Charles Dicken’s upbringing was not only humble, but his unfancied lifestyle seemed damnable with violence and turmoil which he often resented. Too often Dicken’s imagined a life of power, prestige and admiration, which seemed unobtainable at the age of 11 years. Much of his childhood, he worked tirelessly in Warren’s Blacking Factory, impoverished during his early teenage years, suffering a notion of captivity to his father’s needs who he was later imprisoned. Dickens lost the naivety children often possess and the instability made him feel unsafe most of his childhood (Andrews 298). His respite would lie within the depths of his broad novelistic outlooks that soon became the chronicle of his life’s purpose. The isolation and sorrow from his childhood experience, created one of the most well-known, tormented artists. Although his success may have brought wealth and he appeared to be fortunate in the epitome of his career, but he too often longed internally for a utopian life. He remained uncertain of his archetypical experience that his life would soon be mirrored to his life in one of his famous pieces of literature, Great Expectations (Meckier 554).
Ashamed of the neglect, his only respite came from the thought of developing fictional stories, still possessing tiny glimpses into the candidness of Dicken’s soul. Despite his adolescence and rise to fame, the tragic childhood events haunted him not only in his dreams, his life, as well as in his decisions (Andrews 307). Among his many manuscripts, including his first piece at the age of twenty four, Sketches of Boz, encompassed the thematic properties that existed politically. Though he fancied his reputation and rise to notoriety, an emptiness still remained, and his journalism became his reprieve. He longed to fill the void of his loveless tumultuous childhood, adulthood which was deteriorated by his father as well as the social and political conditions of England in the early 1800s. As he grew, Dickens worked tirelessly to became a self-made man born in a middle class family rising to one of England’s most celebrated and famous writers of his time (Meckier 539). Although his writings, journals, novels, speeches and success was admired, he temporarily filled the social void, with political ambiguity and his loveless life with scholarly words. As a renowned novelist, a man rising to fame, Dickens longed for love, and fell deeply for Catherine Hogarth. He shortly thereafter was engaged in 1835, and married a year later in April of 1836 (Friedman 79). Hogarth was born in Scotland and Dickens fancied a life filled with travels, adventure and notoriety. During the majority of the 1840’s his success became illustrious, but his marriage to Catherine Hogarth, became mundane and he fell quickly out of love. His work brought him and his family traveling across Europe. It appeared that Dickens, a hopeless romantic, attempted to use Catherine as his muse for creating remarkable pieces of works. However, he did not realize the true love of his life was his impeccable ability to write about undertaking philanthropic causes and utilizing his words to increase the attention social problems as an attempt to promote his egalitarian sentiments.
His writing during the 1840s focused solely on undertaking politics and childhood fear of the potential decline of England stemming from nationalism. Dickens felt unsupported by Catherine, and decided to end the marriage. Again, he fell quickly out of love for Catherine. His obsession with writing and compelling the world to follow his views were shattered with unrilvaled power presented world. The corrupt aristocratic government was not only mismanaged but both domestic and international social issues began to crumble. His world collapse before him, his fake muse, Catherine, faltered hope in society and his lack of security in the government caused him to reflect on his childhood and much of his adult life (Andrews 298).
When he left Catherine, he retired himself to his den. He reflected on his life and mirrored his journeys in one of the most epic novels that illustrated much of Dickens life, the naivty, the ineviable longing for a utopian life, where money, power and love could be accomplished without becoming corrupted. Great Expectations was written at the end of the 1850’s, written shortly after his divorce and the decline of the government. The novel was completed in 1860, addressing not only social issues, but also an analogous narration of Dicken’s life’s purpose (Dickens 4-24). This novel appeared to be autobiographical. The similarities to the protagonist, Pip, in Great Expectations emulated much of Dickens character. Additionally, the character desired wealth, education and love which all collapsed for Pip in the novel much like Dicken’s life. Dickens felt that money, power and love cannot all be assumed. It must be earned. The “great expectations” a person desires must be carefully acknowledged, as a person’s childhood can be shaped and an individual can possess a skewed viewpoint in the pursuit of fame and a better life. Inevitably Pip, and Dickens both learned that when a life crumbles, childhood perspective revolutionizes and a new desire for a “great expectation” is transformed. These prospects of change fared him to realize much of life’s’ purpose, and he emulated the protagonist character, Pip, simply desiring love, and not the fame and popularity. His novel emerged as a therapeutic tool to disengage from his poor upbringing. He came to terms with the past with through this novel (Friedman 70). His crumbling marriage was salvaged shortly after his novel Great Expectations, in the arms of another woman, Ellen Ternan. Ellen was to Dickens, as Estella was to Pip.
Dickens felt that the only way to obtain love, in Victorian times, is to become a true Gentleman (Friedman 5). He himself, Dickens, felt he obtained the sense of power. Even when he was stripped of his power, he realized only then, he obtained true grandness. The continuing theme in the novel, co-existed with the desire of wealth, power, pride and the ambition to become dehumanized. Ironically, Pip’s psyche was often haunted by the central theme and his misconceived notion that all the dehumanizing attributes would make him whole (Friedman 37). It is quite interesting the similarity between Pip’s character and Dicken’s persona. He, much like Pip, desired fortune and love. In the novel Great Expectations, Pip later learns, that although the “gentlemen” defined as Herbert Pocket and Bentley Drummle were not true gentlemen at all. When stripped of all power, a true “gentlemen” is exemplified through the characters of Joe and Magwitch in the novel, despite society’s terms of their title being ungentlemanly (Berra 28). Dicken’s wanted to emulate that image in his life. The façade of capital, does not create happiness and one’s expectations should not be superficial, because the pride and ambition will only result in a rather terrible irony in life. Dickens much like Pip, desired wealth, the status quo, the wife and lastly the façade. However Dicken’s great expectation was transformed just as Pip’s was, discovering to only obtain the structure and values of life, rather than what society’s corruptive views emphasized as ideal (Meckier 555).
- Andrews, Arlene Bowers. “Charles Dickens, Social Worker in His Time.” Social work 57.4 (2012): 297-307. ProQuest. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.
- Binet, David E. “CHARLES DICKENS: THE MAN WHO PUT THE “PIP” IN PIPA.” Boxoffice 148.5 (2012): 28,28,30. ProQuest. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.
- Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. London: Penguin, 1996.
- Friedman, Douglas Clayton. “Great Expectations and Great Performances: The Effects of Training Customers as Co-Producers.” Order No. 3192637 University of Michigan, 2005. Ann Arbor: ProQuest. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.
- Meckier, Jerome. “Great Expectations and Self-Help: Dickens Frowns on Smiles.” JEGP.Journal of English and Germanic Philology 100.4 (2001): 537-54. ProQuest. Web. 24 Apr. 2016.