Great Expectations was the penultimate novel completed by the most popular novelist of Victorian England, Charles Dickens. Born in Kent, England, in 1812 to a family of modest means but great pretensions, Dickens’s early life was marked by both humiliation and ambition. Dickens never forgot the period of financial crisis during his childhood, when following his father’s bankruptcy, he was taken out of school and forced to work in a shoe-polish warehouse. While the episode was relatively brief, it marked Dickens’s later life in many ways: in the development of his own ambitions, in his sympathy for the poor and especially children, and in his outrage at social injustice and bureaucratic heartlessness. Great Expectations, written when Dickens was at the height of his popularity and success, demonstrates all these concerns. His thirteenth novel, it was not overtly autobiographical, as his earlier David Copperfield (1850) had been, but in writing it Dickens employed a first-person narrative that elicits mixed sympathy and judgment for the protagonist Pip, an orphan raised by an abusive elder sister and her saintly husband, a blacksmith. Pip’s story invokes an assortment of real-life issues of Victorian England, ranging from its relationship to its colonies, to its imperfect educational system, to its overarching concern with social mobility and status.

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From Joyce Moss. EBK: WORLD LITERATURE AND ITS TIMES V7, 0E. © 2005 Gale, a part of Cengage Learning, Inc. Reproduced by permission. www.cengage.com/permissions.

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