Set in Victorian London, "Great Expectations" introduces audiences to the orphaned boy Pip, who lives with his sister and her blacksmith husband, Joe. While out in the marshlands, Pip runs across a convict who has escaped from Newgate prison. The felon still has irons on his leg, and he needs a file and food to help him continue his escape, although his escape is short-lived.
Pip goes to work for an eccentric spinster who dresses entirely in white, Miss Havisham. The wealthy Miss Havisham wants Pip to be a friend and playmate to her niece, Estella. Pip thinks that Estella is beautiful, and she quickly wins Pip's heart. Estella is prideful, vain and shuns the affections of the young lad.
As the novel progresses, Pip's future comes into play, and an unknown benefactor helps Pip improve his lot and place in society. Full of twists and turns, mysterious, unknown entities and the romance that only a Victorian novel can bring, it is little wonder that this novel remains one of Dickens' most endearing creations.
Charles Dickens was born in 1812 in Portsea, England into a relatively well-to-do family, or at least they were at the time of Charles's birth. However, like Mr. Micawber in David Copperfield, Charles' father was not very good at managing his finances. As a result, he was placed in debtors' prison in London, a location that shows up in "Great Expectations" as Newgate prison. While his father was imprisoned, Charles was forced to work at a very young age in a factory, thus laying the groundwork for many experiences covered in some of his best-known novels.
Dickens gained considerable popularity both in England and in the United States. He made frequent tours to promote his works. Most of his novels were put out in serial form.
Most critics agree that "Great Expectations" is Dickens' best novel. "David Copperfield" remains a favorite, and "A Tale of Two Cities" is widely assigned in high schools despite its serious subject matter.
One of the most revered works in English literature, Great Expectations traces the coming-of-age of a young orphan, Pip, from a boy of shallow aspirations into a man of maturity. From the chilling opening confrontation with an escaped convict to the grand but eerily disheveled estate of bitter old Miss Havisham, all is not what it seems in Dickens’ dark tale of false illusions and thwarted desire.
Raised by a humble blacksmith, Pip is recruited by the wealthy Miss Havisham to be a companion to her ward, the cold but beautiful Estella. There, Pip learns to despise his rough origins as Estella torments him about his low prospects. When Pip is informed that an unknown benefactor expects to make him his heir, he sets off to London to realize his “great expectations.” But true gentleman stature, he will find, is a matter of character, not fortune. Download and start listening now!