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Great Expectations Study Guide

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THE GLENCOE LITERATURE LIBRARY

Study Guide for Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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Meet Charles Dickens
In addition to writing short stories and novels, Dickens wrote essays and journalistic pieces, and edited a weekly periodical filled with fiction, poetry, and essays. First titled Household Words, the magazine was later retitled All the Year Round. Dickens contributed to this publication several serialized novels, including Great Expectations, and writings on political and social issues. Dickens was born on February 7, 1812, in Landport, Portsea, England. He was the second child and eldest son of eight children. Dickens’s father, who worked as a clerk in the Navy Pay Office, was a spendthrift who often mismanaged the family money. In 1822 the family moved to London and soon found itself in financial crisis. The family was forced to live in poverty, and Dickens was no longer able to go to school. One of the most traumatic periods of his life began in February 1824, when his father was sent to debtors prison. Young Dickens, only twelve years old, was forced to go to work for several months pasting labels on bottles. This experience was painful and socially humiliating to him, and images of the factory haunted him for the rest of his life. These images provided a backdrop to much of his fiction, which often focused on class issues; the plight of the poor and oppressed; and lost, suffering children. As an adult, he championed social and political causes designed to help the poor, prisoners, and children. Dickens became a reporter in 1832, and in 1833 he began publishing short stories and essays. In 1836 he married Catherine Hogarth. The couple had ten children, but their marriage was unhappy and ended in 1858. Dickens’s successful career as a novelist began in 1837 with the publication of The Pickwick Papers. Other novels include A Christmas Carol,...

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