A History of Charles Dickens and his Book Great Expectations
Charles Dickens, who lived from 1812 to 1870, is the best know male English writer of the 19th century. He authored 22 novels plus numerous short pieces. Most of his writing was first written in serialized form, later published as single novels.
A young Dickens at the age of 12 had the unenviable job of attaching labels 10 hours a day at the Warren's boot blacking factory. That experience shaped much of his writing career. Still in his teens he became a law clerk, then later in his twenties a journalist. The last job as a reporter led to the serialized writing of his novels. His works were social commentaries with larger than life characters, or colorful caricatures, living in the slums of London. He was a critic of poverty, social injustice, and the slow moving court system. Those themes permeate most of his novels and it is present her in Great Expectations. This is a novel set in London and the countryside close to London. It is a story of a young boy who wants to grow up and become wealthy and to be a gentleman. Those are his "great expectations."
Without giving away critical plot elements, it is the story of a young boy called Pip, whose parents are dead, and who lives with his sister and her husband Jo who is a blacksmith. They want Pip to learn the trade and be a blacksmith as well. They live in a small town near marshlands near London. His ambitions are grander and he wants to escape to London and become a gentleman. Will Pip find happiness? Will he succeed? Action shifts back and forth between the small town where Pip first lived and the city of London. It involves Pip, lawyers, accountants, Pip's new friends, his love interest, etc.
The novel is not used by Dickens for any pressing social issues, although one might argue that it shows how Pip's ambition blinds him to his true friends. But mostly it is pure entertainment. The book is a classic but has a choppy feel that one can attribute to the way it was written. It was written as a series of dramatic stories for popular serialization which were then combined to make a single novel.