This was Dickens' second-to-last complete novel. It was first published as a weekly series in 1860 and in book form in 1861. Early critics had mixed reviews, disliking Dickens' tendency to exaggerate both plot and characters, but readers were so enthusiastic that the 1861 edition required five printings. Similar to Dickens' memories of his own childhood, in his early years the young Pip seems powerless to stand against injustice or to ever realize his dreams for a better life. However, as he grows into a useful worker and then an educated young man he reaches an important realization: grand schemes and dreams are never what they first seem to be. Pip himself is not always honest, and careful readers can catch him in several obvious contradictions between his truth and fantasies. Victorian-era audiences were more likely to have appreciated the melodramatic scenes and the revised, more hopeful ending. However, modern critics have little but praise for Dickens' brilliant development of timeless themes: fear and fun, loneliness and luck, classism and social justice, humiliation and honor. Some still puzzle over Dickens' revision that ends the novel with sudden optimism, and they suggest that the sales of Dickens' magazine All the Year Round, in which the series first appeared, was assured by gluing on a happy ending that hints Pip and Estella will unite at last. Some critics point out that the original ending is better because it is more realistic since Pip must earn the self-knowledge that can only come from giving up his obsession with Estella. However, Victorian audiences eagerly followed the story of Pip, episode by episode, assuming that the protagonist's love and patience would win out in the end. Modern editions contain both denouements for the reader to choose a preference.
Did this raise a question for you?