Great Expectations. Introductory/ Background Notes Mrs. Reichert English 10 Honors. Charles Dickens. Born February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, England Second of eight children.
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Great Expectations Introductory/ Background Notes Mrs. Reichert English 10 Honors
Charles Dickens • Born February 7, 1812 in Portsmouth, England • Second of eight children. • Father, John, was a naval clerk – dreamt of striking it rich – he lived beyond the family’s means, and was sent to prison in 1824 for debt. • Mother, Elizabeth Barrow, was an aspiring teacher. • Family was poor and moved several times when Charles was growing up.
Charles Dickens • When his father was in jail, Dickens worked in a boot-blacking factory. • His father received an inheritance, paid off his debts, and Charles returned to school. • Had to quit school when he was 15 to support his family – he got a job as an office boy, and there began his writing career. • He worked as a freelance reporter for the law courts of London, and submitted sketches to local papers under the name of “Boz.” • These were later published in a book called Sketches by Boz. • Very successful book.
Charles Dickens • His first book got him noticed by Catherine Hogarth, who he married and had ten children with before they separated in 1858. • He was rumored to have cheated on Catherine, which he denied. • A year before they separated, however, he had met an 18-year-old actress, Ellen Ternan – it was later revealed that the two had a secret relationship from the time they met until his death in 1870. • Ternan may have been the inspiration for Estella, Pip’s love interest in Great Expectations.
Historical Context: Corn Laws • 1815 – 1846: Parliament enacted a series of laws strictly regulating the import of foreign grain until British grains reached a certain price. • Wealthy landowners benefited because this inflated the prices of their grains and the value of their land. • The poor, however, could not afford the high prices of bread and other grain products. • Manufacturing suffered, and many workers were laid off. • The poor became poorer until the laws were repealed in 1846.
Historical Context: Social Class and the Gentleman • Previous to the Industrial Revolution (1770-1850) in England, wealth and social status were largely determined by land ownership. • The Industrial Revolution shifted the focus of the economy from agricultural to industrial – the middle class gained in economic power. • The middle class began to demand more social acceptance – this muddied the previous understanding of what a “gentleman” was.
Historical Context: Social Class and the Gentleman • A gentleman originally was considered to be such because of the right of his birth. • Victorians (those living in mid-19th century England) argued that a man’s character should contribute to his social status. • Wealthy Industrialists, with economic and political power were considered gentlemen. • Clergy, military officers, members of Parliament, were gentlemen by occupation. • Not all occupations were “gentlemanly.”
Historical Context: The Hulks and Transportation of Convicts • Hulks: Retired war ships without masts which were used for housing male convicts awaiting transportation to the colonies. • Most were moored on the Thames at Woolwych or Portsmouth. • Reserved for England’s worst offenders. • Transported to American Colonies before the Revolutionary War. • Sent to Australia and Tasmania afterward.
Historical Context: The Hulks and Transportation of Convicts • Conditions were similar to those faced by slaves being shipped to America. • Many died – it was a four to six month journey. • Those who survived the trip went to work as laborers or servants for settlers. • Some saved money to return to England or settle in their new colony. • If they didn’t shape up, they were sent to penal colonies where they were whipped, chained and put into hard labor.
Great Expectations: Serialization • Like all of Dickens’ other works, Great Expectations was published in the magazine All the Year Round from December 1, 1860 – August 3, 1861. • For this format to work, each installment had to have: • Approximately the same length and effect. • A mini-climax, a point of rest, or an element of suspense. • Highly idiosyncratic characters. • Each weekly installment – two to three chapters – ended with an element of suspense.
Caricatures • Characters are exaggerated and outlandish. • This allows main characters, usually those that are relatively flat, to appear normal. • Often, there will be strong focus on one particular physical feature to make a character memorable.
Dickens’ Use of Gothic Conventions • The eerie setting • A child or young woman in danger. • The evil and deformed monster • Reclusive and villainous aristocrat
Popular Literary Conventions of the Victorian Period Characters: • Poor orphan moved from home to home and parent to parent. • Reclusive woman in white. • Mysterious benefactor. • Kindly criminal. • Noble savage. • Lovable louse.
Popular Literary Conventions of the Victorian Era SETTINGS: • Country = morality and happiness. • City = corruption and despair. • Mists, moonlight and ruins.
Popular Literary Conventions of the Victorian Era SUBJECTS/ MOTIFS: • Unrequited Love • Clarity of thought resulting from sickness and madness.
A “Coming of Age” Story • Historians believe Dickens timed this book to coincide with his own childhood and adult life. • Pip, the main character, is a young boy at the beginning of the novel, and is 34 years old at the end.
Bildungsroman • The story of a single individual's growth and development within the context of a defined social order. • To spur the hero or heroine on to their journey, some form of loss or discontent must jar them at an early stage away from the home or family setting.
Bildungsroman • The process of maturity is long, arduous, and gradual, consisting of repeated clashes between the protagonist's needs and desires and the views and judgments enforced by an unbending social order. • Eventually, the spirit and values of the social order become manifest in the protagonist, who is then accommodated into society. • The novel ends with an assessment by the protagonist of himself and his new place in that society.