Great Expectations: A Norton Critical Edition / Edition 1 available in Paperback
This Norton Critical Edition, edited by the pioneer of Great Expectations scholarship, presents the most thorough textual edition of the novel (1861) available.
The newly established text is based on all extant materials and is accompanied by several textual essays.
"Backgrounds" provides readers with an understanding of Great Expectations's inception and internal chronology. A discussion of the public-reading version of the novel is also included. A wonderfully rich "Contexts" section collects thirteen pieces, centering on the novel’s major themes: the link between author and hero and, relatedly, Victorian notions of gentility, snobbishness, and social mobility; the often brutal training, at home and at school, of children born around 1800; and the central issues of crime and punishment.
"Criticism" gathers twenty-two assessments of Great Expectations, both contemporary and modern, which offer a range of perspectives on Dickens and his novel.
About the Author
Charles Dickens (1812-1870) is one of the most acclaimed and popular writers of all time. His many works include the classics The Old Curiosity Shop, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, Barnaby Rudge, A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Great Expectations, Bleak House, Hard Times, Our Mutual Friend, The Pickwick Papers and many more.
A native of Germany, Edgar Rosenberg received his Ph.D. at Stanford University and since 1965 as been Professor of English and Comparative Literature at Cornell University. He is the author of From Shylock to Svengali and some fifty pieces of short fiction, translations, and articles in journals ranging from Esquire to Commentary to The Dickensian. He has taught at San Jose State College and Harvard University, has been Visiting Professor at Stanford University and the University of Haifa, and has received Guggenheim, Fulbright, Bread Loaf, and Stanford Fiction Fellowships as well as the Clark Distinguished Teaching Award at Cornell.
Date of Birth:February 7, 1812
Date of Death:June 18, 1870
Place of Birth:Portsmouth, England
Place of Death:Gad's Hill, Kent, England
Education:Home-schooling; attended Dame School at Chatham briefly and Wellington
Read an Excerpt
My father's family name being Pirrip, and my christian name Philip, my
infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than
Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.
I give Pirrip as my father's family name, on the authority of his tombstone
and my sister – Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw
my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for
their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies
regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their
tombstones. The shape of the letters on my father's, gave me an odd idea
that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair. From the
character and turn of the inscription, "Also Georgiana Wife of the Above,"
I drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sickly. To
five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were
arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of
five little brothers of mine – who gave up trying to get a living exceedingly
early in that universal struggle – I am indebted for a belief I religiously
entertained that they had all been born on their backs with their hands in
their trousers-pockets, and had never taken them out in this state of
Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within as the river wound,
twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the
identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw
afternoon towards evening. At such a time Ifound out for certain, that
this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard; and that Philip
Pirrip, late of this parish, and also Georgiana wife of the above, were
dead and buried; and that Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias, and
Roger, infant children of the aforesaid, were also dead and buried; and
that the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes
and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes;
and that the low leaden line beyond was the river; and that the distant
savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea; and that the
small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was
"Hold your noise!" cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among
the graves at the side of the church porch. "Keep still, you little devil,
or I'll cut your throat!"
A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg. A man with
no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his head. A
man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by
stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; who
limped, and shivered, and glared and growled; and whose teeth chattered in
his head as he seized me by the chin.
"Oh! Don't cut my throat, sir," I pleaded in terror. "Pray don't do it,
"Tell us your name!" said the man. "Quick!"
"Once more," said the man, staring at me. "Give it mouth!"
From the Paperback edition.
Table of ContentsPlot synopsis
who's who in "Great Expectations"
themes and images in "Great Expectations"
understanding the relationships
how to write a coursework essay
how to write an examination essay
What People are Saying About This
Observe how finely the narrative is kept in one key. It begins with a mournful impessionthe foggy marshes spreading drearily by the seaward Thamesand throughout recurs this effect of cold and damp and dreariness; in that kind Dickens never did anything so good.... No story in the first person was ever better told.
Great Expectations is the first novel I read that made me wish I had written it; it is the novel that made me want to be a novelistspecifically, to move a reader as I was moved then. I believe that Great Expectations has the most wonderful and most perfectly worked-out plot for a novel in the English language; at the same time, it never deviates from its intention to move you to laugher and tears.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
I read Great Expectations for my book group. I listened to the audio book and then read the book off and on. I really enjoyed all of the characters, the contrast they had to one another and the plot twists. Someone mentioned at our book group that this was Dickens' best novel, I haven't read enough to know for sure but it was very good. flag
Dickens published Great Expectations in 1860 at the height of his success, but at the nadir of his personal life, having separated from his wife two years earlier. Dickens recognized that happiness had to be found within and beyond his material wealth, and this was a theme incorporated into Great Expectations. The main character Pip is considered less autobiographical than David Copperfield, but the darkness in tone does seem to match what Dickens was going through. One cannot help but root for poor orphan Pip as he seeks to rise to become a gentleman, and cringe as he¿s tortured by Estella under the watch of creepy old Miss Havisham. It¿s depressing in parts but generally viewed as ¿more balanced¿ than Dickens¿ other novels; there is a bit of controversy over the ending and I confess I think the original ending would have been more fitting, but I won¿t spoil it.On a personal note, I really loved reading this in the original serial form via a program that was run out of Stanford about eight years ago. Serial publication often compromised novels in the 19th century because of the constraints it put on authors, but it¿s too bad it¿s dead in our century; the idea of hundreds of thousands of people all looking forward to the next installment from a great novelist, as opposed to the next episode of a silly TV program, is refreshing.Quotes:On children:¿My sister's bringing up had made me sensitive. 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.¿On home:¿It is a most miserable thing to feel ashamed of home. There may be black ingratitude in the thing, and the punishment may be retributive and well deserved; but that it is a miserable thing, I can testify.¿On pivotal moments:¿That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.¿On patriotism:¿We Britons had at that time particularly settled that it was treasonable to doubt our having and our being the best of everything: otherwise, while I was scared by the immensity of London, I think I might have had some faint doubts whether it was not rather ugly, crooked, narrow, and dirty.¿
Victorian literature was another revolution, replacing the romantic literature of the past that had romanticized the upper classes. Victorian literature was written for the people. Magazines became very popular with the English people and catered to all classes of readers. The popular magazines provided an outlet for many writers who wrote their novels in month-to-month sections, much like a serial. The pressure of social problems tended to create a new awareness of and interest in human beings and relationships; thus, characterization became a dominant quality in literature.Dickens was a master at creating characters and bringing them to life. Great Expectations houses some of the greatest characters of all time. The timeline of Pip as he grows from the loneliness of a little orphan boy into the complicated world of a young adult has proven to be one for the ages. He encounters the likes of Magwitch, Miss Haversham, Jaggers, Wemmick, and Estelle along the way.
I am so glad that I decided to finally read this. I'm fairly certain that my last Dickens was in tenth grade when I read A Tale of Two Cities which I have vague memories of finding occasionally difficult but ultimately enjoyable. The same could be said of Great Expectations for me, occasionally difficult but ultimately wonderful. Perhaps the most remarkable aspect of this is the absolute universality of the theme of aspiring to be "more" and in the process loathing those things that make up the essence of who we are. Pip is no better and no worse than any one of us with his dreams of grandeur and his embarrassment of things familiar. However it seems to be an object of some debate whether Pip's story ends happily, in either version of the tale. My take on it is that regardless of the circumstances, the ending is perfect as Pip realizes what makes a person a gentleman, or lady, is a result of what is inside, rather than the trappings and company one keeps. I will be reading much more Dickens in my future. Any writer who makes the following picture:"Mr. Pumblechook's premises in the High Street of the market town were of a peppercorny and farinacious character as the premises of a corn-chandler and seedsman should be." deserves a great deal of further consideration.
Until about 1940 or so this was one of Dicken's more obscure works, not that popular in its time, but has since come under the critical spotlight (thanks in large part to some papers written by George Orwell and others), to the point today it ranks as one of his most well know, probably in large part to the attention paid it in academic settings. Dicken's brother died just as he started writing the story, and while it certainly deserves credit (many very intelligent people say its his best work, and he is sometimes called the best author of the 19th century, making this the..).. I found it overall just somewhat dark and depressing and boring, except in parts which were outstanding. An oppresive darkness broken by flashes of brilliance sums it up for me.
As I have recently decided to spend the bulk of my life studying 19th Century British fiction, Charles Dickens is a bit of a poser for me. Explaining my decision to my wife, Dickens was the first name she came up with when thinking about the authors I¿d be reading, and I suspect she¿s not alone in identifying 19th Century British fiction with Dickens. His only competitor in this regard might be Jane Austen, but he¿s certainly the quintessential Victorian novelist. Which brings us to my problem: I don¿t like Dickens¿ novels.That¿s not to say I dislike them, but I don¿t have the intellectual passion for his work that I do for say, Hardy and Conrad (probably my chief reasons for my chosen field of study). Dickens¿ reputation outside academia is a mixed bag. He has a fan base that persists to this day, something few other long dead authors can lay claim to (Austen [again] and Shakespeare are two others), but as the persistent calumny that he was paid by the word suggests, many an enforced encounter in High School has left a segment of the population with a permanent aversion to his writing (my wife among them).Beginning to read Great Expectations, a text I felt I was already fully acquainted with avant le roman, I was immediately reminded of one of Dickens¿ chief virtues: he is eminently readable. I was drawn into Pip¿s story, and I found myself partaking of his great expectations, losing myself in the narrative to a degree that few other authors have elicited from me. Indeed, the closest equivalent to my feeling of being swept up in Great Expectations comes in my desire to see (Austen again) Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy or Emma and Mr. Knightley happily married. For Pip, however, my desire was not to see him in wedded bliss with Estella (I¿m of Biddy¿s party here, I don¿t see what all the fuss over her is about), but to see him comfortably situated in life.Nonetheless, the whole romance plot (Pip¿s ardent desire for Estella) is only part of what seemed to me to be the central concern of the novel, namely, class. Pip¿s childhood fixation on Estella seems to spring from his conviction that such a wife would be part and parcel of the equipage of a fine gentleman, a role he longs to play, and it is this one of Pip¿s desires that gives motive force to the novel. Rather than seeking to become a gentleman so he can court Estella, I would argue that Pip desires Estella because only a gentleman could posses her. Consequently, in possessing her Pip would signify his own gentility to himself.Given Pip¿s overwhelming desire to ennoble himself, it would seem that Great Expectations should take the form of a bildungsroman wherein Pip¿s growth and development is played out through his acculturation to and entry into the leisure classes. Chapter XXII, where Herbert companionably and unobtrusively socializes Pip, seems to accomplish precisely this. By becoming a gentleman, Pip would seem to have achieved his chief aim in life. However, Dickens gives his reader a convenient indicator that not all is well with Pip the gentleman, for he is ashamed of his foster father, Joe.It is blindingly obvious that those moments when Pip feels ashamed of his connection to Joe are the moments when he has sunken deepest into genteel depravity. Given that Dickens¿ was the great champion of middle class virtue, it is no accident that Pip is uncomfortable both as a blacksmith¿s apprentice and as a gentleman of leisure. Accordingly, it is no accident that the narrative can only come to rest once Pip has become a solidly middle class at Clarriker & Co.There remain a few complications that I wish I had better answers for. First, if Pip¿s tale is the story of how he comes to understand the desirability of being neither too low nor too high, why is it that his time as a member of the middle class is a paragraph-long footnote to the three-hundred odd pages spent narrating his time at the two socioeconomic extremes. Put simply, why can¿t Pip successfully na
The only English class-assigned book that I didn't finish. And I never plan to.
If you are into Nineteenth-Century literature, or Dickens in general, this is a must have. This version of Great Expectations is combined with fantastic scholarly writing, to provide the best insight and exploration of the timeless tale.