The newly established text is based on all extant materials and is accompanied by several textual essays. "Backgrounds" provides readers with an understanding of Great Expectations's inception and internal chronology. A discussion of the public-reading version of the novel is also included. A wonderfully rich "Contexts" section collects thirteen pieces, centering on the novel's major themes: the link between author and hero and, relatedly, Victorian notions of gentility, snobbishness, and social mobility; the often brutal training, at home and at school, of children born around 1800; and the central issues of crime and punishment. "Criticism" gathers twenty-two assessments of Great Expectations, both contemporary and modern, which offer a range of perspectives on Dickens and his novel.