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A lot or a little?
The parents' guide to what's in this book.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Great Expectations depicts life realistically, particularly the brutal circumstances of the poor in Victorian England. Dickens did not paint a rosy picture unless he was celebrating the kind, considerate, and generous. He held a great hatred for social injustice and apathy, and his position is on full display in this novel and the 1947 film version.
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What's the story?
GREAT EXPECTATIONS takes place during the mid-19th century, and tells the story of Pip, a young orphan in England's marsh country who is thrust onto the class ladder by a series of complex and coincidental circumstances that improve his economic and social status. Along his journey of self-discovery from youth to maturity, he learns the value of friendship, the power of romantic and familial love, and the ultimate meaning of wealth and material gain.
Is it any good?
Although many of the characters in this story are stereotypes, this makes them no less effective in telling the story. Charles Dickens is universally regarded as one of the greatest novelists who ever wrote in the English language, if not any language, and Great Expectations is considered, along with Bleak House, to be his best. Many of the characters are typical Dickens: quick sketches with colorfully descriptive names, representing a particular position and/or attitude. The adult characters include Magwitch, the terrifying escaped criminal who sets Pip's adventures in motion, the insane Miss Havisham, the greedy Pumblechook, and the complex and contradictory Wemmick -- in other words, a credible cross-section of adult personalities.
Nineteenth-century literature, with its demanding vocabulary and old-fashioned assumptions and manners, is not everyone's cup of tea, and this includes young readers. But it continues, over a century later, to win new fans who fall in love with the book at a young age. Like all of the author's work, the story is a fast-paced adventure with a compelling hero.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about why this book has remained a beloved bestseller for more than 140 years, still delighting young and adult readers, and why it is often required reading in school.
Pip learns a number of life lessons throughout the story. What are they?
Do you think Pip and Estella are a good match?
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Common Sense Media's unbiased ratings are created by expert reviewers and aren't influenced by the product's creators or by any of our funders, affiliates, or partners.