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Great Expectations: an audio guide

On 1 December 1860, Charles Dickens published the first installment of Great Expectations in All the Year Round, the weekly literary periodical that he had founded in 1859. Perhaps Dickens’s best-loved work, it tells the story of young Pip, who lives with his sister and her husband the blacksmith. He has few prospects for advancement until a mysterious benefaction takes him from the Kent marshes to London. Pip is haunted by figures from his past — the escaped convict Magwitch, the time-withered Miss Havisham, and her proud and beautiful ward, Estella — and in time uncovers not just the origins of his great expectations but the mystery of his own heart.

A powerful and moving novel, Great Expectations is suffused with Dickens’s memories of the past and its grip on the present, and it raises disturbing questions about the extent to which individuals affect each other’s lives. Below is a sequence of podcasts with Robert Douglas-Fairhurst, editor of the Oxford World’s Classics edition of Great Expectations, recorded by George Miller of Podularity.

Title page of first edition of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, 1861

– What was going on in Dickens’s private life at the time?


– Both Dickens and Pip were haunted by the ghosts of the past.


– Are gentlemen in Victorian England born or made?


– Why was Dickens persuaded to change his original ending to the novel?


– Why does Great Expectations continue to hold such appeal for readers?


– If you loved this novel, try…


Charles Dickens was one of the most important writers of the 19th century and 2012 is the 200th anniversary year of his birth. The Oxford World’s Classics edition of Great Expectations reprints the definitive Clarendon text. Robert Douglas-Fairhurst’s new introduction ranges widely across critical issues raised by the novel: its biographical genesis, ideas of origin and progress and what makes a “gentleman,” memory, melodrama, and the book’s critical reception.

For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more.

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