Understanding Great Expectations: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Great Expectations: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Great Expectations: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Understanding Great Expectations: A Student Casebook to Issues, Sources, and Historical Documents

Synopsis

After 140 years, Great Expectations is still one of the West's most admired, read and studied works of fiction. This casebook of primary documents, collateral readings and essays brings to life both Dickens' masterpiece and the social issues reflected in it. Newlin has collected significant primary sources on the question, "What is a Gentleman'?" and on the dilemma of Victorian women, supplying extracts from the writings of Lord Chesterfield, Anthony Trollope, and Harold Laski, as well as long passages from Mary Wollstonecraft's 1792 A Vindication of the Rights of Women, and John Stuart Mill's 1861 The Subjection of Women. The work also covers blacksmithing and crime and punishment in early 19th century England, the transportation of convicts, and the state of the London theatre during the period. There are first-hand accounts of life on prison ships and the travails and opportunities facing transportees in Australia. Essays and original matrials on class distinctions, with demographic data from the 1812 Census, and on the feminist movement, point up the socioeconomic hierarchies and strata that characterized the early Industrial Revolution and subsequent Victorian socieity. Other documents depict physical settings such as the Marsh County and the Thames, and Bow Street in London. This collection of sources will help broaden students' understanding of Great Expectations and places it within its historical context.

Excerpt

Great Expectations was Charles Dickens thirteenth novel. It is a masterpiece, perhaps the author's best work in terms of structure and organization. It is a psychological novel, one of the greatest in all fiction, and it is much more, for it gives us plenty of comedy, tragedy, murderous violence, gentle benevolence, and sociological commentary.

The tale of how the book came to be written is well worth telling, for it demonstrates Dickens's amazing energy, versatility, and adaptability to circumstance. Besides being England's greatest novelist, Dickens was a fine actor: a stage performer and reader of almost unparalleled virtuosity, as well as a theatrical producer and director. He was also a great editor, one of the best and most diligent ever. It was his lifelong ambition to promulgate his ideas of social justice: to improve education for the common people and their health, morale, and general welfare.

During the last two decades of his life, which ended at age fifty- eight in 1870, Dickens edited and completely controlled two weekly magazines: first, Household Words from 1850 to 1859; and then All the Year Round from 1859 until his death. He gave boundlessly of his time and enthusiasm, vetting carefully every word that . . .

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