How might falling sales have influenced the content and direction of Great Expectations?Great Expectations was originally published in 36 weekly instalments in a periodical edited by Charles...

How might falling sales have influenced the content and direction of Great Expectations?

Great Expectations was originally published in 36 weekly instalments in a periodical edited by Charles Dickens. When he began the story, sales of the magazine were falling. How do you think publication in parts might have affected the way Dickens wrote the story? Provide evidence from the text.

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The most notable effect of the public's disapproval and, perhaps, dropping sales, comes with the conclusion of Great Expectations.  Because the original ending did not meet with the approval of the majority, Dickens altered his ending to a resolution of sorts. Pip and Estella walk about and Pip takes her hand, and together they leave "her hand in mine."  This change, then, helped to boost sales.

To generate interest in the novel, Dickens divided it into three stages of changes that take place in Pip; also, each stage has a different setting:  the forge, London, and finally, a return to the forge. And, so that the reader knows there is more to come in the stages, Dickens ends the two stages with words that hint at some conflicts yet to occur.  For instance, The First Stage ends as Pip is on the various coaches which will take him to London.  Regretting that he has left Joe in such an abrupt manner, he thinks he will get off the stage when it makes the first stop and walk back to spend another night with Joe.  However, he cannot make up his mind before

We changed again, and yet again, and it was now too late, and too far to go back, an Ii went on.  And the mists had all solemnl risen now, and the world lay spread before me.

Within these three stages, there are also chapters that end with thought-provoking ideas suggestive of interesting incidents to follow.  For example, at the end of Chapter IX, Pip returns from his momentous visit to Miss Havisham's with reflections that encourage continuation of the text,

That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.

In addition to creating suspense, Dickens generates interest in the reader with the sinister characters of Orlick and the man in the Jolly Bargemen who stares at Pip and stirs his drink with a large file like the one of Joe's which Pip has stolen. Comic relief with characters such as Wemmick and the ridiculous Pumblechook and Sarah Pocket,  delight the reader and encourage further reading.  The reappearance of characters also arouses the suspense in the reader.  For instance, the reemergence of the old convict of Magwitch at the end of the Second Stage arouses the curiosity of the reader as Pip faces the dilemma of what to do with his benefactor, who is a condemned criminal:

I got away from him, without knowing how I did it, and for an hour or more I remained too stunned to think.  It was not unti I began to think that I began to know how wrecked I was, and how the ship in which I had sailed was gone to pieces.

At the end of Stage Two, Pip also has two shattering realizations that will change the course of his life: He has deserted Joe and life and the forge for expectations that have vanished; and Miss Havisham has never intended fo him and Estella to marry.  The reader wonders how Pip's life will change as a result of these realizations.  In the Second Stage, each of the subplots is expanded--Pip and the convict, the injury to Mrs. Joe, Pip's love for Estella.  While there are new subplots introduced in the Third Stage, but most are finally resolved.

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Great Expectations

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