Context

Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, and spent the first nine years of his life living in the coastal regions of Kent, a county in southeast ngland! Dickens"s father, #ohn, was a kind and likable $an, but he was inco$petent with $oney and piled up tre$endous debts throughout his life! %hen Dickens was nine, his fa$ily $oved to &ondon! %hen he was twelve, his father was arrested and taken to debtors" prison! Dickens"s $other $oved his seven brothers and sisters into prison with their father, but she arranged for the young Charles to live alone outside the prison and work with other children pasting labels on bottles in a blacking warehouse 'blacking was a type of $anufactured soot used to $ake a black pig$ent for products such as $atches or fertili(er)! Dickens found the three $onths he spent apart fro$ his fa$ily highly trau$atic! *ot only was the +ob itself $iserable, but he considered hi$self too good for it, earning the conte$pt of the other children! ,fter his father was released fro$ prison, Dickens returned to school! -e eventually beca$e a law clerk, then a court reporter, and finally a novelist! -is first novel, The Pickwick Papers, beca$e a huge popular success when Dickens was only twenty.five! -e published e/tensively and was considered a literary celebrity until his death in 1870! 1any of the events fro$ Dickens"s early life are $irrored in Great Expectations, which, apart fro$ David Copperfield, is his $ost autobiographical novel! 2ip, the novel"s protagonist, lives in the $arsh country, works at a +ob he hates, considers hi$self too good for his surroundings, and e/periences $aterial success in &ondon at a very early age, e/actly as Dickens hi$self did! 3n addition, one of the novel"s $ost appealing characters, %e$$ick, is a law clerk, and the law, +ustice, and the courts are all i$portant co$ponents of the story! Great Expectations is set in early 4ictorian ngland, a ti$e when great social changes were sweeping the nation! 5he 3ndustrial 6evolution of the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries had transfor$ed the social landscape, enabling capitalists and $anufacturers to a$ass huge fortunes! ,lthough social class was no longer entirely dependent on the circu$stances of one"s birth, the divisions between rich and poor re$ained nearly as wide as ever! &ondon, a tee$ing $ass of hu$anity, lit by gas la$ps at night and darkened by black clouds fro$ s$okestacks during the day, for$ed a sharp contrast with the nation"s sparsely populated rural areas! 1ore and $ore people $oved fro$ the country to the city in search of greater econo$ic opportunity! 5hroughout ngland, the $anners of the upper class were very strict and conservative7 gentle$en and ladies were e/pected to have thorough classical educations and to behave appropriately in innu$erable social situations! 5hese conditions defined Dickens"s ti$e, and they $ake the$selves felt in al$ost every facet of Great Expectations! 2ip"s sudden rise fro$ country laborer to city gentle$an forces hi$ to $ove fro$ one social e/tre$e to another while dealing with the strict rules and e/pectations that governed 4ictorian ngland! 3ronically, this novel about the desire for wealth and social advance$ent was written partially out of econo$ic necessity! Dickens"s $aga(ine, All the Year Round, had beco$e e/tre$ely popular based on the success of works it had published in serial, such as his own A Tale of Two Cities and %ilkie Collins"s The Wo an in White! 8ut it had e/perienced a decline in popularity after publishing a dull serial by Charles &ever called A Da!"s

century uropean fiction7 the bildungsro$an. and Dickens"s own David Copperfield! ach of these works. Charlotte 8ront>"s %ane E!re. Great Expectations fits a pattern popular in nineteenth.discovery through e/perience as a protagonist $oves fro$ childhood to adulthood! . depicts a process of $aturation and self. generally a transition fro$ boyhood to $anhood such as that e/perienced by 2ip! 5he genre was populari(ed by 9oethe with his book Wilhel #eister '17:. like Great Expectations.Ride! Dickens conceived of Great Expectations as a $eans of restoring his publication"s fortunes! 5he book is still i$$ensely popular a century and a half later! 3n for$.<17:=) and beca$e prevalent in ngland with such books as Daniel Defoe"s Ro$inson Crusoe. or novel depicting growth and personal develop$ent.

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