Charles Dicken’s friend and biographer, John Forster referred to Dicken’s work as “the attraction of repulsion”. To what extent may this phrase be applied to Great Expectations?
Word limit: 1000 words
Notes to students:
Read and understand the novel Great Expectations in its entirety. You should try to interpret and explain what is meant by the given quotation. Consider unique features of the novel, especially in terms of both its Realist and Gothic motifs, when you attempt to establish the relevance of the above quotation within it.
You should also read “The Realistic Imagination” by George Levine and “On Great Expectations” by Dorothy van Ghent.
Questions to consider:
(i) What exactly would be considered “repulsive” of the novel? Would this term be strictly applicable to aesthetic features and concepts within the text, or could it be applied to human characters and relationships?
(ii) What did Forster mean by this paradoxical phrase and can it also be applied to Dicken’s satirical style of writing? What are the instances when readers are both repulsed? Yet attracted to specific occurrences and motifs at the same time? Do characters express the same sentiments?
(iii) Is this paradoxical idea something which contributes to the realism of the novel or does it enhance its non-realist aspects?
Bear in mind that while you may include historical data to strengthen your argument, your focus should still be on literary interpretation. Avoid the temptation to make awkward and simplistic comparisons with our ‘reality’ and or modern ‘society’ as we know it. Also be sure, to avoid mere description or summary.It is not enough yo simply state what is taking place in the novel. For instance if you list all the examples of realism in the novel, this would constitute mere description. Instead your focus should be on the given quotation and how it may be applied to the novel and how it enhances or detracts from the sense of realism. You should also consider the extent to which Forster’s opinion is applicable to the text, as you may arrive at the conclusion that this paradox only forms a minor part of the novel. Most important of course, would be how you justify your argument and the evidences you choose to corroborate your claims.
Textual evidences is critical in proving your point, but avoid lengthy quotations; be succinct as you must abide to the stipulated word count.
Ensure that you have a clear structure, with an introduction and thesis statement, body paragraphs with topic sentences, and a relevant conclusion. Proper citation is also necessary to avoid plagiarism.
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