I know this is kind of late, but I guess better late than never! Though Oscar Wilde felt very differently about that quote! But as usual I digress; this is not a post about Oscar Wilde but about Charles Dickens’s Great Expectation.
Now I know in bits and parts I have moaned about the fact that I did not like this book at all during my middle school and I still do not understand the point of making 13 year olds read Dickens or Bronte or Eilliot! I mean these authors did not write young adult books, they wrote absolutely adult books – you know by adults, of adults and for adults! But why do schools insist on putting young students through such torture is beyond me – I mean I am sure a lot of my contemporaries have developed an absolute horror for literature because of such childhood inflictions. The schools should stick to Ann of Green Gables and at their most ambitious, Little Women. Not more than that! They should seriously consider how many readers they are turning away by forcing them to read “great literature” when the audience concerned can barely spell literature! I mean the estates/publishers of Brontes and Dickens should seriously consider suing the school boards. But again I digress.
So thanks to the July Spin of Classics Club, I was forced to confront my nemesis – I have never been fond of Dickens and the childhood experience kind of left me wary. Add to that my last trial with the Classic Club Spin – I came away disliking Madame Bovary as much as before and was glad when I was done with it. So it was with some perdition that I picked up Great Expectations. But am I glad I did! I l loved the book! Absolutely loved it! Just goes to show that one cannot always go by experience and stereotypes
I am sure most people know the story of Great Expectations – Orphaned Pip is growing up with his harridan of a sister and kind brother in law, until a fruitful encounter with an escaped convict whom he manages to assist, though the former is caught and sent away. The next adventure that comes back in Pip’s life is to “come and play” at Miss Havisham’s house, the most wealthy denizen of the town. There he meets and falls in love with Estella, Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter. As he falls deeper and deeper in love with Estella, he is horrified to know that he cannot be “gentleman” capable of courting Estella and his life was to be confined to the iron forges of his brother in law’s trade. An unexpected turn of event changes his life as he is made aware that an anonymous benefactor whose identity is not be disclosed and who has endorsed Mr Jaggers, the lawyer to act as a guardian to Pip and enable him to receive a gentleman’s education and live in that style. Pip is then moved from Kent and his adventures in London and his coming of age is the main plot line of the book.
Now what I really love about the book is the details – whether it is the description of the Christmas Lunch or the description of the now devastated venue of Miss Havisham‘s wedding or John Wemmick’s “Castle”. I am also extremely enamored of the characters – one cannot help but love the kind hearted Joe or the sensible Biddy, one wants a friend like Herbert and despite the entire idiosyncrasy, there is certain pathos about Miss Havisham which really moved me. I am still unsure about Estella, but I did dislike her as much as I had when I originally read the book. Most importantly what I loved about the book was the “humane” depiction on Pip and his actions. When Joe first comes to visit Pip, Pip’s behavior leaves one much ashamed and yet I am sure that many and that too many honest people would act in a similar fashion in that kind of time and place. But again the true portrayal of the vast range of emotions that a human is capable when the same Pip goes to John Wemmick and requests that he assist him in setting up Herbert without letting him know that Pip is his benefactor and he has not really “earned” the partnership. And finally the end wins your heart for ever – you realize Pip is just like you capable of great things and though the end does not come with a perfect ending, I cannot help but think that in the imperfection of the ending lies the most perfect piece of the tale. Otherwise there were one too many neat packages in the book!
Like I said, I loved it and I would strongly recommend reading it. In fact the book has made me brave enough to attempt Bleak House and David Copperfield again!