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Compare and contrast Great Expectations and David Copperfield by Charles Dickens.

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Great Expectations and David Copperfield are two bildungsroman novels by Charles Dickens. A bildungsroman is a novel in which a young protagonist undergoes moral and psychological development, essentially coming of age by the end of the story. Pip and David both begin their respective novels as young boys in unhappy situations: Pip is a working class orphan living with his kindly brother-in-law and unpleasant sister, while David lives with a loving but meek mother and a cruel stepfather. These characters are compelled to leave home to make better lives for themselves and by the end become mature individuals.

Despite these broad similarities, the two novels are quite different in terms of tone, theme, and characterizations. There is more of a gothic feel to Great Expectations, with its gloomy and suspenseful opening scene in a graveyard and the eerie but tragic figure of Miss Havisham in her rotting wedding dress. Social class is also a greater concern in Great Expectations, with Pip trying to mask his working class origins to win the love of the icy Stella, a supposedly upper class young lady who is truly the daughter of a convict. Pip himself is far less affable than David, even going as far as to snub the people he loves because they are not high enough on the social ladder.

In contrast, David Copperfield is a sunnier book, closer to the picaresque, comic novels of Dickens' early period. The novel is concerned with social advancement, but Pip is more preoccupied with providing for his aunt than he is becoming a great man for its own sake. His attempts at social advancement through hard work are contrasted with those of Little Em'ly, who becomes Steerforth's mistress in her quest to become a great lady. Additionally, marriage is a theme David Copperfield explores that Great Expecations does not touch upon at all, with David experiencing marital mismatch with the childish Dora Spenlow and then married bliss with the level-headed Agnes Wickfield.

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