Great Expectations

Great Expectations & Oliver Twist

During his lifetime, Charles Dickens is known to have written

several books. Although each book is different, they also share many

similarities. Two of his books, Great Expectations and Oliver Twist,

are representatives of the many kinds of differences and similarities

found within his work.

Perhaps the reason why these two novels share some of the same

qualities is because they both reflect painful experiences which

occurred in Dickens' past. During his childhood, Charles Dickens

suffered much abuse from his parents.1 This abuse is often expressed

in his novels. Pip, in Great Expectations, talked often about the

abuse he received at the hands of his sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery. On one

occasion he remarked, "I soon found myself getting heavily bumped from

behind in the nape of the neck and the small of the back, and having

my face ignominously shoved against the wall, because I did not answer

those questions at sufficient length."2

While at the orphanage, Oliver from Oliver Twist also experienced

a great amount of abuse. For example, while suffering from starvation

and malnutrition for a long period of time, Oliver was chosen by the

other boys at the orphanage to request more gruel at dinner one night.

After making this simple request, "the master (at the orphanage) aimed

a blow at Oliver's head with the ladle; pinioned him in his arms; and

shrieked aloud for the beadle."3

The whole beginning of Oliver Twist's story was created from

memories which related to Charles Dickens' childhood in a blacking

factory ( which was overshadowed by the Marshalsea Prison ).4 While

working in the blacking factory, Dickens suffered tremendous

humiliation. This humiliation is greatly expressed through Oliver's

adventures at the orphanage before he is sent away.

Throughout his lifetime, Dickens appeared to have acquired a

fondness for "the bleak, the sordid, and the austere."5 Most of

Oliver Twist, for example, takes place in London's lowest slums.6 The

city is described as a maze which involves a "mystery of darkness,

anonymity, and peril."7 Many of the settings, such as the pickpocket's

hideout, the surrounding streets, and the bars, are also described as

dark, gloomy, and bland.8 Meanwhile, in Great Expectations, Miss

Havisham's house is often made to sound depressing, old, and lonely.

Many of the objects within the house had not been touched or moved in

many years. Cobwebs were clearly visible as well as an abundance of

dust, and even the wedding dress which Miss Havisham constantly wore

had turned yellow with age.9

However, similarities are not just found in the settings. The

novels' two main characters, Pip and Oliver, are also similar in many

ways. Both young boys were orphaned practically from birth; but where

Pip is sent to live with and be abused by his sister, Oliver is sent

to live in an orphanage. Pip is a very curious young boy. He is a

"child of intense and yearning fancy."10 Yet, Oliver is well spoken.

Even while his life was in danger while in the hands of Fagin and Bill

Sikes, two conniving pickpockets, he refused to participate in the

stealing which he so greatly opposed. All Oliver really longed for was

to escape from harsh living conditions and evil surroundings which he

had grown up in.11 However, no matter how tempting the evil may have

been, Oliver stood by his beliefs. Therefore, he can be referred to as

"ideal and incorruptible innocence."12 "It is Oliver's self-generated

and self-sustained love, conferred it would seem from Heaven alone,

that preserves him from disaster and death."13

Unfortunately, many critics have found it hard to believe that a

boy such as Oliver Twist could remain so innocent, pure, and well

spoken given the long period of time in which he was surrounded by

evil and injustices.14

Pip, on the other hand, is a dreamer. His imagination is always

helping him to create situations to cover up for his hard times. For

example, when questioned about his first visit to Miss Havisham's

house, he made up along elaborate story to make up for the terrible

time he had in reality. Instead of telling how he played cards all day

while being ridiculed and criticized by Estella and Miss Havisham, he

claimed that they played with flags and swords all day after having

wine and cake on gold plates.15 However, one special quality possessed

by Pip that is