I’m going to admit it – I was wrong about Dickens. Great Expectations is a fantastic book and Charles Dickens is not a demon sent to earth to torture centuries of school children – he’s actually a good writer!
The story of Pip’s journey from humble beginnings as a blacksmith’s apprentice to London and his ‘great expectations’ takes the reader on a thrilling and heart-wrenching quest. His love for the cold, emotionless Estella drives him to forsake his past and family in order to be the kind of man she would want to marry. Many of the characters in Great Expectations struggle with the sin of pride, including Miss Havisham, the damaged woman who raises Estella. Like many others, I found Miss Havisham to be the most powerful and unforgettable character in the novel. Her bitterness has turned her life, every aspect of it, to rot. The scene when she realizes how she has let her pain and shame fester and infect herself, Estella, her family and even Pip, is one of the most memorable and shocking scenes of the book.
The novel is chock-full of amusing, frightening, annoying, well-drawn characters such as Mr. Jaggers, Wemmick, Orlick, Pumblechook, Magwitch and the saintly and loveable Joe. What I enjoyed most about the book were the characters and their quirks, their failings, and gentle acts of kindness.
The plot was surprisingly moving to me and I even found myself stifling tears a few times near the end of the book. I was astonished to discover who Pip’s patron was and did not imagine that the novel would end the way it did. As Pip’s expectations are slowly dashed against the rocks of reality I had to wonder how his life would turn out and I was not disappointed with the result. I think the ending (the revised one) was beautiful and perfect.
I am glad I finally got over my fear and disregard for Dickens. I feel that I can now go on and read many more of his novels without hesitation.
Which Dickens would you recommend I read next?
This is the first book I’ve finished for the Classics Challenge. Hurray! Here is my next choice: