Great Expectations is Charles Dickens' thirteenth novel. It is the second novel, after David Copperfield, to be fully narrated in the first person. Great Expectations is a bildungsroman, or a coming-of-age novel, and the story genre is Victorian Literature. It depicts the growth and personal development of an orphan named Pip. The novel was first published in serial form in Dickens' weekly periodical All the Year Round, from 1 December 1860 to August 1861. In October 1861, Chapman and Hall published the novel in three volumes.
Great Expectations was to be twice as long, but All the Year Round's managements constraints limited the novel's length. Collected and dense, with a conciseness unusual for Dickens, the novel represents Dickens' peak and maturity as an author. Great Expectations was written, according to GK Chesterton, in "the afternoon of his life and glory," and the penultimate novel Dickens completed, preceding Our Mutual Friend.
It is set among the marshes of Kent and in London in the early-to-mid 1800s. From the outset, the reader is "treated" by the terrifying encounter between Pip, the protagonist, and the escaped convict, Abel Magwitch. Great Expectations is a graphic book, full of extreme imagery, poverty, prison ships, "the hulks," barriers and chains, and fights to the death. It therefore combines intrigue and unexpected twists of autobiograhical detail in different tones. Regardless of its narrative technique, the novel reflects the events of the time, Dickens' concerns, and the relationship between society and man.
The novel received mixed reviews from contemporary critics: Thomas Carlyle speaks of "All that Pip's nonsense," while GB Shaw praised the novel: "All of one piece and Consistently truthfull." Dickens felt Great Expectations was his best work, calling it "a very fine idea," and was very sensitive to compliments from his friends: "Bulwer, who has been, as I think you know, extraordinarily taken by the book."
Great Expectations has a colourful cast that has remained in popular culture: the capricious Miss Havisham, the cold and beautiful Estella, Joe the blacksmith who is always kind and generous, the dry and meek Uncle Pumblechook, Mr Jaggers, Wemmick and his dual personality, and the eloquent and wise friend, Herbert Pocket. Throughout the narrative, typical Dickensian themes emerge: wealth and poverty, love and rejection, and the eventual triumph of good over evil. Great Expectations has become very popular and is now taught as a classic in many English classes. It has been translated into many languages and adapted many times in film and other media.