Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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Do you think the title of Dickens' Great Expectations is appropriate?

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Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The title is also appropriate because the major character of the novel is Philip Pirrip (nicknamed "Pip"), and Dickens is thus alluding both to Sir Philip Sidney and also to a phrase in one of Sidney's Astrophil and Stella sonnets (21), in which Astrophil's friend refers to

. . . that friendly foe,

Great Expectations . . .

In Sidney's poem' great expectations are a "friendly foe" because they challenge us to do our best, to achieve our full potential even if doing so requires hard work and effort.  Pip, in Dickens' novel, has great expectations of himself but is also the object of others' great expectations.

Well ther ya go. I never knew that Dickens was alluding to one of Sidney's sonnets. This is enlightening information that adds to the depth of my appreciation of Dickens, whom I already appreciate greatly. Thanks for the insight. Great to have you with us on eNotes, by the way!

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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More than anything, the title Great Expectations connotes anticipations that are well beyond one's ken.  It is, indeed, an appropriate title as the various characters have grand hopes: Pumblechook aspires to the frivolous aristocracy that he admires, Mrs. Pocket reads books of titles in her desire to attain one herself, Orlick hopes to possess Biddy and be the better journeyman for Joe, Miss Havisham has unrealistic expectations for Estella, Magwitch, too, is unrealistic in his hopes for Pip and himself, and Pip has the most grandiose plans of all as he expects to marry Estella, become a gentleman of wealth and position, and live happily for the rest of his life. 

While Mr. Jaggers announces "great expectations" to Pip, he is only one among many who have expectations.  And, as a criticism of an England that had a corrupt justice and social system, Dickens's novel has an apt title, indeed.

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Verdie Cremin eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The title is also appropriate because the major character of the novel is Philip Pirrip (nicknamed "Pip"), and Dickens is thus alluding both to Sir Philip Sidney and also to a phrase in one of Sidney's Astrophil and Stella sonnets (21), in which Astrophil's friend refers to

. . . that friendly foe,

Great Expectations . . .

In Sidney's poem' great expectations are a "friendly foe" because they challenge us to do our best, to achieve our full potential even if doing so requires hard work and effort.  Pip, in Dickens' novel, has great expectations of himself but is also the object of others' great expectations.

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missy575 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I love how the title is suggestive to the reader from the beginning. It certainly fits as the above posts suggest. My students place great wonder in the word expectations because they see it as something placed on a person by an authority. For example, I have the expectations that when I assign an essay, students will turn it in. What they find so intriguing about the book is that these are the expectations of the characters. Then, the connection to real life becomes so much more relevant. Students realize that as children, they expected they would play NFL football or become president. Now, their realities as high schoolers are starting to set in. They didn't even make the football team, or they never got a grade higher than a C and doors begin to close. This book's title suggest much about what occurs in the text, but even more, it demonstrates an overwhelming truth about life that is important for readers to grasp.

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Lorna Stowers eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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I agree with #5. One of the classes I hated the most in school was the critical analysis class when pursuing my English degree. I always had, and still have, a problem looking at a text from different perspectives. For me, the only perspective which matters is my own when deeming a text great or not. I place a lot of faith in author intent mixed with personal interpretation.

In regards to a title, when an author names his work, it is similar to naming a child. The author has slaved over the 'raising' of the text- they have felt anger, happiness, worry, perhaps every emotion one can experience in their lives. So, (not that I am refusing the critical analysis...

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