through time to places never imagined.
The consequences of our actions must be accounted for, and there will always be outcomes we could never have anticipated.
Great Expectations is the real deal! The deliciously-satisfying prose is the whipped cream on the proverbial sundae that is Dickens. The plot and subplots (and sub-subplots) are astounding! The way he can weave this tangled web yet keep the interest of the reader while giving nothing away until the perfect moment … and BAM! He has you, and you sigh with the perfection of it all.
You’ve missed a gorgeous piece of literature if you don’t dive into this book
“No story in the first person was ever better told.” –abc
We also Recommend
- Middlemarch by George Eliot
- Of Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
- The Idiot by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
- A Study in Scarlet by Arthur Conan Doyle
- Silas Marner by George Eliot
About the Author
Charles Dickens is regarded as one of the greatest English writers. His novels combine vast social panoramas with deep compassion for the lower class, pathos, humor and wit.