Great Expectations is the story of Pip, an orphan boy adopted by a blacksmith's family, who has good luck and great expectations, and then loses both his luck and his expectations. Through this rise and fall, however, Pip learns how to find happi...
Great Expectations is the thirteenth novel by Charles Dickens and his penultimate completed novel, which depicts the education of an orphan nicknamed Pip (the book is a bildungsroman, a coming-of-age story). 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.
Charles John Huffam Dickens FRSA 7 February 1812 – 9 June 1870 was an English writer and social critic. He created some of the world's best-known fictional characters and is regarded by many as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era.His works enjoyed unprecedented popularity during his lifetime, and by the 20th century, critics and scholars had recognised him as a literary genius. His novels and short stories are still widely read today.
Born in Portsmouth, Dickens left school to work in a factory when his father was incarcerated in a debtors' prison. Despite his lack of formal education, he edited a weekly journal for 20 years, wrote
15 novels, five novellas, hundreds of short stories and non-fiction articles, lectured and performed readings extensively, was an indefatigable letter writer, and campaigned vigorously for children's rights, education, and other social reforms.
Dickens's literary success began with the 1836 serial publication of The Pickwick Papers. Within a few years he had become an international literary celebrity, famous for his humour, satire, and keen observation of character and society. His novels, most published in monthly or weekly instalments, pioneered the serial publication of narrative fiction, which became the dominant Victorian mode for novel publication. Cliffhanger endings in his serial publications kept readers in suspense. The installment format allowed Dickens to evaluate his audience's reaction, and he often modified his plot and character development based on such feedback. For example, when his wife's chiropodist expressed distress at the way Miss Mowcher in David Copperfield seemed to reflect her disabilities, Dickens improved the character with positive features. His plots were carefully constructed, and he often wove elements from topical events into his narratives. Masses of the illiterate poor chipped in ha'pennies to have each new monthly episode read to them, opening up and inspiring a new class of readers.
His 1843 novella A Christmas Carol remains especially popular and continues to inspire adaptations in every artistic genre. Oliver Twist and Great Expectations are also frequently adapted and, like many of his novels, evoke images of early Victorian London. His 1859 novel A Tale of Two Cities (set in London and Paris) is his best-known work of historical fiction. The most famous celebrity of his era, he undertook in response to public demand, a series of public reading tours in the later part of his career. Dickens has been praised by many of his fellow writers—from Leo Tolstoy to George Orwell, G. K. Chesterton, and Tom Wolfe—for his realism, comedy, prose style, unique characterisations, and social criticism. However, Oscar Wilde, Henry James, and Virginia Woolf complained of a lack of psychological depth, loose writing, and a vein of sentimentalism.
The term Dickensian is used to describe something that is reminiscent of Dickens and his writings, such as poor social conditions or comically repulsive characters.
The novel is set in Kent and London in the early to mid-19th century and contains some of Dickens's most celebrated scenes, starting 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 beautiful but cold Estella, and Joe, the unsophisticated and kind blacksmith. Dickens's themes include wealth and poverty, love and rejection, and the eventual triumph of good over evil. Great Expectations, which is popular both with readers and literary critics, has been translated into many languages and adapted numerous times into various media.
Upon its release, the novel received near universal acclaim. Although Dickens's contemporary Thomas Carlyle referred to it disparagingly as that "Pip nonsense," he nevertheless reacted to each fresh instalment with "roars of laughter." Later, George Bernard Shaw praised the novel, as "All of one piece and consistently truthful." During the serial publication, Dickens was pleased with public response to Great Expectations and its sales;when the plot first formed in his mind, he called it "a very fine, new and grotesque idea."
In the 21st century, the novel retains good ratings among literary critics and in 2003 it was ranked17th on the BBC’s The Big Read poll.
Like many other Dickens novels, Great Expectations has been filmed for the cinema or television and adapted for the stage numerous times. The film adaptation in 1946 gained the greatest acclaim. The story is often staged, and less often produced as a musical. The 1939 stage play and the 1946 film that followed from that stage production did not include the character Orlick and ends the story when the characters are still young adults. That character has been excluded in many televised adaptations made since the 1946 movie by David Lean. Following are highlights of the adaptations for film and television, and for the stage, since the early 20th century.
Film and television
1917 – Great Expectations, a silent film, starring Jack Pickford, directed by Robert G. Vignola. This is a lost film.
1922 – Silent film, and the first adaptation not in English, made in Denmark, starring Martin Herzberg, directed by A. W. Sandberg.
1934 – Great Expectations film starring Phillips Holmes and Jane Wyatt, directed by Stuart Walker.
1946 – Great Expectations, the most celebrated film version, starring John Mills as Pip, Bernard Miles as Joe, Alec Guinness as Herbert, Finlay Currie as Magwitch, Martita Hunt as Miss Havisham, Anthony Wager as Young Pip, Jean Simmons as Young Estella and Valerie Hobson as the adult Estella, directed by David Lean. It came fifth in a 1999 BFI poll of the top 100 British films.
1954 – the first television adaptation shown as two-part television version starring Roddy McDowall as Pip and Estelle Winwood as Miss Havisham. It aired as an episode of the show Robert Montgomery Presents.
1959 – BBC television version aired in 13 parts, starring Dinsdale Landen as Pip, Helen Lindsay as Estella, Colin Jeavons as Herbert Pocket, Marjorie Hawtrey as Miss Havisham and Derek Benfield as Landlord.
1967 – BBC television serial starring Gary Bond as Pip and Francesca Annis. BBC issued the series on DVD in 2017.
1974 – Great Expectations – a film starring Michael York as Pip and Simon Gipps-Kent as Young Pip, Sarah Miles and James Mason, directed by Joseph Hardy.
1981 – Great Expectations – a BBC serial starring Stratford Johns, Gerry Sundquist, Joan Hickson, Patsy Kensit and Sarah-Jane Varley. Produced by Barry Letts, and directed by Julian Amyes.
1983 – an animated version, starring Phillip Hinton, Liz Horne, Robin Stewart and Bill Kerr, adapted by Alexander Buzo.
1989 – Great Expectations, a Disney Channel two-part film starring Anthony Hopkins as Magwitch, John Rhys-Davies as Joe Gargery, and Jean Simmons as Miss Havisham, directed by Kevin Connor.
1998 – Great Expectations, a film starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow, directed by Alfonso Cuarón. This adaptation is set in contemporary New York, and renames Pip to Finn and Miss Havisham to Nora Dinsmoor. The film's score was composed by Patrick Doyle.
1999 – Great Expectations, a film starring Ioan Gruffudd as Pip, Justine Waddell as Estella, and Charlotte Rampling as Miss Havisham (Masterpiece Theatre—TV)
2000 - Pip, an episode of the television show South Park, starring Matt Stone as Pip, Eliza Schneider as Estella, and Trey Parker as Miss Havisham.
2011 – Great Expectations, a three-part BBC serial. Starring Ray Winstone as Magwitch, Gillian Anderson as Miss Havisham and Douglas Booth as Pip.
2012 – Great Expectations, a film directed by Mike Newell, starring Ralph Fiennes as Magwitch, Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham and Jeremy Irvine as Pip.
2016 - Fitoor, film adaptation by Abishek Kapoor, starring Aditya Roy Kapoor and Katrina Kaif.
1939 – adaptation made by Alec Guinness and staged at Rudolf Steiner Hall, which was to influence David Lean's 1946 film, in which both Guinness and Martita Hunt reprised their stage roles.
1975 – Stage Musical (London West End). Music by Cyril Ornadel, lyrics by Hal Shaper, starring Sir John Mills. Ivor Novello Award for Best British Musical.
1988 – Glasgow Mayfest, stage version by the Tag Theatre Company in association with the Gregory Nash group, adapted by John Clifford; the cast included a young Alan Cumming and the staging included dance, and it was a success.
1995 – Stage adaptation of Great Expectations at Dublin's Gate Theatre by Hugh Leonard.
2002 – Melbourne Theatre Company four-hour re-telling, in an adaptation by company director Simon Phillips.
2005 – Royal Shakespeare Company adaptation by the Cheek by Jowl founders Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod, with Sian Phillips as Miss Havisham
2013 – West End adaptation written by Jo Clifford and directed by Graham McLaren. Paula Wilcox as Miss Havisham, Chris Ellison as Magwitch. This was a revival of the 1988 adaptation, without dance.This play was filmed in 2013.
2015 – Dundee Repertory Theatre adaptation written by Jo Clifford and directed by Jemima Levick.
2016 – West Yorkshire Playhouse adaptation written by Michael Eaton and directed by Lucy Bailey. Starring Jane Asher as Miss Havisham.
According to George Orwell, the biggest problem with Dickens is that he simply doesn't know when to stop. Every sentence seems to be on the point of curling into a joke; characters are forever spawning a host of eccentric offspring. "His imagination overwhelms everything," Orwell sniffed, "like a kind of weed."
That's hardly an accusation that could be levelled against Great Expectations. If some of Dickens's novels sprawl luxuriously across the page, this one is as trim as a whippet. Touch any part of it and the whole structure quivers into life. In Chapter 1, for example, Pip recalls watching Magwitch pick his way through the graveyard brambles, "as if he were eluding the hands of the dead people, stretching up cautiously out of their graves, to get a twist upon his ankle and pull him in". Not until the final chapters do we realise why Pip is so haunted by the convict's apparent reluctance to stay above ground, but already the novel's key narrative method has been established. To open Great Expectations is to enter a world in which events are often caught only out of the corner of the narrator's eye. It is a world of hints and glimpses, of bodies disappearing behind corners and leaving only their shadows behind. Whichever of Dickens's two endings is chosen, it's hard to finish the last page without thinking of how much remains to be said. Of course, none of this occurred to me when I first read Great Expectations as a child. In the 1980s this story of class mobility and get-rich-quick ambition resonated with all the force of a modern parable. The revelation that there was another story behind the one I was enjoying was as much a shock to me as it is to Pip, but that only increased my admiration for a novelist who treats his plot rather as Jaggers treats Miss Havisham in her wheelchair, using one hand to push her ahead while putting "the other in his trousers-pocket as if the pocket were full of secrets".
I suspect that's one reason why Great Expectations is such a popular novel. Readers grow up with it. It's probably also why so many of them sympathise with Pip, whose narrative voice involves the perspective of a wide-eyed child coming up against that of his wiser, sadder adult self. Anyone who first reads the story as a child and returns to it in later years is likely to feel a similar mixture of nostalgia and relief. But it isn't only individual readers who have grown up with Great Expectations. Our culture has too. Dickens once claimed that David Copperfield was his "favourite child" and that Great Expectations was a close second. It's no coincidence that both novels are about how easily children can be warped or damaged, but of the two it is the shorter, sharper Great Expectations that has aged better.
Few works of fiction have enjoyed such a lively creative aftermath. Peter Carey has rewritten it in Jack Maggs. Television shows from The Twilight Zone to South Park have echoed it in ways that range from loving homage to finger-poking parody. Even the title has settled in the public consciousness, with shops such as "Grape Expectations" (wine) and "Baked Expectations" (cakes). It's hard not to be fond of a novel that so perfectly reflects its author's restless, rummaging imagination.
They're primarily aimed for younger readers – 8-13 year olds but are also a great 'quick fix' for teenagers and adults
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