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Watch Great Books online: Episode 1 Great Expectations

This is what it's like to be outside, looking in. Dickens used the story of a blacksmith's boy who rises from the working class into a life of leisure to hold a mirror up to Victorian society and ask, what is it that really makes a gentleman? For once, the reaction of the British aristocracy was to grow a conscience. But, before such soul-refinement could occur, Dickens' character had to pass from the largely unreported, dark world of lower-class Britain, far, far up to its dizzying - but not so enlightened - heights. Along the way, there is the pain of falling in love with the wrong person, the pleasure of having dreams come true, and the realization that no matter how far you run, you can never really escape your past. As the boy plays the remarkable hand life has dealt him, its hard not to wonder what any of us would do in his place, on the brink of destiny, just waiting to see what the future holds.

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