Dickens’s Great Expectations: The Gothic, The Uncanny and The Supernatural

Lesson rationale

This activity will introduce the idea of the uncanny and explore its expression within the narrative form of Charles Dickens’s novel Great Expectations. Considering Freud’s essay, Das Umheimliche (1919), students will identify and examine the unique quality of the uncanny that is both distinct from - and yet contained within - the notion of the Gothic and its supernatural manifestations.

Key questions in this lesson:

  • How is the Gothic depicted in Great Expectations?
  • What are specific elements of the uncanny?
  • How does Dickens give the uncanny a unique twist within the novel in terms of characterization?
  • What is the purpose of the uncanny and Pip’s progression towards self-realization?