Considered by many critics to be Charles Dickens's most psychologically acute self-portrait, Great Expectations is without a doubt one of Dickens's most fully-realized literary creations. Work on Great Expectations commenced in late September of 1860 at what proved to be a peak of emotional intensity for its author. Two years before, Dickens had separated from Catherine, his wife of twenty-two years; and several weeks prior to the beginning of this novel, Dickens had burned all his papers and correspondence of the past twenty years at his Gad's Hill estate. This action, in retrospect, can be viewed as the sort of spiritual purge (think of Pip's burnt hands/Miss Havisham on fire)—an attempt to break decisively from the past in order (paradoxically) to fully embrace it, as he does so resonantly in this work. The writing of Great Expectations, and by extension the creation of its protagonist, Pip, therefore, can be viewed as the kind of excavation for its author, the cathartic attempt to address the painful facts of his childhood—particularly the family's chronic economic instability, that culminated in his father's imprisonment due to financial bankruptcy. Also paramount in his psychological make-up were Dickens's consignment at the age of twelve to work as the child laborer at Warren's Blacking factory (a secret no one but his closest friend, John Forster, knew) and his subsequent separation from his family as the result—all of which took place over the course of two months. This period in the young boy's life, then, represents both the literal and meta-phorical "orphaning" and was certainly the crucible in which his personality was formed. This sense of primal loss, and fear of impending economic ruin manifested itself later in Dickens's own Herculean and obsessive efforts to busy himself (often simultaneously) as the writer, editor, and public speaker— as if this were the only way he could ensure himself of financial solvency.
it came to pass they turned full circle,
and took the hidden track to the west,
which soon came unto a passage downwards,
on dimly seen ancient mouldering steps,
on the fringes of a great building stark,
standing monolithic against eerie twilight,
oozing power grandeur and mystery,
epitomizing its arcane dark might,
and they descended steps in silence,
not a word whisper nor sigh,
till they stood before a monumental door,
many meters wide, many meters high,
and the rat said we know what is beyond,
as we got there by another strange way,
but we have never opened this door,
we just know there are words here to say,
as we listened to the Pious Priest's prayers,
heard when mentioned the great door ajar,
from words incanted, by elders implanted,
by those old ones descended from mars ,
and the man with the stars quietly spoke,
in a language none there had ever heard,
and rumbling started to emanate,
as if something mighty had stirred,
and tiny gap appeared at the edge,
hinges creaked and shook off their grime,
and the door slowly opened inwardly,
for only the twenty first time.
and beyond the door light,
little expected down here underground,
they were prepared for darkness,
they were prepared for unusual sounds,
but this light shining bright towards them,
seemed somehow out of place and time,
yet forward they strode, into this abode,
courageous body in their prime.
And incredible sight greeted them,
Not a hint of age or decay was betrayed,
but a building so fine, a design sublime,
great creation beautifully displayed.

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