How Does Dickens Appeal to Victorian Readership in the Opening Chapters of Great Expectations?

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Great Expectations was first published in 1860 to 1861 as a serial novel. This meant that small instalments (normally a chapter) would come out about once a month in a newspaper or magazine. This method was similar to our modern-day soap operas: each instalment ended in cliffhangers and were widely talked about by the Victorian readers. This method of novel writing was dying out, before Dickens revived it again.

However, Dickens, like previous serial novel writers, wrote each instalment to an individual deadline, not written as a whole book and published by chapter. This meant that Dickens could have changed his original storyline to suit the readers’ reactions and opinions. The majority of the readers of this story were the middle and upper classes. The middle class readers loved to read books that included people moving up class ranks, as they wanted to move up classes too. The upper class read them purely for their own enjoyment.

However, the Victorians enjoyed things in their stories that we do today – including books about criminals, because it took them away from their dull lives. They also enjoyed family outings where they would see criminals being hanged, as they thought they were ridding the world of evil.

There are many things Dickens added to Great Expectations so that the Victorians enjoyed his book even more and so that they felt a variety of emotions for every character at different times of the story. Dickens immediately makes the readers feel sympathy towards Pip as the story begins, when he is placed in front if his parents’ graves. Here, Pip describes how he doesn’t even know his full name; “…my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip”. This makes us feel sympathy towards Pip because no one had bothered to help him learn his name. This shows us already that Pip is a neglected and abandoned child, increasing our sympathy for him. The name “Pip” is a short, unoriginal name, which makes him seem...
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