Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations

byCharles DickensIntroduction byBernard Shaw

Paperback | February 13, 2001

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Introduction by George Bernard Shaw
Pip, a poor orphan being raised by a cruel sister, does not have much in the way of great expectations—until he is inexplicably elevated to wealth by an anonymous benefactor. Full of unforgettable characters—including a terrifying convict named Magwitch, the eccentric Miss Havisham, and her beautiful but manipulative niece, Estella, Great Expectations is a tale of intrigue, unattainable love, and all of the happiness money can’t buy. “Great Expectations has the most wonderful and most perfectly worked-out plot for a novel in the English language,” according to John Irving, and J. Hillis Miller declares, “Great Expectations is the most unified and concentrated expression of Dickens’s abiding sense of the world, and Pip might be called the archetypal Dickens hero.”

About The Author

George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) was a leading playwright of the twentieth century. His plays include Man and Superman (1905), Major Barbara (1905), Pygmalion (1913), and Saint Joan (1923).

by Charles Dickens


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Title:Great ExpectationsFormat:PaperbackDimensions:480 pages, 8 × 5.19 × 0.98 inPublished:February 13, 2001Publisher:Random House Publishing GroupLanguage:English

The following ISBNs are associated with this title:

ISBN - 10:0375757015

ISBN - 13:9780375757013

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Chapter I.My father's family name being Pirrip, and my christian name Philip, myinfant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit thanPip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.I give Pirrip as my father's family name, on the authority of his tombstoneand my sister – Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never sawmy father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (fortheir days were long before the days of photographs), my first fanciesregarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from theirtombstones. The shape of the letters on my father's, gave me an odd ideathat he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair. From thecharacter and turn of the inscription, "Also Georgiana Wife of the Above,"I drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sickly. Tofive little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which werearranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory offive little brothers of mine – who gave up trying to get a living exceedinglyearly in that universal struggle – I am indebted for a belief I religiouslyentertained that they had all been born on their backs with their hands intheir trousers-pockets, and had never taken them out in this state ofexistence.Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within as the river wound,twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of theidentity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable rawafternoon towards evening. At such a time I found out for certain, thatthis bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard; and that PhilipPirrip, late of this parish, and also Georgiana wife of the above, weredead and buried; and that Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias, andRoger, infant children of the aforesaid, were also dead and buried; andthat the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykesand mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes;and that the low leaden line beyond was the river; and that the distantsavage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea; and that thesmall bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, wasPip."Hold your noise!" cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from amongthe graves at the side of the church porch. "Keep still, you little devil,or I'll cut your throat!"A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg. A man withno hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his head. Aman who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed bystones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; wholimped, and shivered, and glared and growled; and whose teeth chattered inhis head as he seized me by the chin."Oh! Don't cut my throat, sir," I pleaded in terror. "Pray don't do it,sir.""Tell us your name!" said the man. "Quick!""Pip, sir.""Once more," said the man, staring at me. "Give it mouth!"

Bookclub Guide

1. The two endings to Great Expectations (see pp. 437-38 for a note about the original ending and the text of it) have been the source of endless controversy among critics. Which ending do you think is better and why?2. What is the role of food and drink in the novel?3. Critic Robin Gilmour argues that although Pip believes the savagery of the marshes and the refinement of Satis House are irreconcilably opposed, in fact "criminality and civilization, violence and refinement, Magwitch and Estella, are not warring opposites but intimately and inextricably bound together." Do you agree or disagree?4. What accounts for Pip's moral regeneration in the third part of the novel?5. Julian Moynahan, in a very influential essay on Great Expectations, argues that "Orlick rather than Magwitch is the figure from the criminal milieu of the novel whose relations to him come to define Pip's implicit participation in the acts of violence with which the novel abounds," suggesting, for example, that Orlick, in bludgeoning Mrs. Joe, merely acts as Pip's surrogate in taking revenge on her for her cruel treatment, and that Drummle, a duplication of Orlick, is likewise a surrogate for Pip in his beating of Estella. Moynahan is in part responding to Dorothy Van Ghent's claim in her 1953 book on the English novel that "[w]hat brings the convict Magwitch to the child Pip, in the graveyard, is more than the convict's hunger; Pip . . . carries the convict inside him, as the negative potential of his 'great expectations'-Magwitch is the concretion of [Pip's] potential guilt." Which side do you take in this debate?6. How does place function in the novel? Consider such examples as the forge, the marshes, Satis House, and Newgate Prison.7. Margaret Oliphant wrote in a 1862 review of Great Expectations: "So far as 'Great Expectations' is a sensation novel, it occupies itself with incidents all but impossible, and in themselves strange, dangerous, and exciting, but so far as it is one of the series of Mr Dickens's works, it is feeble, fatigued, and colourless. One feels that he must have got tired of it as the work went on, and that the creatures he had called into being, but who are no longer the lively men and women they used to be, must have bored him unspeakably before it was time to cut short their career, and throw a hasty and impatient hint of their future to stop the tiresome public appetite." Do you agree or disagree with this assessment?

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