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Great Expectations: Areas for Discussion Dickens originally published the novel in serial form (weekly parts) and then later it was released it in three parts. How would the reading experience be different, if you were reading it in three parts as opposed to a few chapters at a time?

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Great Expectations: Areas for Discussion

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Great expectations areas for discussion

  • Great Expectations: Areas for Discussion

  • Dickens originally published the novel in serial form (weekly parts) and then later it was released it in three parts. How would the reading experience be different, if you were reading it in three parts as opposed to a few chapters at a time?

  • What are the key genres of GE? (Bildungsroman, Gothic, Realism etc.) How do the genres Dickens utilizes impact on the thematic concerns of the text?

  • Discuss the symbolic/thematic significance of Dickens’ description of Pip being turned upside down and shaken by Magwitch.


Great expectations areas for discussion

  • Dickens is famous not just for writing really long, complex novels but for packing them full of social commentary. What impression do you get of London society after reading Great Expectations? What elements of society does Dickens seem to be criticizing?

  • Significance of the Narrative in conveying character, theme etc? Look in particular at Pip looking back as an adult on experiences of a child and what he thinks of them now as an adult (e.g. ‘I thought it a strange thing then, and I thought it a stranger thing long afterwards (I.VIII p34) ‘Why Biddy had a deep concern in everything I told her, I did not know then, though I think I know now.’ (I.XII p52)


Great expectations areas for discussion

  • ‘In the little world in which children have their existence whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt as injustice.’ (I.VIII p33)

  • What role does law and justice play in Great Expectations? Is there a difference between law and justice in the world that Dickens describes?

  • Who faces injustice in the novel? How does this affect them? Who should our sympathies lie with and why? (Remember this theme for comparison with Sissy, Louisa and Tom Gradgrind in HT)

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  • Look at the characters’ upbringing/life and the effect this has on them (in particular, Estella being forced to avenge Miss Havisham’s broken heart; Pip’s upbringing ‘by hand’, Magwitch’s being relentlessly ‘took up, Joe, The Pockets’ children and Miss Havisham.)

  • By what extent do the characters make their own choices or do others enforce their way of life/destiny upon them?


Great expectations areas for discussion

(Miss H) ‘You made your own snares. I never made them.’ (III. XLIV p194)

Which characters are trapped in GE? Why and how are they trapped? Thematic significance of this?

‘The change was made in me; the thing was done. Well or ill done, excusably or inexcusably, it was done.’ (I.XIVp57)

What is the novel's overall feeling about great expectations? Is it wrong to have hopes, dreams and plans—or is Pip just dreaming the wrong ones? Which characters also have their great expectations failed/unfulfilled?


Great expectations areas for discussion

‘I thought how miserable I was, but hardly knew why, or how long I had been so, or on what day of the week I made the reflection, or even who I was that made it.’ (III. XL p177)

Which characters in the novel are truly happy? Which characters have low self-worth and are passive/accepting of what life gives them?

(Estella) ‘I am tired of the life I have led, which has very few charms for me, and I am willing enough to change it. Say no more. We shall never understand each other.’ (III. XLIV p196)

Look at Estella’s lack of emotion and one of the few moments when we see her react with passion (lesson learnt from Miss Havisham.) What does Dickens convey about emotions/passions? (Remember to compare this with Louisa and Sissy’s experience in HT.


Great expectations areas for discussion

‘No varnish can hide the grain of the wood; and that the more varnish you put on, the more the grain will express itself.’ (II. XXII p97)

Which characters delude/disguise their true selves in the novel? Why do they do this? What is it to achieve? What do you think Dickens’ view on this is?

‘I went out to the memorable old house that it would have been so much better for me never to have entered, never to have seen.’ (III. XLIII p193)

Many characters have moments of realization/awareness during the course of the novel. Who experiences this and what impact does it have on their happiness, lives, plot, theme etc.? (Remember to compare to Louisa’s realization in HT.)


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