Great Expectations (Modern Library Classics Series)

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Overview

Introduction by George Bernard Shaw
 
Pip, a poor orphan being raised by a cruel sister, does not have much in the way of great expectations—until he is inexplicably elevated to wealth by an anonymous benefactor. Full of unforgettable characters—including a terrifying convict named Magwitch, the eccentric Miss Havisham, and her beautiful but manipulative niece, Estella, Great Expectations is a tale of intrigue, unattainable love, and all ...

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Great Expectations

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Overview

Introduction by George Bernard Shaw
 
Pip, a poor orphan being raised by a cruel sister, does not have much in the way of great expectations—until he is inexplicably elevated to wealth by an anonymous benefactor. Full of unforgettable characters—including a terrifying convict named Magwitch, the eccentric Miss Havisham, and her beautiful but manipulative niece, Estella, Great Expectations is a tale of intrigue, unattainable love, and all of the happiness money can’t buy. “Great Expectations has the most wonderful and most perfectly worked-out plot for a novel in the English language,” according to John Irving, and J. Hillis Miller declares, “Great Expectations is the most unified and concentrated expression of Dickens’s abiding sense of the world, and Pip might be called the archetypal Dickens hero.”
 
INCLUDES A MODERN LIBRARY READING GROUP GUIDE

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"No story in the first person was ever better told."
Saturday Review
Mr. Dickens may be reasonably proud of these volumes.... he has written a story that is new, original, powerful and very entertaining.... It is in his best vein, and although it is too slight, and bears many traces of hasty writing, it is quite worthy to stand beside Martin Chuzzlewit and David Copperfield.
—July 20, 1861
KLIATT - George Galuschak
Great Expectations opens on Christmas Eve. Seven-year-old Pip sits at his parents' tombstones in the marshes. He is set upon by an escaped convict, who demands food and a file; when the convict is recaptured, Pip settles back to life with his sister and her husband. The first great event in Pip's life occurs when he is escorted to the spooky old mansion of Miss Havisham to become the playmate of her ward, Estelle. Miss Havisham still wears her ancient bridal dress, and her decayed bridal cake sits on the table. She makes Pip want to be a gentleman so that he can win Estelle's hand. Soon afterwards a mysterious benefactor swoops in, and Pip is sent to London to be educated. Pip is happy that his dreams are coming true—he will become a gentleman and marry Estelle. Too bad life doesn't work that way. Many graphic adaptations of classics aren't exactly classics themselves, but Great Expectations is an enjoyable read that made me want to read the actual book, so mission accomplished. The story is gripping, with lots of twists and turns. Pip grows as a person, and—unlike real life—the characters get what they deserve. The full-color art is done by Rick Geary, who has worked in the Graphic Classics series. Great Expectations contains depictions of the human condition and is recommended for junior high and high school graphic novel collections, especially those that stockpile graphic adaptations of classics. Reviewer: George Galuschak
From Barnes & Noble
Considered by many to be Dickens's greatest work, this is a timeless story where vindictiveness and guilt clash with love and gratitude. Enriched by a cast of unforgettable characters, from the orphan Pip to the convict Magwitch and the bitter Miss Haversham.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780375757013
  • Publisher: Random House Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 2/28/2001
  • Series: Modern Library Classics Series
  • Edition description: 2001 MODER
  • Pages: 480
  • Sales rank: 811,469
  • Product dimensions: 5.10 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.95 (d)

Meet the Author

Charles Dickens

George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) was a leading playwright of the twentieth century. His plays include Man and Superman (1905), Major Barbara (1905), Pygmalion (1913), and Saint Joan (1923).

Biography

Born on February 7, 1812, Charles Dickens was the second of eight children in a family burdened with financial troubles. Despite difficult early years, he became the most successful British writer of the Victorian age.

In 1824, young Charles was withdrawn from school and forced to work at a boot-blacking factory when his improvident father, accompanied by his mother and siblings, was sentenced to three months in a debtor's prison. Once they were released, Charles attended a private school for three years. The young man then became a solicitor's clerk, mastered shorthand, and before long was employed as a Parliamentary reporter. When he was in his early twenties, Dickens began to publish stories and sketches of London life in a variety of periodicals.

It was the publication of Pickwick Papers (1836-1837) that catapulted the twenty-five-year-old author to national renown. Dickens wrote with unequaled speed and often worked on several novels at a time, publishing them first in monthly installments and then as books. His early novels Oliver Twist (1837-1838), Nicholas Nickleby (1838-1839), The Old Curiosity Shop (1840-1841), and A Christmas Carol (1843) solidified his enormous, ongoing popularity. As Dickens matured, his social criticism became increasingly biting, his humor dark, and his view of poverty darker still. David Copperfield (1849-1850), Bleak House (1852-1853), Hard Times (1854), A Tale of Two Cities (1859), Great Expectations (1860-1861), and Our Mutual Friend (1864-1865) are the great works of his masterful and prolific period.

In 1858 Dickens's twenty-three-year marriage to Catherine Hogarth dissolved when he fell in love with Ellen Ternan, a young actress. The last years of his life were filled with intense activity: writing, managing amateur theatricals, and undertaking several reading tours that reinforced the public's favorable view of his work but took an enormous toll on his health. Working feverishly to the last, Dickens collapsed and died on June 8, 1870, leaving The Mystery of Edwin Drood uncompleted.

Author biography from the Barnes & Noble Classics edition of David Copperfield.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Charles John Huffam Dickens (full name) "Boz" (pen name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      February 7, 1812
    2. Place of Birth:
      Portsmouth, England
    1. Date of Death:
      June 18, 1870
    2. Place of Death:
      Gad's Hill, Kent, England

Read an Excerpt

Chapter I.

My father's family name being Pirrip, and my christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than
Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.

I give Pirrip as my father's family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister – Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones. The shape of the letters on my father's, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair. From the character and turn of the inscription, "Also Georgiana Wife of the Above,"
I drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sickly. To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine – who gave up trying to get a living exceedingly early in that universal struggle – I am indebted for a belief I religiously entertained that they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trousers-pockets, and had never taken them out in this state of existence.

Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within as the river wound,
twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. At such a time I found out for certain, that this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard; and that Philip
Pirrip, late of this parish, and also Georgiana wife of the above, were dead and buried; and that Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias, and
Roger, infant children of the aforesaid, were also dead and buried; and that the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes;
and that the low leaden line beyond was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea; and that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was
Pip.

"Hold your noise!" cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among the graves at the side of the church porch. "Keep still, you little devil,
or I'll cut your throat!"

A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg. A man with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his head. A
man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; who limped, and shivered, and glared and growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin.

"Oh! Don't cut my throat, sir," I pleaded in terror. "Pray don't do it,
sir."

"Tell us your name!" said the man. "Quick!"

"Pip, sir."

"Once more," said the man, staring at me. "Give it mouth!"

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Reading Group Guide

1. The two endings to Great Expectations (see pp. 437-38 for a note about the original ending and the text of it) have been the source of endless controversy among critics. Which ending do you think is better and why?

2. What is the role of food and drink in the novel?

3. Critic Robin Gilmour argues that although Pip believes the savagery of the marshes and the refinement of Satis House are irreconcilably opposed, in fact "criminality and civilization, violence and refinement, Magwitch and Estella, are not warring opposites but intimately and inextricably bound together." Do you agree or disagree?

4. What accounts for Pip's moral regeneration in the third part of the novel?

5. Julian Moynahan, in a very influential essay on Great Expectations, argues that "Orlick rather than Magwitch is the figure from the criminal milieu of the novel whose relations to him come to define Pip's implicit participation in the acts of violence with which the novel abounds," suggesting, for example, that Orlick, in bludgeoning Mrs. Joe, merely acts as Pip's surrogate in taking revenge on her for her cruel treatment, and that Drummle, a duplication of Orlick, is likewise a surrogate for Pip in his beating of Estella. Moynahan is in part responding to Dorothy Van Ghent's claim in her 1953 book on the English novel that "[w]hat brings the convict Magwitch to the child Pip, in the graveyard, is more than the convict's hunger; Pip . . . carries the convict inside him, as the negative potential of his 'great expectations'-Magwitch is the concretion of [Pip's] potential guilt." Which side do you take in this debate?

6. How does place function in the novel? Consider such examples as the forge, the marshes, Satis House, and Newgate Prison.

7. Margaret Oliphant wrote in a 1862 review of Great Expectations: "So far as 'Great Expectations' is a sensation novel, it occupies itself with incidents all but impossible, and in themselves strange, dangerous, and exciting, but so far as it is one of the series of Mr Dickens's works, it is feeble, fatigued, and colourless. One feels that he must have got tired of it as the work went on, and that the creatures he had called into being, but who are no longer the lively men and women they used to be, must have bored him unspeakably before it was time to cut short their career, and throw a hasty and impatient hint of their future to stop the tiresome public appetite." Do you agree or disagree with this assessment?

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4
( 729 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(348)

4 Star

(182)

3 Star

(85)

2 Star

(39)

1 Star

(75)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 732 Customer Reviews
  • Posted July 16, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    A Masterpiece

    There are very few authors who were as generous as Charles Dickens. From eeire graveyard encounters and a creaky old mansion haunted by the spectral Ms. Havisham to the comedy of a chaotic production of Hamlet to the cold stones of Newgate prison, this is a book that covers a wide range of human emotions and experiences, all with Dicken's typical insights into human nature and loveable crew of characters.

    I will not waste time recounting the plot, but I will recommend this book based on the fact that you WILL relate to Pip if you have ever been ashamed of yourself for reasons you could not define, if you have ever felt that you wanted, nay deserved, more than the life you know, if you have ever deeply loved someone who didn't give a damn about you, or if you have ever been profoundly uncertain about what the future holds for you. In short, you will relate to Pip's journey if you are in the midst of growing up.

    It would be equally wasteful to praise the novel's expert craft and pacing. My one criticism would be that the ending is a bit of an anti-climax. However, upon further reflection (and I don't think this is giving too much away) I realized that is more or less the point of the book.

    Enjoy.

    24 out of 24 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 5, 2008

    Stunning

    As an eighth grader, I don't understand why some teens dislike this novel. Is it just because it's a bit longer than we are used to? For me, it is an outstanding classic. Pip faces problems that we still face today-our high expectations, our unsatisfying results. Admittedly, the novel is a bit long, but without the text it holds, we would never be able to truly grasp the theme Charles Dickens is trying to convey. Each detail, each scene, each chapter adds more to our understanding. I feel like I am there with Pip as the story progresses. The length of the book plays a key point in the novel, for it leads the reader through Pip's life, the good and the bad. Reading the book carefully allows the reader to really understand what Pip has been through, and how he compensates. This novel is a stunning classic, and will remain my favorite book.

    17 out of 19 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 26, 2012

    WOW!! BAD TYPOS

    Reading this book for the first time, I cant believe all the misspelled words and words that really did not make sense! I tried really hard to read this book, but after a short while, I just decided to buy the book instead of reading it on my NOOK. At least the actual book will have the right words and I will understand it!! Really someone needs to corrrect all the mistakes in the Nook version!!

    8 out of 12 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 3, 2010

    One of the Best Classics Ever Written

    Great Expectations was required reading material in high school back in the 1980's. And as a result has become one of my all time favorite classic works by Charles Dickens. Charles Dickens was such an excellent writer that he made the charaters come to life. This is one of those classics that you absolutely cannot put it down until you have finished it. As you start reading Great Expectations you feel like you are accompanying Pip on his journey through life. With the sounds, sights, and smells. Experienceing the ups and downs, that life has to offer. For instance lifes's humble beginnings, the twists and turns, and a very humgle ending.Starting life as he did Pip was not happy with his beginnings in life and always wanting more. From meeting unstable individuals in the prohibited marshes while playing, manners being tought from an old, rich, bitter woman, to the most unlikey of unnamed benifactors that you are likely to meet. To be making a move to London to go to school, being able to make friends with influentual individuals and experiencing who they live, and some people that are even simple in how they view life and just trying to get by as best they can. Pip did a wonderful very unselfish thing when he anominoulsy helped a friend reach his life long goals, for instance becoming part owner of a business, marrying the one he loves and having family. Which in the real world would never happen. The ending, I thought could have been left on a better note than it was. Great Expectations is a good book for the old addage "Be careful what you wish for". The out come of such wishes may or may not be what you expected.

    5 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 24, 2010

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    I Also Recommend:

    Beautifully Written

    I enjoyed htis much more than Oliver Twist! The characters were complex and facsinating! One thing is it's not the kind of book you can just pick up and read a page. It doesn't just pull you in, you have to focus.

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 27, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Stimulatingly Brilliant

    This beautifully written novel absolutely deserves its place as one of the crown jewels of Dickens' many works. It is very smoothly written however is somewhat dense and is therefore required to be read rather slowly to be digested properly. I would only recommend this book to those whom I know have the intellectual capability and the stamina to keep up with this rigorous work. Overall stupendous.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 4, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    My Expectations

    This book was forced upon me as summer reading. I struggled throught it. I had to reference to spark notes and the movie (something I NEVER do). But after I could get throught the writing style and look back on the story and the characters I sort of fell in love with it. So for a free read NO. But as for something analitical an absolute yes!

    4 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 16, 2008

    Good, If you have time.

    To enter Honors English, i was required to read Great Expectations. My first thought, and the thought of many other teens, was oh great, a lengthy book using old English vocabulary But i was surprised, i actually enjoyed it. It does get weak in some parts, but its a great piece of Literature.

    4 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 9, 2010

    Greta Expectaions

    It is an exceptional book. Charles Dickens uses the words as if he were a dictionary. Excellent control of superb words. It is amzaing how the rising action and falling action happens.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 22, 2010

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    You cant beat Dick...Even on a bad day

    Not even going to write a real review im just going to list reasons why its is the best piece of Literature on God's green earth

    1. it is the best piece of literature on god's green earth
    2. it is the best piece of literature on god's green earth
    3. it is the best piece of literature on god's green earth

    Go buy it unless you are a total commy

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 29, 2009

    Great Read!

    This is a great classic which everyone should read.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 25, 2008

    Amazing

    I found this book really well written. I personally recommend the unabridged version. After you get to understand the was he writes and the old english you will really enjoy it.

    3 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 20, 2012

    I Also Recommend:

    Great Expectations is truly a masterpiece. Dickens has given the

    Great Expectations is truly a masterpiece. Dickens has given the reader the life of Pip, a poor boy of no real expectations until chance affords him the opportunity to become someone of means. Dickens has created a character of such great depth that I grew to love the man Pip. Pip’s growth, his ability to convey feeling and his own acceptance of weakness in himself and others touched my heart. Yes it is a slow read but don't be discouraged. It's a treasure.

    When I recommend the Nook to anyone I always give as one reason the classics. Reading the classics on a Nook is much easier with the flexibility to change the font and the small size of the Nook itself leaving the reader less overwhelmed.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 19, 2012

    Read the simple version

    I read the simplified version and it was okay. It seemed a little boring and i eally hated estella cae she was suc a brat because she (being an orphan) was taught by her grandma i think she was to hate all men. It does have a kittle twist when it comes to his benefacter though. Over all i probably wouldnt pay the money i would just rent it from the libray.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 15, 2012

    Read this book! =D

    I first read this book in the eighth grade, and, upon reading the first line, I feel in love. I have always loved reading, and Charles Dickens never fails to entertain. He creates characters so life-like and real that you feel like you have known them all you life. You can really identify with these characters that are so abstract and complicated, yet so simple and heart-warming. Pip is such a dynamic character,and you really feel for him as he falls in love for the first time and tries to live up to the Great Expectations set for him.
    I love it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 9, 2011

    version- not good

    Although the STORY itself is a great classic, this free version has formatting problems that made it difficult for me to follow along, even as my daughter read aloud from a print copy. After a few pages, I went back online and paid 99 cents- and now can actually read the book!

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 21, 2011

    Truly Outstanding

    If you start reading this book and realize that there is a lot that could be cut out of it then you will probably enjoy it more. When I first started reading this book I couldn't believe how boring it was. Once I started getting into it, however, my opinion changed entirely. I didn't want to stop reading. Then there were some more dry chapters and I couldn't maintain interest. Then this book suddenly made me think I had been reading a mystery the whole time. It brought back details I didn't even think about. Everything came together and ended so well I could not believe how fantastic it was. I would highly recommend this book if you are willing to be bored through certain chapters.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted November 23, 2010

    Captivating

    There are so many good things about this book that I can hardly begin to describe it. From the dark, foreboding atmosphere of a graveyard, to a warm, comely English village to the bustling streets of London, Great Expectations contains vivid imagery that sucks you right into every scene, and a compelling narrative flows steadily through them.
    What I think sets this book apart from most others (as do all of Dickens' books, I have heard) is that whereas most authors intellectualize their stories, Dickens emphasizes on emotion, or rather uses emotion as a vehicle to carry his message.
    Dickens' novels have a common theme of social injustice, mainly against children, and this book's plot has a lot of depth and promotes timeless values such as forgiveness, sacrifice, not judging others, and paying your debts on time. A wonderful book for children, adults, and students, this increasingly unloving world could use more Dickens and less vampire novels.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 11, 2009

    And I thought the Bible was difficult to read...

    I am only aobut half way through this book at this point. I am following the story but the language sometimes makes the story difficult to follow. I did appreciate the definitions at the bottom of the pages for words we do not use any more. I guess I would recommend reading it, it is a classic.

    2 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2008

    A story well told.

    I'm currently a senior, and while I was not required to read this book, I had enjoyed Tale of Two cities by Charles Dickens, and had heard good things about Great Expectations from my father and a good friend. Many classics, while great books, don't always hook me and draw me in. This book did. Many are of the opinion that this book is very dark and brooding. It is a story with many dark and gritty elements to it, but when I read it, I didn't get the sense that the mood was dark and sober just for the sake of it. Rather I think Dickens was portraying just how harsh the world can be, and the corruption and selfishness that many people possess in pursuit of riches, property and status. In many ways, the journey of Pip reflects a story almost the same as that of the prodigal son. It's about a young man who feels restless and discontent with how life is, and feels that the pursuit of a greater life, status and riches are needed in order to gain happiness, and the woman he loves. Yet in the end, after all his expectations vanish into thin air and he's left worse than he was before, it's the family that he left in the pursuit of his expectations that pay his debts, and receive him with the same love they had for him before. Another side to this story that gripped me was his relationship with Miss Havisham and Estella. Miss Havisham is the living result of just how deeply a human heart can be hurt and broken by the cruelty of someone who they thought loved them, and how when we hold on to that hurt and brokenness, never forgetting or forgiving it ends up destroying us, and even more tragic cause us to hurt others in the same way. Which is what Miss Havisham does to Estella by raising her and teaching her to be a heartless woman who does not even comprehend love, and what Estella does to Pip by rejecting him and using him. Yet what amazed me most is even when Pip had every reason to rage and be consumed by anger and bitterness against Estella, he never stopped loving her, and resolved to remember her well even though she had thrown away his love. And even though Miss Havisham is responsible for Estella's heartlessness and now in a way his own heart being broken, he chooses to forgive her. Just the raw strength of this story left me amazed. I highly recommend it.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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