Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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Ideas for Reports and Papers

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

1. Dickens has been called the "novelist of childhood." How well does he portray the child's mind and imagination in the figure of Pip?

2. David Copperfield is the most autobiographical of Dickens's novels. Yet there is much autobiographical material in Great Expectations. Discuss how Dickens brings his own experiences as a child into the two novels.

3. Critics view Pip as complex because he undergoes development of character during the story. The Pip of eighteen is quite different from the Pip of eight. Describe the stages of his growth from childhood into mature responsibility. What mistakes does he make? What does he learn?

4. Most careful readers are aware that the title Great Expectations conveys an ironic intent on the part of the author. What "great expectations" did Pip's patron have for the boy? In what sense was their fulfillment ironic and disappointing to Pip?

5. Most readers view Dickens as a powerful critic of Victorian society. What specific social ills does he attack in Great Expectations? How effective is the novel's social criticism?

6, Dickens said that the general effect of Great Expectations is "exceedingly droll." Do you agree? Can you find examples of humorous characters and comic scenes that convincingly support Dickens's view of the novel?