Great Expectations ~ Charles Dickens

great expectationsSummary:  Pip is a young boy born into very unfortunate circumstances.  He lives with his older-by-20-years sister, who “brought him up by hand,” frequently beating him with the cane known as “Tickler.”  His only consolation is his sister’s husband, Joe, who is a blacksmith and faithful companion to Pip.  Pip’s life begins to change when Mrs. Havisham, an eccentric old rich woman, hires him to basically come to her house and play cards.  There, he falls in love with the cruel yet beautiful Estella, who has been taught to hate all men by Mrs. H.  Why?  The now-ancient Mrs. Havisham was jilted at her wedding when she was young.  Estella mocks his “course and common” ways and Pip is determined to become an educated gentleman to win her heart.  He is granted gentleman status by a mysterious benefactor, but then runs into moral and financial problems on his way to greatness.

Recommendation:  Fair warning: this book took me forever to read, and that’s why the review is coming in a little late.  (Sorry!)  Get ready for a challenge if you do read it, because Dickensian language is often hard to understand, which forces you to re-read passages ridiculously often.  Most of the time, though, you won’t have trouble following along.  And let me tell you, it’s a highly enjoyable experience.  Most people wouldn’t expect a classic work of literature to be utterly hilarious, but this one is.  The first third of Great Expectations is incredibly comical (see favorite passages below).  After that, the novel sadly takes a turn towards the dramatic and suspenseful.  But that isn’t entirely a bad thing – I would have preferred it to stay comical, but I still couldn’t put the book down.  All of the interweaving plots will keep you on the tip of your toes, especially since one of the book’s major conflicts doesn’t get resolved until the last few pages.  Great Expectations, like Dickens’s other books (I imagine), requires extra concentration.  Even though it was a bit above my level, I enjoyed the challenge it put me up to.

Favorite Passages:  “I heard her steps proceed to the pantry.  I saw Mr. Pumblechook balance his knife.  I saw re-awakening appetite in the Roman nostrils of Mr. Wopsle.”

“…I became calm enough to release my grasp and partake of pudding.  Mr. Pumblechook partook of pudding.  All partook of pudding.”

“I think the Romans must have aggravated on another very much with their noses.  Perhaps, they became the restless people they were, in consequence.  Anyhow, Mr. Wopsle’s Roman nose so aggravated me during the recital of my misdemeanours, that I should have liked to pull it until he howled.”

“There were three ladies in the room and one gentleman.  Before I had been standing at the window five minutes, they somehow conveyed to me that they were all toadies and humbugs, but that each of them pretended not to know that the others were toadies and humbugs: because the admission that he or she did know it, would have made him or her out to be a toady and humbug.”

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