Charles Dickens: Great Expectations – an audio guide

Great Expectations cover

‘you are to understand, Mr. Pip, that the name of the person who is your liberal benefactor remains a profound secret…’

Young Pip lives with his sister and her husband the blacksmith, with 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.

Use this audio-guide by Robert Douglas-Fairhurst of Magdalen College, Oxford, to explore aspects of the novel before you read, as you read, or after you finish the book.

Introducing Great Expectations

  • When Dickens began planning Great Expectations he was in the midst of a full-blown mid-life crisis. Click here to hear what was going on in his private life as the book began to take shape. [1:59]
  • Both Dickens and Pip were haunted by the ghosts of the past. Click here to discover how one chance encounter on the marshes set in motion a chain of cause and effect that shaped Pip’s whole life. [2:23]

Confronting the world

  • Pip wants to be ‘a young gentleman’ – but are gentlemen in Victorian England born or made? Click here to listen to Robert Douglas-Fairhurst explain how Dickens’ views developed over the course of his career. [5:50]
  • Miss Havisham, the jilted bride who stopped the clocks and resolved to take revenge on mankind, is one of the most memorable characters in all literature. Click here to learn more about her creator’s ambivalent attitudes to arresting time. [4:50]

The Final Chapter and Beyond

  • Does Great Expectations have a truly happy ending or is it more ambiguous than we tend to think? Click here to discover why Dickens was persuaded to change his original ending. [4:19]
  • Great Expectations is among the best-loved novels in English literature. Here Robert Douglas-Fairhurst speculates on why it continues to hold such appeal for readers at all stages of their lives. [4:57]
  • Click here to hear about Great Expectations in the context of nineteenth-century novel’s preoccupation with depicting the development of the self, and for some suggestions for other books you might enjoy. [1:52]