by Charles Dickens | Grades: 9-12 | Ages: 14+ | Lexile Level: 1150
About Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Pip, a poor orphan being raised by a cruel sister, does not have much in the way of great expectations--until he is inexplicably elevated to wealth by an anonymous benefactor. Full of unforgettable characters--including a terrifying convict named Magwitch, the eccentric Miss Havisham, and her beautiful but manipulative niece, Estella, Great Expectations is a tale of intrigue, unattainable love, and all of the happiness money can't buy.
In the marshy mists of a village churchyard, a tiny orphan boy named Pip is suddenly terrified by a shivering, limping convict on the run. Years later, a supremely arrogant young Pip boards the coach to London where, by the grace of a mysterious benefactor, he will join the ranks of the idle rich and "become a gentleman." Finally, in the luminous mists of the village at evening, Pip the man meets Estella, his dazzingly beautiful tormentor, in a ruined garden--and lays to rest all the heartaches and illusions that his "great expectations" have brought upon him.
Dickens's biographer, Edgar H. Johnson, has said that--except for the author's last-minute tampering with his original ending--"Great Expectations is "the most perfectly constructed and perfectly written of all Dickens's works."
A Biographical Note About Charles Dickens
As a child, Charles Dickens (1812-1870) came to know not only hunger and privation, but also the horror of the infamous debtors' prison and the evils of child labor. A surprise legacy brought release from the nightmare of prison and "slave" factories and afforded Dickens the opportunity of two years' formal schooling. He taught himself shorthand and worked as a parliamentary reporter until his writing career took off with the publication of Sketches by Boz (1836) and The Pickwick Papers (1837). As a novelist and magazine editor, Dickens had a long run of serialized success through Our Mutual Friend (1864-65). In later years, ill health slowed him down, but he continued his popular dramatic readings from his fiction to an adoring public, which included Queen Victoria. At his death, The Mystery of Edwin Drood remained unfinished.