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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.

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Great Expectations


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    1. Great Expectations Introductory/ Background Notes Mrs. Reichert English 10 Honors

    2. 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.

    3. 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.

    4. 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.

    5. 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 • The poor became poorer until the laws were repealed in 1846.

    6. 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.

    7. 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.”

    8. 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.

    9. 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.

    10. 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.

    11. 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.

    12. Dickens’ Use of Gothic Conventions • The eerie setting • A child or young woman in danger. • The evil and deformed monster • Reclusive and villainous aristocrat

    13. 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.

    14. Popular Literary Conventions of the Victorian Era SETTINGS: • Country = morality and happiness. • City = corruption and despair. • Mists, moonlight and ruins.

    15. Popular Literary Conventions of the Victorian Era SUBJECTS/ MOTIFS: • Unrequited Love • Clarity of thought resulting from sickness and madness.

    16. 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.

    17. 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.

    18. 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.