Examine Pip’s role in a scene in which Dickens explores London’s theatricality.

Reading Assignments

If you have not already done so, make sure you read the following assignments for this unit.

· Great Expectations, Charles Dickens


Prompts for Discussion Forum

Post your original reflections on two of the following. In any unit you may instead connect some aspect of chapters in London: A Social History to the novel, play, or story you are discussing.

1. Select a scene that represents a location or character in some detail. Explain how the author’s viewpoint depends on Pip’s being the narrator.

2. Examine Pip’s role in a scene in which Dickens explores London’s theatricality.

3. Connect a character’s social identity to a specific aspect of Porter’s “Capitalism in the Capital” or “Victorian Life” (Chapters 8 and 12 of London: A Social History).

4. As you know, Great Expectations has two endings: the original one Dickens wrote and the other suggested by Bulwer-Lytton (best known for “It was a dark and stormy night.”). Which ending do you prefer? Why?

5. Joe Gargery and Mr. Jaggers represent two different attitudes towards life. Explain these attitudes. Which do you favor? Which is more likely to lead to success in the world as we know it? Which is more likely to lead to happiness?

6. Who is your favorite character in the novel? Why?

7. Choose a character and tell us how your feelings about that character change over the course of the novel.

8. Is Great Expectations misogynistic? Explain.

9. We noted Samuel Johnson’s claim that Fielding’s characters lack psychological depth. Could one make the same objection to Dickens’ characters in this novel?

10. Are the plot twists in Great Expectations believable or ludicrous?

11. A recurring motif in English literature is the contrast between city and country. What does Dickens’ novel say about the values of city vs. country?

12. Watch a movie version of Great Expectations and discuss how the movie differs from the book. I am not seeking a mere listing here. I want you to discuss how these changes affect us. For example, in the 2013 movie (I think it was 2013) Mrs. Haversham did not strike me as crazy enough (for example, she did not carry a wedding slipper around with her), and Estella struck me as too sympathetic. She even cried at one point in the movie where she does not in the book.

13. Discuss how Dickens uses setting in this novel. Is setting a character in the book? Is it the main character in the sense that it determines the action and outcome of the book?

14. Paul Pickerel describes Great Expectations as “essentially an account of Pip’s moral education.” Do you agree? Explain.

15. Like so many other 19th-century novels, including Crime and Punishment and War and PeaceGreat Expectations began life as a serial publication in Dickens’ own magazine. What effects of publication in parts do you see in the novel? For example, are there repeated cliff-hangers? Are there digressions used to fill up a part?

16. How does Dickens’ choice of first-person narrator affect the reader’s response to the book? Would the novel be more effective if told in the third person?

17. Is Great Expectations another version of the Odyssey, a nostos (i.e., a search for and recovery of a lost home)? Explain.

18. What is the significance of Satis House in the novel, not just in terms of plot but also in terms of theme and characterization?