Great Expectations Introduction
by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations book cover
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So you’re going to teach Great Expectations. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, Charles Dickens's classic novel has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations and remains one of his most iconic texts. While it has its challenges—a Victorian prose style, depictions of violence, and depictions of sexism—teaching this novel to your class will prove rewarding for you and your students. Studying Great Expectations will expose students to the rhetorical power of literary devices like allusion and symbolism and encourage them to engage with worthwhile themes, such as gender roles and social inequality in Victorian England. This guide highlights some of the most salient aspects of the text before you begin teaching.

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Facts at a Glance

  • Publication Date: 1861
  • Recommended Grade Level: 7th and up
  • Approximate Word Count: 183,350
  • Author: Charles Dickens
  • Country of Origin: England
  • Genre: Bildungsroman, Gothic Fiction
  • Literary Period: Victorian
  • Conflict: Person vs. Society, Person vs. Self
  • Narration: First-Person
  • Setting: London and Kent, England, early 1800s
  • Structure: Prose
  • Mood: Reflective, Nostalgic, Sorrowful, Humorous

Texts that Go Well with Great Expectations

Cranford by Elizabeth Gaskell. From 1851 to 1853, Cranford was published in eight installments in Household Words, a magazine edited by Charles Dickens. The novel, which seems to have no central plot, is an excellent example of how serialization—the common Victorian practice of releasing novels in journals or magazines over a long period of time— can impact the structure and plot of a text. 

David Copperfield by Charles Dickens. Like Great Expectations, David Copperfield, published in 1850, is a bildungsroman that follows the development of its main character from childhood to adulthood. Like most bildungsroman novels, David Copperfield is an educational, albeit humorous and melodramatic, text showing how David improves himself as he perseveres through numerous hardships. 

Far From the Madding Crowd by Thomas Hardy. Published in 1874, Far From the Madding Crowd is another iconic Victorian text. Like Great Expectations , the novel describes a young man who falls in love with a hostile young woman of...

(The entire section is 533 words.)