Great Expectations, many readers’ favorite Dickens novel, is immensely popular for its self-portrait of the author and for the warmth, feeling, and reality that it imparts to what is essential in human experience. Because of the deep impressions his own childhood made on him, Dickens is a novelist of childhood. He presents children, especially Pip, with sympathy and understanding, creating a sensitive orphan boy with whom every reader can identify. The other characters of the story are also fascinating: the half-demented old Miss Havisham; Estella, her haughty adopted daughter; the convict Magwitch; and Joe Gargery, the tenderhearted blacksmith. Another reason for the novel’s popularity is its intriguing plot, filled with adventure, romance, excitement, mystery, and suspense.
Dickens is not only a master storyteller but also a reformer and humanitarian. His novels attack inequities of the social and economic system of Victorian England. In particular, Great Expectations exposes the brutal treatment of convicts, the misery of the London slums, the indifference of society to the underprivileged, and the cruelty and corruption of institutions. The reader leaves the novel with a deeper understanding of justice and social responsibility.