“Oh no, not Great Expectations!” 

“Why are we reading Charles Dickens?”

“A book this long must be so boring! And, look it was written back in the 1800s!”

Comments like these flood my classroom as I pass out copies of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations– and maybe not so surprisingly also among my college educated friends (non-English majors, that it is) when I enlighten them with my current classroom text.

As much as we like to complain about “old” authors or “long” novels, Charles Dickens has influenced literature, language, and our culture in more ways than we know. And, what better time to celebrate the lasting impact of an author from Victorian England than on his 200th birthday?

In honor of Dickens, Time magazine author Radhika Jones is blogging Dickens’ Top Ten Novels as part of her monthly theme of “Why to Read Dickens Now (Or Watch Him On TV)”. As of February 1st, she’s gotten up to book #5— and she hasn’t covered Great Expectations yet.

Dickens’ writing may seem daunting–, but as Jones writes in her article, “Reading Dickens now, you can still feel the energy that drove that huge leap in literacy — the energy that created demand and then satisfied it. It’s wrapped up in the idea that reading can change lives, from an individual’s life to the collective life of a nation.”

Dickens wrote about everyone and everything in his novels– from the boy in love with the “popular girl”  to the mysterious millionaire benefactor to the crazy old cat lady– and after closely looking at our assigned text, Great Expectations, it’s clear why Dickens appealed to the masses of his time: he wrote the first soap opera, Victorian England’s own version of Friends, with a little bit of Growing Pains thrown in there.

It’s my hope that during our unit on Great Expectations, you will come to appreciate Dickens’ writing and recognize his pervasiveness in our culture today.  Have fun blogging!