9780553213423

Great Expectations

by
  • ISBN13:

    9780553213423

  • ISBN10:

    0553213423

  • Edition: Revised
  • Format: Trade Book
  • Copyright: 8/1/1982
  • Publisher: Bantam Classics

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Summary

This Norton Critical Edition, edited by the pioneer of Great Expectations scholarship, presents the most thorough textual edition of the novel (1861) available. The newly established text is based on all extant materials and is accompanied by several textual essays. "Backgrounds" provides readers with an understanding of Great Expectations's inception and internal chronology. A discussion of the public-reading version of the novel is also included. A wonderfully rich "Contexts" section collects thirteen pieces, centering on the novel's major themes: the link between author and hero and, relatedly, Victorian notions of gentility, snobbishness, and social mobility; the often brutal training, at home and at school, of children born around 1800; and the central issues of crime and punishment. "Criticism" gathers twenty-two assessments of Great Expectations, both contemporary and modern, which offer a range of perspectives on Dickens and his novel.

Author Biography

Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, in Portsmouth, England,where his father was a naval pay clerk. When he was five the family moved to Chatham, near Rochester, another port town. He received some education at a small private school but this was curtailed when his father's fortunes declined. More significant was his childhood reading, which he evoked in a memory of his father's library: 'From that blessed little room, Roderick Random, Peregrine Pickle, Humphrey Clinker, Tom Jones, The Vicar of Wakefield, Don Quixote, Gil Blas and Robinson Crusoe came out, a glorious host, to keep me company. They kept alive my fancy, and my hope of something beyond that place and time.'

When Dickens was ten the family moved to Camden Town, and this proved the beginning of a long, difficult period. (He wrote later of his coach journey, alone, to join his family at the new lodgings: 'I consumed my sandwiches in solitude and dreariness, and it rained hard all the way, and I thought life sloppier than I had expected to find it.') When he had just turned twelve Dickens was sent to work for a manufacturer of boot blacking, where for the better part of a year he labored for ten hours a day, an unhappy experience that instilled him with a sense of having been abandoned by his family: 'No advice, no counsel, no encouragement, no consolation, no support from anyone that I can call to mind, so help me God!' Around the same time Dickens's father was jailed for debt in the Marshalsea Prison, where he remained for fourteen weeks. After some additional schooling, Dickens worked as a clerk in a law office and taught himself shorthand; this qualified him to begin working in 1831 as a reporter in the House of Commons, where he was known for the speed with which he took down speeches.

By 1833 Dickens was publishing humorous sketches of London life in the Monthly Magazine, which were collected in book form as Sketches by 'Boz' (1836). These were followed by the publication in installments of the comic adventures that became The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club (1837), whose unprecedented popularity made the twenty-five-year-old author a national figure. In 1836 he married Catherine Hogarth, who would bear him ten children over a period of fifteen years. Dickens's energies enabled him to lead an active family and social life, including an indulgence in elaborate amateur theatricals, while maintaining a literary productiveness of astonishing proportions. He characteristically wrote his novels for serial publication, and was himself the editor of many of the periodicals—Bentley's Miscellany, The Daily News, Household Words, All the Year Round—in which they appeared. Among his close associates were his future biographer John Forster and the younger Wilkie Collins, with whom he collaborated on fictional and dramatic works. In rapid succession he published Oliver Twist (1838), Nicholas Nickleby (1839), The Old Curiosity Shop (1841), and Barnaby Rudge (1841), sometimes working on several novels simultaneously.

Dickens's celebrity led to a tour of the United States in 1842. There he met Longfellow, Irving, Bryant, and other literary figures, and was received with an enthusiasm that was dimmed somewhat by the criticisms Dickens expressed in his American Notes (1842) and in the American chapters of Martin Chuzzlewit (1844). The appearance of A Christmas Carol in 1843 sealed his position as the most widely popular writer of his time; it became an annual tradition for him to write a story for the season, of which the most memorable were The Chimes (1844) and The Cricket on the Hearth (1845). He continued to produce novels at only a slightly diminished rate, publishing Dombey and Son in 1848 and David Copperfield in 1850; of the latter, his personal favorite among his books, he wrote to Forster: 'If I were to say half of what Copperfield makes me feel tonight how strangely, even to you, I should be turned inside out! I seem to be sending some part of myself into the Shadowy World.'

From this point on his novels tended to be more elaborately constructed and harsher and less buoyant in tone than his earlier works. These late novels include Bleak House (1853), Hard Times (1854), Little Dorrit (1857), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), and Great Expectations (1861). Our Mutual Friend, published in 1865, was his last completed novel, and perhaps the most somber and savage of them all. Dickens had separated from his wife in 1858—he had become involved a year earlier with a young actress named Ellen Ternan—and the ensuing scandal had alienated him from many of his former associates and admirers. He was weakened by years of overwork and by a near-fatal railroad disaster during the writing of Our Mutual Friend. Nevertheless he embarked on a series of public readings, including a return visit to America in 1867, which further eroded his health. A final work, The Mystery of Edwin Drood, a crime novel much influenced by Wilkie Collins, was left unfinished upon his death on June 9,1870, at the age of 58.


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Table of Contents

Introduction vii
John Irving
Great Expectations
1(454)
The Original Ending of Great Expectations
453(2)
Bibliography 455

Excerpts

Chapter I.


My father's family name being Pirrip, and my christian name Philip, my
infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than
Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.


I give Pirrip as my father's family name, on the authority of his tombstone
and my sister – Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw
my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for
their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies
regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their
tombstones. The shape of the letters on my father's, gave me an odd idea
that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair. From the
character and turn of the inscription, "Also Georgiana Wife of the Above,"
I drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sickly. To
five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were
arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of
five little brothers of mine – who gave up trying to get a living exceedingly
early in that universal struggle – I am indebted for a belief I religiously
entertained that they had all been born on their backs with their hands in
their trousers-pockets, and had never taken them out in this state of
existence.


Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within as the river wound,
twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the
identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw
afternoon towards evening. At such a time I found out for certain, that
this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard; and that Philip
Pirrip, late of this parish, and also Georgiana wife of the above, were
dead and buried; and that Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias, and
Roger, infant children of the aforesaid, were also dead and buried; and
that the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes
and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes;
and that the low leaden line beyond was the river; and that the distant
savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea; and that the
small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was
Pip.


"Hold your noise!" cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among
the graves at the side of the church porch. "Keep still, you little devil,
or I'll cut your throat!"


A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg. A man with
no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his head. A
man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by
stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; who
limped, and shivered, and glared and growled; and whose teeth chattered in
his head as he seized me by the chin.


"Oh! Don't cut my throat, sir," I pleaded in terror. "Pray don't do it,
sir."


"Tell us your name!" said the man. "Quick!"


"Pip, sir."


"Once more," said the man, staring at me. "Give it mouth!"


From the Trade Paperback edition.

Excerpted from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
All rights reserved by the original copyright owners. Excerpts are provided for display purposes only and may not be reproduced, reprinted or distributed without the written permission of the publisher.

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