A few years ago a proud high school student gave me an essay he’d written on Great Expectations (1861), a novel set in the late-Georgian period. He’d received top marks for arguing the novel was about child abuse. What struck me was the way his argument assumed Dickens shared our twenty-first-century views on the subject. Wanting to support any student showing an interest in literature, I didn’t mention Dickens had other things in mind, even if the novel does contain what we now construe as child abuse; for example, Pip gets bullied and beaten a lot, mostly from his older…
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