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The Life and Adventures of Charles Dickens. A Gentleman of Great Expectations. Episode I:. Childhood Bliss/Working-Class Blues. Act I: “I Am Born”. Born February 7, 1812, in Portsmouth, England, second of 8 children Father: John Dickens, Clerk in the Navy Pay Office

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The Life and Adventures of Charles Dickens

A Gentleman of Great Expectations


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Episode I:

Childhood Bliss/Working-Class Blues


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Act I: “I Am Born”

  • Born February 7, 1812, in Portsmouth, England, second of 8 children

  • Father: John Dickens, Clerk in the Navy Pay Office

  • Mother: Elizabeth Barrow Dickens, genteel daughter of chief official in Navy Pay Office


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Act I: “I Am Born”

  • Parents from lower-middle-class but stressed gentility

  • Maternal Grandfather: Fugitive embezzler

  • Paternal Grandparents: Butler and Housekeeper for Lord Crewe


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Act I: “I Am Born”

  • John and Elizabeth Dickens lead convivial lives

  • John Dickens’ improvidence leads family deeper into debt

  • Family moves to increasingly poorer lodgings


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Act II: “Childhood Bliss”

  • 1816—the Dickens family move to Chatham where Charles spends the happiest years of his childhood


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Act II: “Childhood Bliss”

  • Literary Influences:

    • Fairy tales; The Arabian Nights Entertainments

    • Ghost stories/macabre horror stories; Mary Weller’s bedtime stories

    • 18th-Century novels: Fielding, Smollett, Defoe, Cervantes

    • Theater: family theatricals and visits to the Theater Royal


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Act III: “I Become a Lad of Great Expectations”

  • Charles is taught to consider himself an especially gifted child

  • Educated at home by Elizabeth Dickens

  • Inspired by John Dickens to become a gentleman

  • Educated at school by William Giles


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Act IV: “Great Expectations Realized?”

  • Charles’ family move to London

  • Charles boards at William Giles school a few months

  • Charles travels alone to join his family


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Act IV: “I Become Neglected and Am Provided For?”

  • Deep in debt, Charles’ family send him to pawn family possessions

  • At age 12, Charles becomes member of working class when parents send him to work in blacking warehouse


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Act IV: “I Become Neglected and Am Provided For?”

  • John Dickens is arrested for debt and family is imprisoned in the Marshalsea debtor’s prison

  • Charles lodges alone and supports himself

  • Charles is ridiculed by “common laboring boys” but befriended by Bob Fagin


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Act IV: “I Become Neglected and Am Provided For?”

  • John Dickens is released from prison

  • Recognizing Charles’ humiliation, John Dickens removes him from the warehouse

  • Mother wants Charles to return to work, but father sends him to school


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Act IV: “I Become Neglected and Am Provided For?”

  • Effects of childhood experience

    • Sympathy for the poor

    • Obsession with figure of abused/abandoned child

    • Rage against authority figures indifferent to suffering

    • Obsession with criminal life


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Act IV: “I Become Neglected and Am Provided For?”

  • Effects of childhood experience

    • Disgust for society’s materialistic values

    • Obsession with material success to avoid further destitution

    • Frantic energy, earnestness, determination to work hard and succeed

    • Need for adulation and sympathy


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Will our hero recover from his childhood tragedy and find lasting happiness? Join us for Episode II:“London Tragedy and Triumph”


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