Discovering Dickens - A Community Reading Project

Discovering Dickens

Community Reading Project

Charles Dickens

Great Expectations

Historical Context



<i>Great Expectations</i>

Notes on the Novel
• Maps and Illustrations
• Key to Allusions
• Glossary of Historical Things and Conditions

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Previously, in Great Expectations...

In the first issue of Great Expectations, we were introduced to Pip, an orphan, who lives with his older sister and her husband in a village on the coast of England. Pip, going to look at the graves of his parents on Christmas eve, encountered a runaway convict in the churchyard by the marshes. The convict demanded food, and -- ascertaining that Pip belonged to the village forge -- a file to remove the iron from his leg. Under the convict's threat of a terrible "young man" -- "There's a young man with me, in comparison with which young man I am an Angel" -- Pip promised to do so.

Pip robbed the pantry and the forge at dawn, and ventured out to the marshes to keep his appointment. Running upon a different convict, he immediately identified the terrible "young man," who swore at him and disappeared into the mist. Going on, Pip soon found the first convict, and gave him the food and the file. Watching the convict eat, however, Pip began to be afraid that nothing would be spared for the young man, and (foreseeing evil consequences for himself if the young man were not pacified) dared to say so. The convict asked whether Pip had noticed anything about the young man's appearance, and Pip described him as bruised about the face. The convict stopped eating and began to work vigorously at the iron on his leg.

Also in this issue, we were introduced to Joe Gargery, the blacksmith -- a big, kind-hearted man -- and Mrs. Joe, Pip's ill-tempered sister -- a woman given to going "on the Rampage." We were also introduced to Mr. Wopsle, the church clerk, and Uncle Pumblechook, a prosperous corn-chandler -- both of whom are given to lecturing Pip. Uncle Pumblechook got a sip of tar-water in his brandy at Christmas dinner -- Pip had accidentally diluted the brandy bottle with tar during his raid on the pantry -- and Mrs. Joe went off to fetch a special pork pie that Pip had, unfortunately, stolen for the convict. The episode closed as Pip, anticipating the combined crisis of brandy and pork pie, ran for the door -- and headlong into a party of soldiers.


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