The Victorian Era:
A study of the setting of Charles Dickens’ novel, Great Expectations
• To fully appreciate an author’s work it is important
to understand not only the personal history of the
author, but also the social, political, and economic
contexts in which his work was created.
• Charles Dickens lived during the Victorian Era and
he made it the setting of Great Expectations.
• Thus, we must figure out what the Victorian Era
Here it from
Introduction Dickens himself!
Tap your Wizard of Oz shoes three times and feel yourself
transported back in time to England during the 1900s: The Victorian
Say farewell to President Obama; here there is no president, only a
ruling queen. Here, you’re not dating your girlfriend or boyfriend,
you’re courting. You commit a felony and you had better get used to
the ball and chain because you’re canned for life. You don’t watch
television, play video games, or edit your facebook profile for fun.
You read Charles Dickens’ latest installment of Great Expectations.
That is, if you can read and you’ve been
privileged enough to get an education.
Welcome to Victorian England . . .
T You will become better acquainted with this new
A world you’ve been placed in by . . .
S • Researching a particular aspect of the Victorian
Period and Industrial Revolution in England using
K provided internet resources,
• Sharing your research with a group,
• Presenting your research to the class
with your group. Victorian
PROCESS: Here’s How
1. Mrs. Tate will divide the class into groups. Find your group members.
2. Your group will be given 5 topics. Each group member will research a
topic. The group members must decide who will be responsible for the
allocation of topics.
3. You must research your topic using the Internet.
Begin with the websites Mrs. Tate provides for you and branch out
to other internet sites as necessary.
4. Mrs. Tate will also provide you with questions to guide your research.
Take notes as you research on the notes handout provided. This
will count toward your own independent grade.
PROCESS: Here’s How
5. Find your group members and share your findings. Discuss.
Mrs. Tate will give each group a chart divided into 5 columns with
each column labeled for a different topic.
While one student presents his or her notes to the group, another
student will write at least 5 facts about the topic in the appropriate
column in the chart.
Then the next student will share with the group and another student
will record the notes on the chart.
This will continue until each group member has shared his or her
topic and written on the chart. Ultimately, each topic should have 5
facts under it (not complete sentences, only key words or phrases).
6. Mrs. Tate will choose 1 of the 5 topics for your group to present to the
Each student in the group will be responsible for sharing 1 of the 5
facts about the topic selected by Mrs. Tate.
S Select your topic to find a list of questions to guide your research.
FACTORIES, & FAMILY &
Begin your research by exploring the sites below. You may choose to
expand your research by discovering other sites as well.
BBC’s History Trail of Victorian Britain
Find information on industry and invention; earning a living;
social conditions; the state, education, and health; women at home;
and women out and about.
The Victorian Web
A resource on the Victorian Era in general, including facts on a
range of topics.
Visit the “Themes Gallery” and “Victorian Legacy” for truly
interesting primary documents and pictures related to your topic.
Facts about the daily life of Victorians: work, play,
education, family life, and much more.
• Who was Queen Victoria? What are important biographical
details about her?
•What important events preceded her reign?
•When did she reign?
•What were the major political events during her reign (in
•What important international political events occurred during
•How did the people view Queen Victoria?
• How do you think people in England or in America would
view the idea of a female leader today?
•What contributions did she make to British society, literature,
•How is Queen Victoria remembered today?
•Who rules England today and makes decisions for the
country? How does this compare to America’s system of
• Describe the various levels of society during the • How did men and women interact?
19th century. What rules governed these levels? •Who could be a lady or gentleman in 19th century
• What kinds of movement between these levels England?
were possible for a man or woman? • Explain the importance of one’s birthright in
• How did adults address each other in the various Victorian England.
levels of society? • What role did a person’s past play in his/her life?
• Look at 19th century clothing as a reflection of the • Compare the importance of roles in society then
various levels of society. and now.
• Explain the roles of men and women. How were • What were dating, courtship, and marriage “rules”?
they alike? How were they different? How do they compare to today’s customs of dating
• What was acceptable behavior and employment and marriage?
for men and women?
• Study the penal system during the Resources
19th century. What is a debtor’s
• What did a prison look like? Find
pictures of a typical debtor’s prison
•How were convicts treated after their
and post on the class wiki.
release from prison?
• What were prison conditions like?
• How do 20th century penal systems
• Who was sent to debtor’s prison?
compare to those of the 19th century?
• What were typical crimes and
• What was Dickens’ stance on
punishments in Victorian England?
prisons and treatment of prisoners?
• What is a penal colony? Give an
• What were other types of prisons?
example of a penal colony.
For what were they used?
• What was the Industrial Revolution? •What were the common trades in England?
• What was happening to the working person Investigate the trades—especially Blacksmithing.
during the Industrial Revolution? • What view did society hole toward factories,
• What was it like to work in factories? What trades, and the workers of each?
was a typical day? Workweek? • What is an apprenticeship? How does it differ
• What was the currency used in 19th century from internships or job shadowing in today’s
England? Convert the currency to dollars today. society?
• How much money did the average worker • How do the factories and trades of 19th century
make? Research the economic levels of other England compare with those of today?
members of society during the 19th century. •Find pictures of equipment & tools used in the
• Look at the economic picture of England factories & trades. Post these on the class wiki.
during the reign of Queen Victoria. What were Explain the use of the trade tools.
the prosperous years? The lean years? •How ere the tools in use during this time period
different from those used today?
• What was the basic structure of the family during the Resources
•With what kind of issues or struggles did families
have to deal?
•What were the living conditions like?
•How were children’s destinies affected by their place
•How would the families of the 19th century compare
with the families of today?
•What types of problems did the youth of Dickens’
•What solutions do you see to some of the problems
of youth in that society?
•How do they differ from the problems of youth
•How did society at large look at children and youth
during Dickens’ time?
•What attitudes did adults hold toward youth?
•What was the educational structure in Dickens’
• Who went to school? How many years of
education did people receive?
•What was the focus of the school curriculum?
•Compare the educational systems of the 19th century
and the 20th century.
• Would you prefer going to school in the 19th century
or 20th century? Explain.
Criteria Advanced Proficient Basic Below Basic
Note-taking Accurate, relevant, & Accurate & relevant data Mostly accurate & Minimal and/or
& Research: interesting data recorded recorded that provides a relevant data recorded inaccurate/irrelavant data
that provides an excellent sufficient understanding that provides a basic recorded that does little to
How well you understanding of the topic; of the topic; some understanding of the help audience understand
worked responses to higher-order interesting facts; almost all topic; few interesting the topic; no interesting
questions demonstrate questions answered; facts; most questions are facts; little effort to answer
insight; all questions responses to higher-order answered; responses to questions; responses to
answered questions demonstrate higher-order questions higher-order questions are
thoughtfulness lack insight dull
Collaboration: Student observed listening Student observed Student observed Student observed not
to, respecting, & listening to & respecting listening to ideas of listening to ideas or
How well you supporting the ideas & the ideas & efforts of group members on and respecting efforts of group
worked with others efforts of group members group members and off and contributing to members and not
& contributing contributing to project in project in written and contributing positively in
constructively to project in written and oral form; oral form; chart is neat written and/or oral form;
written and oral form; chart chart is neat, & legible & mostly legible chart is messy & difficult to
is neat, & legible read
Listening Skills: Student gives the presenter Student gives the Student does not listen, Student does not listen
his or her full attention and presenter some attention but does not interrupt and/or interrupts others
How well you listen doesn’t interrupt and doesn’t interrupt others
to other groups give
Presentation Student maintains eye Student maintains eye Student occasionally Student relays information
Skills: contact throughout; chart is contact most of the time; uses eye contact; relies with no or minimal eye
a tool not a crutch; uses chart is a tool not a too heavily on chart; low contact; prefers contact
How well you speak clear, audible voice; sounds crutch; clear, audible voice that is difficult to with chart rather than
to and look at your engaging and enthusiastic voice hear audience; mumbles
How helpful were the Internet Resources for
researching your topic?
Which Internet Resource did you find most
helpful? Least helpful?
Rate your individual researching effort for this
webquest on a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being no effort and
5 being above and beyond. Explain rating.
Rate your individual effort while sharing with your
group (respect and support of opinions, clear
explanation) and creating the group chart
(contribution, neatness) on a scale of 1 to 5, 1
being no effort and 5 being above and beyond.
Rate your individual effort while presenting to class
(clarity, eye contact, poise, elocution) on a scale of
1 to 5, 1 being no effort and 5 being above and
beyond. Explain rating.
Rate your presentation performance as a group on
a scale of 1 to 5, 1 being no effort and 5 being
above and beyond. Explain rating.
What did you learn through working on this
project and collaborating with other people?
It’s time to tap your Wizard of Oz shoes again and return to 21st century America.
Though you have just concluded your webquest, you have only just begun your
study of Great Expectations. Your knowledge of Victorian England will help you
understand the characters, places, social situations, and events that you encounter
as you read the novel. To see just how much you’ve learned and its value, see if
you can tell anything more about these characters from their short description:
Mrs. Joe Gargery – She constantly wears an apron.
Joe Gargery – He is a blacksmith.
Pip – He is an orphan.
The convict – He is just that: an escaped criminal.
Without having even begun reading you can already
infer so much about these important characters just
from your webquest study! Now it’s time to meet
them in the book. Start reading!