Charles Dickens and Great Expectations

Charles Dickens and Great
Charles John Huffam Dickens
Born on February 7, 1812
Second child to John and Elizabeth Dickens
Father was a clerk for a Naval Pay Officer
Lower middle class which “consisted of shabby genteel
who had slipped down from higher classes and artisans
and working classmen who had improved themselves”
They “Jealously cherished its pretensions of being a cut
above the proletariat, whom it thought to be dirty,
immoral, drunken, profane, comical, and potentially
murderous” (Cruikshank 12). Also believed itself to be
more moral than the “corrupt and sensual aristocracy”
(Cruikshank 12).
Moving Around
The Dickens family moved often because of their
father’s job and loose spending habits.
Charles remembered his fondest years of
childhood as the five years spent in Chatham
where the family moved when Charles was 5.
He first saw the mansion Gad’s Hill Place there
and watched the prison ships called Hulks.
There he was allowed to attend school and
learned to read and write
In 1822 they moved back to Camdon, North
Early Work for Chuck
Father was imprisoned for debt early in Charles’
life (around the age of 12). Went to Marshalsea
Prison. Had to pay to be there but could earn no
money to get out of debt.
Family lived with father in Prison so Charles is on
his own
Charles is sent to work to support his family
Jealous of his sister who was studying at the
Royal Academy of Music
Marshalsea Debter’s Prison
Poor Charles
Charles was left alone to support himself
Charles then went to work for a relative of
his mother’s pasting labels on the bottles
of shoe polish at Warren’s Blackening
factory 12 hours a day, six days a week
Eventually, due to an inheritance, the
family’s debt was paid and they were
allowed to leave prison (In prison 6-12
Warren’s Shoe Blacking Company
Dickens had always
dreamed of living the life
of an upper class
gentleman, but had no
money to achieve that
Other boys working there
made fun of him by
calling him “the young
He said,” No words can
express the agony of my
soul as I sunk into this
The Bitterness Begins
Charles re-enrolls in school again against his
mother’s will. Attended Wellington House
Academy with cruel headmaster who beat kids.
She did not want to lose the income Charles was
bringing in.
Never forgot the bitterness and sense of betrayal
“ I never afterwards forgot, I never shall forget,
I never can forget that my mother was warm for
my being sent back [to Warren’s Blackening].”
Dickens education was mostly informal
Taught to read by his mother at early age
By age of ten he had read novels like
Robinson Crusoe, Tom Jones, and Don
At age 18 he buys a reading ticket to the
library at the British Museum and also
taught himself shorthand.
Worked various jobs after the Blackening factory
Spent two years as a law clerk
After learning shorthand he spent 4 years as a legal
reporter, then as shorthand reporter in Parliament (his
“dissatisfaction with government comes from this time)
1834 joins staff of the Morning Chronicle as a news
reporter covering political news. Newspaper was known
for its crusade to improve the ills of society. He
developed a “burning sense of the hurt and injustice
suffered by ordinary people” (Seward 461).
He also begins at this time to write for publication
This point in his life marked by fierce determination to
Charles falls in love older Maria Beadnell,
daughter of a rich banker
Goes well until she returns from Finishing
school in Paris and loses interest in him.
His friend John Forester later related that
he was surprised at how hard Dickens
took the break up but recognized that it
was fueled by a deep sense of social
More Love
Meets Catherine Hogarth, Daughter of the
Morning Chronicle Editor.
Married in 1836
Odd relationship though, lacked the luster
of his previous relationship
Often broke dates and would reprimand
Catherine if she protested
Bad Charles
Charles constantly found himself
infatuated with other women
Mary, younger sister to Catherine, lived
with them until she suddenly died at age
Charles was crushed which only infuriated
his already jealous wife
His Writing
Sold his first short pieces and sketches in
London at the Morning Chronicle and
other papers
Started writing under the pen name of Boz
He published a collection of these short
stories in a book called Sketches by Boz
which received much critical praise and
sparked Dickens’ career
The Novels Keep On Coming
He earned some early recognition with these but
gained more fame from his serialized novels the
first of which, the comedic Pickwick Papers was
a success
Pickwick Papers sold over 40,000 copies for each
serial addition.
Oliver Twist was started after Pickwick and
Nicholas Nickleby and A Christmas Carol soon
Started weekly periodicals called Household
Words and then All the Year Round. They dea
Christmas Time With Uncle Charles
Dickens then wrote 5 consecutive
Christmas stories of which the most
famous is A Christmas Carol
Bad Times at Ridgemont High
Dickens older sister dies in 1848
Wife has a nervous breakdown in 1850
after the birth of their daughter Dora
1851 Dora dies as well as Dickens’ Father
Through this time, Dickens writes David
Lawrence Kappel
“For the first time, (Dickens) conceived a
hero who could survive in the midst of
problem-filled world of experience by
using his artistic imagination, like Dickens
himself. This autobiographical novel was a
celebration of the artist’s ability to cope
with the world right in the center of it, as
opposed to just surviving the world by
retreating to some safe place at the edge
of it…”
Poor, Poor Charles
The bad times kept on coming with the
scandal of yet another young woman and
Dickens still dealing with the breakdown
and subsequent divorce of Catherine
Novels like Bleak House, Hard Times, and
Little Dorrit were his darkest and bleakest
Great Expectations
Dickens hit gold with his next novel Great
Received mixed reviews from the critics
but the public loved it
Some called it his greatest work yet
The Last One
Dickens writes his last full novel Our Mutual
Friend which returned to his darker side dealing
with the further deepening corruption in society
Dickens toured heavily doing reading and
signings until his health declined
Started The Mystery of Edwin Drood in 1869
but died in 1870 of an apparent brain
He is buried in the poet’s Corner of Westminster
The Victorian Novel
British novels published between 1840 and 1880
often are grouped together under the title
"Victorian," as if some essential identity derived
from having been published during the long
reign of the person George Eliot called "our little
humbug of a queen."
19th-century writers were engaged in redefining
fundamental ideas of identity and social order
and in giving positive value and currency to
terms like "self" and "society," which, even as
late as the mid
.19th century
Setting of Great Expectations
Turn of the 18th century London had 1 million
By 1881, there was a 450% increase.
Populations was now four and a half million
because of Industrial Revolution.
More slums, orphans, increased poverty, child
Pip lived in Kent
Queen Victoria ascended the throne in 1837
Social Reform
Dickens treats a variety of social issues in
Great Expectations—prejudice,
materialism, social status, and class—in a
sensible manner."
Some have criticized Dickens's works for
emphasizing grave social injustices but
not offering any solutions. But such
criticism misses Dickens's point: believing
history has proved economic systems to be
incapable of relieving poverty, Dickens
stresses the importance of individual
responsibility and compassion for the
plight of the poor and disfranchised."
More Reform
Around 1800 social reformers began calling for
changes in child labor laws because of long
hours and unsafe conditions. Child labor caused
“illiteracy, further “impoverishment of poor
families, and a multitude of diseased and
crippled children” (Child Labor)
Factory Act—1819 forbade children from
working at night and limited work day to 12
hours. No policing so did no good.
Child Labor
1847 The Ten Hours Act reduced hours for
all workers to ten hours, six days a week.
Factory Act of 1833 forbade children under
age of nine from working in factories and
limited hours of children up to age
eighteen. Paid inspectors
Educational Reform
Early 1800s there was no state-funded schooling
Lower-middle class children either went without
schooling or went to Dame or evening schools
which were inadequate.
When lower-middle class children could attend a
school, they where often cruel where
headmaster believed that beating children is a
way to knock sense into them. Children were
afraid to take risks in learning.
1870 Education Act required neighborhood
districts to use taxes for schools
1880 another act made education compulsory
for children 5-10 years of age.
Debtor’s Laws
1800 laws allowed government officials to lock those in
debt in prisons
The imprisonment of Dickens’ father in Marshalsea
Prison in 1824 compelled Dickens to show the world that
not all debtors were low-down criminals.
1834 the New Poor Law allowed for those in debt to go
into a workhouse where they could work for their keep.
Poor conditions of prison, where inmates were thrown
together leading to fights or put into solitary
confinement leading to antisocial behavior
Ugly cycle—poor had no money, introduced to crime just
to eat, thrown in prison at early age, earmarked as
criminal, in and out of prison with no rehabilitating or
helping the individual change
Overall Themes
Pip’s realization that wealth and class are less
important than affection, loyalty, and inner
affection, loyalty, and conscience are more
important than social advancement, wealth, and
social class becomes a superficial standard of
value that Pip must learn to look beyond in
finding a better way to live his life.