Thursday, May 31, 2012

charles dickens and his great expectations

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Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 188 in Portsmouth England. His first few years he was ill, but to make him feel better his parents and his nurse told him many exciting stories. When Dickens was twelve, his father was imprisoned for debts that he could not pay; at this time his family was living in London. At the age of twelve, since his father was imprisoned, Dickens himself had to go to work to support his family. Dickens went to work in a bootblack factory putting labels on bottles. Throughout his childhood Dickens always had the feeling of abandonment, especially when compared to his sister who was studying at the Royal Academy of Music where she was winning many awards (World). Dickens dreamed of something else, something better. This time of his life looks like it is reflected in Great Expectations when Pip was working with his uncle Joe the blacksmith.

In 186 Dickens married Catherine Hogarth, the daughter of a newspaper editor. Their marriage produced ten children, but ended in separation in 1858. By 1860 Dickens had found himself a mistress by the name of Ellen Teran, an actress he had met when he started an interest in theater. Thought his relationship with Teran he lived in a separate household with her. Teran happened to be twenty-seven years younger than Dickens, which resembles the age difference between Joe and Biddy in Great Expectations (World). This age difference was not reveled until after Dickens’ death. Dickens protected his privacy because he was worried about his creditability as a respected writer, and editor of Household Words, a family magazine.

Dickens died in June 1870, of a brain aneurysm. He was buried in the Poets’ Corner of Westminster Abby, London (Classic).

Great Expectations was written during the heart of the Victorian era. The queen had been on the throne since 187, and for another forty years after. At this same time London was leading the Industrial Revolution and was controlling a large colonial empire (Pink). When London was in a period of stability, in America the civil war had just begun. Also, Darwin’s Origin of Species was published in 185.

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Great Expectations took place between Christmas Eve 181, and the winter of 1840. In 181, King George III was England’s monarch, but his madness had hastened a transfer of power to the Prince Regent (Classic). The Regency period lasted from 1810 until George III’s death in 180; afterwards, the Regent became George IV. George IV died in 180 and was replaced by King William, who was in turn succeeded by Queen Victoria in 187 (Classic). This was also right at the time of the Industrial Revolution began. It was a period of significant technological development. The invention of steam power changed transportation, and using steam power in steamboats and railroads permanently changed London’s landscape. Steamboats began running on the Thames River in 1815, and passenger railroads spread all over England in the late 180’s and early 1840’s (Classic). These inventions were present in Great Expectations, when Pip is in London. It was the 180’s at this time in the book. Steamships were mentioned, but Pip had left London before the railroads cam through.

The 180’s had been not only a period of growing industrialization, but also a period of political and social agitation (Classic). The first Reform Bill, in 18, extended suffrage, initiating progressive social measures; and Queen Victoria was crowned in 187 (Pink). Pip returns to England in 1840, to find a new England, an England that had been thoroughly industrialized, socially progressive, and Victorian.

Works Citied

Humphrey House, The Dickens World, nd edition, Oxford University Press, 14

“Great Expectations.” Pink Monkey. 0 December 1 www.pinkmonkey.com

Robert Alexander. “Great Expectations Two Historical Moments” www.classicreader.com

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