Monday, April 21, 2014

Oh, Pip

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Genre: Classic

"In an overgrown churchyard, a grizzled convict springs upon an orphan boy named Pip. The convict terrifies Pip and threatens to kill him unless the boy helps further his escape. Later, Pip finds himself in a ruined garden where he meets the embittered and crazy Miss Havisham and her foster child, Estella, with whom he instantly falls in love.

"After a secret benefactor gives him a fortune, Pip moves to London, where he cultivates great expectations for a life that would allow him to discard his impoverished beginnings and socialize with members of the idle upper class. As Pip struggles to become a gentleman, he slowly learns the truth about himself and his illusions, and is tormented endlessly by the beautiful Estella."

I feel kind-of ambivalent towards this Dickens novel. I liked it okay, but it wasn't my favorite. I liked Our Mutual Friend and Bleak House by him much better; possibly because my version of Bleak House had illustrations and the ending of Great Expectations was more mournful than the endings of those other novels. I was also annoyed with the main character, Pip, at times, who seemed bratty and jerkish, but it helped that the prospective was from his present self looking back, so that he saw these faults in himself.

True to Dicken's form, the action gets quite exciting in the last third of the book. So if you can hang on until then, there is some great action and plot twists that will surprise and delight you (at least they did to me). The main character was also funny at times, and Dickens always has several humorous depictions of his characters. The main points of the novel were true, and I often felt like I was learning along with misled little Pip.

Although it's long and sometimes dull, I found this novel worth reading, and Dickens does reward you in the last hundred pages or so. I will not soon get these characters out of my mind (especially good old Joe!).

I give Great Expectations a 3.75 and recommend it for 17 year olds and up because of the eloquent language and depth of the material.

What I learned: What it took to be a gentleman in London in the 19th century and how people were treated if they were viewed as such. A person's worth isn't in their social standing or lack thereof.

One of my favorite quotes: "I'll tell you...what real love is. It is blind devotion, unquestioning self-humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and against the whole world, giving up your whole heart and soul..."

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