Teaching the Novel: the Creative Word in Great Expectations

  • Rowland McMaster


‘He that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.’ This pronouncement from Ecclesiastes is manifestly too painful for us, as academic conference-goers, to confront in all its dimensions, so let us look instead at its appropriateness to Great Expectations, the story of a youth who aspires to knowledge, manners, and social respectability as a means to love. In pursuing these aspirations, Pip learns to be vocationally useless, acquires the manners of a snob, and displays his status in such ways as writing a stiffly condescending letter to his tailor. As for love, he becomes ashamed of those who love him and ashamed of himself for feeling ashamed. His club, The Finches of the Grove, gives an idea of his social aspiration and achievement, and how modern it sounds:


Fairy Tale Great Expectation Social Respectability Social Aspiration Dark Corner 
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© Palgrave Macmillan, a division of Macmillan Publishers Limited 1986

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  • Rowland McMaster

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