Great Expectations

Great Expectations

In what may be Dickens's best novel, humble, orphaned Pip is apprenticed to the dirty work of the forge but dares to dream of becoming a gentleman — and one day, under sudden and enigmatic circumstances, he finds himself in possession of "great expectations." In this gripping tale of crime and guilt, revenge and reward, the compelling characters include Magwitch, the fearf...

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Title:Great Expectations
Author:Charles Dickens
Rating:
ISBN:0192833596
Edition Language:English
Format Type:Paperback
Number of Pages:505 pages

Great Expectations Reviews

  • Chicklet
    Aug 19, 2007

    Boring, dull, lifeless, and flat. This is so drawn out and boring I kept having to remind myself what the plot was.

    Best to get someone else to sum up the story rather than undergo the torture of reading it.

  • Michael Kneeland
    Jul 04, 2008

    My students (and some of my friends) can't ever figure out why I love this novel so much. I explain how the characters are thoroughly original and yet timeless, how the symbolism is rich and tasty, and how the narrative itself is juicy and chock-full of complexity, but they just shake their heads at me in utter amazement and say, "What's wrong with you, dude?"

    What's wrong, indeed.

    I give them ten or fifteen years. Perhaps they'll have to read it again in college, or maybe they'll just try reading

    My students (and some of my friends) can't ever figure out why I love this novel so much. I explain how the characters are thoroughly original and yet timeless, how the symbolism is rich and tasty, and how the narrative itself is juicy and chock-full of complexity, but they just shake their heads at me in utter amazement and say, "What's wrong with you, dude?"

    What's wrong, indeed.

    I give them ten or fifteen years. Perhaps they'll have to read it again in college, or maybe they'll just try reading it again as an adult to see if they can try to figure out why it's such a "classic," but after some time has passed from their initial encounter with the novel, they will find that I am not so crazy after all and that the book is in fact one of the best examples--if not

    best example--of the novel. This happens to me all the time: I will re-read something I was forced to read in middle school and high school, remembering how much I hated it then, and will find that I actually love it now, as an adult. Sure, those "classics" may have taught me something about literary analysis, symbolic patterns, and the like, but I couldn't appreciate it for its complexity until I was older. I guess the rule of wine appreciation applies here, too: good taste only comes after much patience and experience.

    ***

    Perhaps the thing I love best about this novel is the cast of characters--their names as well as their personalities. Ms. Havisham is one of my favorite characters to ever appear in all of the literature I have read. There is so much density and complexion to her character that I could literally make an entire career out of writing discourses on her characterization. She has even invaded the way I think about the world and the people I have met: I have, for instance, started referring to those instances where parents try to achieve success through their children "the Havisham effect" (unfortunately, you see this all too often in the world of teaching). Havisham's name is another exasperatingly fantastic aspect of her character: like the majority of Dickens' characters, you pretty much know what you're in for when you first read her name--she is full of lies, tricks, and deceits (or "sham"s). You don't get this sort of characterization much of anywhere else in the literary scene.

    Another reason I love this novel so much is its plotting. Remember, Dickens was writing in a serialized format so he needed to keep his readers hooked so that they'd want to buy the next issue of his periodical,

    , in order to see what happens next. Thus, the plot of

    is winding, unpredictable, and quite shocking at points. Certainly, in terms of heavy action--well, what our youngsters these days would call action, fighting and big explosions and what-not--there is none, or very little at most, but that's not the thing to be looking for. Figure out the characters first, and then, once you've gotten to know and even care for them (or hate them), you will be hooked on the plot because you will want to know what happens to these people who you've invested so much feeling into. This is, of course, true of all novels, but it's what I tell my students when they read

    for the first time, and by gum, it's helped more than a few of them get through the novel successfully.

    So, if you read

    in middle school, high school, or college, but haven't picked it up since, I urge you to do so. With a more patient and experienced set of eyes, you just might surprise yourself.

  • Stephen
    Sep 10, 2008

    …were

    ...were

    …and were thoroughly

    !

    The

    have been

    , all doubts have been

    and it is

    and in the

    ...I am a

    , foaming

    of

    and sporting a massive

    for literature’s master

    *.

    After love, love, loving

    , I wen

    …were

    ...were

    …and were thoroughly

    !

    The

    have been

    , all doubts have been

    and it is

    and in the

    ...I am a

    , foaming

    of

    and sporting a massive

    for literature’s master

    *.

    After love, love, loving

    , I went into this one with, you guessed it

    and was nervous and wary of a serious let down in my sophomore experience with Dickens. Silly me, there was zero reason for fear and this was even more enjoyable than I had hoped. Not quite as standing ovation-inducing as

    , but that was more a function of the subject matter of

    being more attractive to me.

    Here Dickens tells the story of the growth and development of young Philip Pirrip (“Pip”) who begins his life as an orphan, neglected and abused, by his sister (Mrs. “Joe” Gargery).

    Through a series of chance encounters, Pip rises above his disadvantaged beginnings to become a gentleman in every sense of the word. Pip’s journey is not a straight line and his strength of character and inner goodness are not unwavering, but, in the end, they shine through and he the better for it.

    Dickens prose is the essence of engaging and his humor is both sharp and subtle and sends warm blasts of happy right into my cockles.

    In addition to his ability to twist a phrase and infuse it with clever, dry wit, Dickens is able to brings similar skill across the entire emotional range. When he tugs on the heart-strings, he does so as a maestro plucks the violin and you will feel played and thankful for the experience.

    Dickens never bashes over the head with the emotional power of his prose. In fact, it is the quiet, subtle method of his delivery of the darker emotions that make them so powerful.

    Okay…okay…I’ll stop on the prose. I think I’ve made my point that I love his writing.

    Combine his polished, breezy verse with his seemingly endless supply of memorable characters that is his trademark and you have the makings of a true classic...which this happens to be. There are so many unique, well drawn characters in this story alone that it is constantly amazing to me that he was able to so regularly populate his novels with such a numerous supply. To name just a few, Great Expectations gives us:

    - the wealthy and bitter Miss Havisham,

    - the good-hearted but often weak social climbing main character Pip,

    - the good-hearted criminal Magwitch,

    - the truly evil and despicable Orlick and Drummle,

    - the virtuous, pillar of goodness "Joe" Gargery

    - the abusive, mean-spirited, never-to-be-pleased Mrs. Joe Gargery,

    - the cold and unemotional Estella,

    - the officious, money-grubbing Mr. Pumblechook, and

    - the iconic Victorian businessman Mr. Jaggers.

    It’s a veritable panoply of distinct personalities, each with their own voice and their own part to play in this wonderful depiction of life in 19th Century London.

    The only criticism I have for the book is that I tend to agree with some critics that the original "sadder" ending to the story was better and more in keeping with the rest of the narrative. However, as someone who doesn't mind a happy ending, especially with characters I have come to truly care for, that is a relatively minor gripe.

    4.5 to 5.0 stars. HIGHEST POSSIBLE RECOMMENDATIONS!!!

    P.S. A few bonus quotes that I thought were too good not to share:

    :

    :

  • Matt
    Jan 04, 2009

    Admittedly, I can be a bit dismissive of the classics. By which I mean that many of my reviews resemble a drive-by shooting. This annoys some people, if measured by the responses I’m still getting to my torching of

    .

    Even though I should expect some blowback, I still get a little defensive. I mean, no one wants to be called a “horrendous” person just because he or she didn’t like an overlong, self-indulgent, self-important “epic” about a douche-y peg leg and a stupid whale.

    I’m no phili

    Admittedly, I can be a bit dismissive of the classics. By which I mean that many of my reviews resemble a drive-by shooting. This annoys some people, if measured by the responses I’m still getting to my torching of

    .

    Even though I should expect some blowback, I still get a little defensive. I mean, no one wants to be called a “horrendous” person just because he or she didn’t like an overlong, self-indulgent, self-important “epic” about a douche-y peg leg and a stupid whale.

    I’m no philistine. I console myself with the belief that I have relatively decent taste. For instance, I don’t listen to

    ; I read the

    ; and I haven’t seen an Adam Sandler film in theaters since

    . Hating Melville does not make me a backwater provincial, drunk on Boone’s Farm, Ken Follett novels, and the cinema of Rob Schneider.

    Indeed, I have two principled reasons for not liking many certified classics. Strike that. I have one paranoid reason, and one semi-principled reason.

    The paranoid first.

    Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to read so many so-called classics? From the endless torments of Dostoyevsky to the prodigious length of Tolstoy to the impenetrability or weirdness of Joyce, Faulkner or Pynchon, the world’s great novels seem needlessly excruciating.

    I think it’s a conspiracy. A conspiracy of English majors and literature majors and critics all over the globe. These individuals form an elitist guild; like all guilds and licensing bodies, their goal is to erect barriers to entry. In this case, the barriers to entry are

    and

    . This snooty establishment has elevated the most dense, inscrutable works to exalted status, ensuring that the lower classes stay where they belong: in the checkout aisle with

    and

    novels.

    Isn’t it possible that the only reasons the classics are classic is because “they” tell us they’re classic? What if they are wrong? More frightening, what if I’m right? Isn’t it possible that all the “greatest” novels in history actually suck? Am I the only one who thinks it possible that true greatness lies within

    ? I am? Okay, moving on.

    My principled objection to various classic novels is that I love reading, and have loved to read from an early age (I also loved to complain from an early age). To that end, classics are the worst thing to ever happen to literature, with the exception of Dan Brown. Every drug dealer and fast-food marketer knows that you have to hook kids early in life. Forcing students to consume classics too soon is akin to the neighborhood dope peddler handing out asparagus and raw spinach. The problem is worst in high schools, where English teachers seem intent on strangling any nascent literary enjoyment in the crib. At a fragile time in a young person’s life, a heaping dose of Homer (not Simpson) can be enough to break a reading habit for life.

    At least, that was my experience. I first came across Charles Dickens’

    when it was assigned my freshman year of high school. It was a confusing time, caught between lingering childhood (I still had toys in my room) and emerging adulthood (by the end of the year I’d get my drivers’ license). Even though I’d been a voracious reader, it had always been on my own terms. When my teacher tried to shove Dickens down my throat, I started to lose interest in the written word, and gain interest in the girls on the

    chess team.

    Thankfully, I regained my joy of reading, but it wasn’t until I graduated from law school. At that time, I decided to go back and read all the stuff that was assigned in high school, that I’d either skimmed over or ignored completely.

    was one of the first classics to which I returned. Returned with a shudder, I might add.

    First off, it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. Heck, I liked it even. So there. Save your hate mail. I do not come here to condemn Dickens, merely to damn him with faint praise.

    In many ways,

    is prototypical Dickens: it is big and sprawling; it is told in the first person by a narrator who often seems resoundingly dull; it is peopled with over-eccentric supporting characters with unlikely names; and its labyrinthine structure and unspooling digressions defy ordinary plot resolutions. This is not a book that is getting to a sole point; rather, it’s more the tale of a boy’s life, with few details withheld. It also limps to an unsatisfactory ending (one of two endings, actually, since Dickens couldn’t make up his mind) that brings to mind the hastily reshot finale to the Jennifer Aniston/Vince Vaughn movie,

    .

    The central character, the first person narrator, is an orphan (surprise!) named Pip. He lives with his mean sister and saintly husband, Joe (the simplest named of all Dickens’ creations). This small, unhappy family (Pip’s sister is forever peeved at the burden of taking care of her younger brother) live in the marshes, vividly described by Dickens as a cold, creeping, lunar landscape, where prisoners rot in offshore prison hulks, and cannons boom to raise the drowned.

    Pip’s conscience is oppressed because of his Christmastime meeting with an escaped convict named Magwitch. Pip helps Magwitch out of his shackles, and steals him a pie and some brandy. Later, Magwitch is recaptured, though Pip remains fearful that his role in the attempted escape will be discovered.

    Later, young Pip is taken to the home of the wealthy old Miss Havisham, to play with her adopted daughter, Estella. Miss Havisham, of course, is one of Dickens’ most famous creations. She was left at the altar as a younger woman, and now whiles away her days in her crumbling wedding dress, all the clocks in her house stopped at 8:40. Miss Havisham’s sole delight seems to be in Estella’s cruel treatment of poor Pip. Nevertheless, Pip falls in love with Estella.

    Eventually, Miss Havisham pays Joe for Pip’s services, and Pip returns to the marshes as a blacksmithing apprentice. Once, Pip found Joe’s profession to be honorable. Now, however, after all of Estella’s scornful jibes, Pip finds the work beneath his dignity. This begins the long period of insufferable Pip, who will constantly struggle to rise above his station, while simultaneously racking up debts and alienating the people who truly love him.

    At some point, Pip is approached my Mr. Jaggers, a cunning lawyer with many clients who end up at the end of a noose (he also has a compulsive propensity towards hand-washing). Jaggers informs Pip that he has a benefactor, and that this benefactor has “great expectations” for Pip. To receive his money, Pip is told he must travel to London, become a gentleman, and retain his name. Pip does so, believing all the while that his benefactor is Miss Havisham.

    If there is a spine to this book, a central narrative thread, it is Pip’s pursuit of the lovely, acidic Estella. To this end, Pip acts poorly in society, goes in hock to his creditors, and spars with Bentley Drummle for Estella’s affections. Of course, this being a Dickens novel, there is a lot more swirling about.

    Everywhere you look, there are colorful satellite characters who seem all the more lively for orbiting Pip. (Though unlikeable at times, Pip is mostly dull. Mainly, I attribute this to the first-person narrative. It is easy to look out onto the world, and harder to look inward. Thus, Pip is better at dramatizing the people he meets than in understanding himself). One of the typical Dickensian eccentrics Pip encounters is John Wemmick, a clerk for Mr. Jaggers. Wemmick lives in a house modeled after a castle and has a father, “The Aged P,” who has an affinity for firing off a cannon. There is also Herbert Pocket, who becomes friends with Pip, even though their relationship begins with near-fisticuffs. Pocket comes from a huge, dysfunctional family, that Dickens describes with apparent glee.

    Though

    is not as long as

    or

    , it sprawls enough to cause confusion. Character lists may become necessary. Of course, Dickens hates randomness, and it is worth bearing in mind that most of the people you meet, even the secondary personages, will tie back into the main story. In Dickens’ London, everybody knows everybody else, and all are ruled by the Gods of Coincidence.

    involves a bit of a twist. I won’t assume you know the substance of this twist, the way Pip assumes the identity of his benefactor, so I will not spoil it. (If it is possible to spoil something published in 1861).

    I feel like I have a hit-and-miss relationship with Dickens’ work. Usually, I’m a fan of big, messy epics. The bigger and messier the better. However, with regards to Dickens, I’ve found that I like his shorter, more economical stories (

    ,

    ) to his bursting-at-the-seams behemoths.

    I think this has something to do with payoff. Usually, when you read a novel, it moves towards some sort of climax, a set piece of action or emotional upheaval and resolution. With Dickens, though, you are moving towards a lesson. He was a great moralizer and critic, and he used his novels as a canvas on which to make his points.

    is no exception. It is a homily directed at a Victorian England stratified by class and family background, where station was defined even more by lineage than by wealth. Against this backdrop, young Pip goes out into the world, abandons his family and faithful old Joe, makes horribly inaccurate judgments about people, and finally learns that there is no place like home.

    That’s all well and good, but not much of a reward for the days or weeks you devote to

    , especially when you can learn the same thing after two hours of

    .

  • Emily May
    Dec 09, 2010

    I first read

    when I was thirteen years old. It was the first of Dickens' works that I'd read on my own volition, the only other being

    , which we'd studied parts of in school. You know, I missed out on a lot when I was thirteen; by this, I mean that I didn't always understand the deeper meaning lying beneath the surface of my favo

    I first read

    when I was thirteen years old. It was the first of Dickens' works that I'd read on my own volition, the only other being

    , which we'd studied parts of in school. You know, I missed out on a lot when I was thirteen; by this, I mean that I didn't always understand the deeper meaning lying beneath the surface of my favourite classics. I favoured fast-paced and gritty stories and didn't understand the love for Austen (later cured). But there was something about

    that hit me hard on all levels and there was a deeper understanding I took from it even back then.

    I should say first of all, this book makes me feel sad. Not a Lifetime movie emotionally overwrought pass-me-the-kleenex kind of sad. I have read it several times and have never once cried while reading it. But the book never fails to leave me with this

    . When I was a kid, I often wished I could jump inside the TV and warn the good guys not to do something, stop something horrible from happening. This is that kind of book for me. All the not-knowing and mistaken assumptions that float between the characters in this novel is torture.

    Some readers don't like Dickens. He's been called melodramatic and lacking in style, as well as a bunch of other things. Well, I think he's like the Stephen King of the Victorian era. He loves his drama, his characters are well-drawn but sometimes edging towards caricatures, he has a wonderful talent for painting a vivid picture of a scene in your mind but a bunch of his books are a hundred pages too long. Whatever. I love his stories. And I love his characters, especially in this book.

    In

    , you have the orphaned Philip "Pip" Pirrip who has spent his short life being poor and being bullied by his sister who is also his guardian. You have Joe Gargery, a kind man who also allows himself to be bullied by Pip's sister (his wife). Then you have the infamous Miss Havisham who was abandoned at the altar and now spends her days wandering around her mansion in her old wedding dress, hating men and raising the young Estella to be just like her.

    At its heart, this is a book about someone who is given an opportunity to have all their dreams come true, to be better than they ever thought they could be, to be loved by someone who they never thought would look at them. We all yearn for something badly at times; imagine having the chance to get exactly what you always wanted. Imagine becoming better and higher than you knew was possible. Imagine having all of that and then realizing that perhaps the most important thing you ever had got left behind.

    Pip was always my favourite Dickens protagonist because he wants so much and I sympathise with him. I can understand why he does what he does and why he wants what he wants. But the saddest thing is that ambition can make you lose sight of other important things and Pip has a lot of hard lessons to learn along the way. It's a book that was extremely relevant to the times when social class was of utmost importance in Britain. Essentially, the book deconstructs what it means to be a "gentlemen" and makes a not-so-subtle criticism of a class-based society.

    Who are the real gentlemen? The top hat wearing men of London with all their fine china and ceremony? Pip, who gets a chance to become one of them? Or Joe Gargery, the rough-talking blacksmith who even years later tells Pip: "you and me was ever friends"?

    |

    |

    |

    |

    |

  • Samadrita
    Sep 30, 2012

    will forever occupy a special place in my heart because even though adulthood sensibilities often cause childhood adoration to vanish in entirety, no one forgets a precocious reading of that first classic which reduces one to a sobbing, sniffling mess. But my memories of a first reading of this are hazy at best - the absence of guillotines lopping off heads and swoon-worthy heroes who make larger than life sacrifices could explain my much younger self's lack of appreciation.

    will forever occupy a special place in my heart because even though adulthood sensibilities often cause childhood adoration to vanish in entirety, no one forgets a precocious reading of that first classic which reduces one to a sobbing, sniffling mess. But my memories of a first reading of this are hazy at best - the absence of guillotines lopping off heads and swoon-worthy heroes who make larger than life sacrifices could explain my much younger self's lack of appreciation. And it is only on a second reading after a gap of a decade and more can I categorize this as a novel written for adults, as a work much more worthy of 5 stars than

    should ever be. Predictably this rehashes many of Dickens' pet favorite themes - the orphaned, abused kid finding his way through the rat-infested, grimy bylanes of crime and penury towards self actualization, fairy godmother-stand-ins and so on - but never does it distill its thematic essence into easy dichotomies of good and evil. With all the appearance of a bildungsroman,

    , sets out to demolish many cliched plot devices of Dickens' own creation. Pip never achieves the greatness he aspires to or even the fantasy love which planted the desire for upward social mobility in his mind, and yet his experiences enable him to become a more well-rounded individual who sees the world no longer through the rose-tinted shades of juvenile romanticism but with a maturer outlook.

    And, of course, this features a character not found elsewhere in the wide repertoire of Victorian novels - a woman who practices misandry with varying degrees of success. Perhaps to Dickens, Miss Havisham would have been merely a plot contrivance inserted to thwart our hero's romantic success and create an atmosphere of Gothic spookiness slightly palpable in many of Dickens' fairytale-ish coming-of-age tales. But when seen through the lenses of 21st century wisdom, she encapsulates a more realistic kind of horror - a woman, whose entire life and worth are predicated on the success of her getting hitched in a patriarchal society, jilted at the altar. Not a mad woman condemned to incarceration in the attic by a tyrannical figure of patriarchal authority but a woman who chooses to sequester herself from the world of men of her own free will.

    Miss Havisham is bested in the end, by her own feelings of contrition for the harm she inflicted on a young, impressionable mind, but second wave feminism will point fingers at the real culprit and exonerate her.

    Pip maybe one of the most unheroic of Dickens' heroes, but he is also a proper representative of a man torn between two contradictory ideals of value judgment, forever plagued by an identity crisis so acute that he appears in my eyes as one of his most fully realized, flawed characters. So undeserving of respect or even sympathy. Further, I don't remember Dickens being as funny and wryly witty elsewhere aside from

    . Either that or I seriously need to refresh memories. The only reason I felt this does not merit the five stars is because of that rather random ending, a last ditch attempt at adding roses and rainbows to a palette majorly mottled with splotches of grey. The five star rating would have been an inevitability had this penultimate Dickens novel been the wholesome tragedy it showed every possibility of becoming in the last stretch.

    All plot points considered, it is a tragedy. Very nearly so but not quite.

  • Bookworm Sean
    Jan 17, 2014

    That is such a quote. If there was ever a novel that shows us the dangers of false perceptions then it’s

    . Pip is such a fool; he constantly misjudges those around him, and he constantly misjudges his own worth. This has lead him down a road of misery because the person who he

    That is such a quote. If there was ever a novel that shows us the dangers of false perceptions then it’s

    . Pip is such a fool; he constantly misjudges those around him, and he constantly misjudges his own worth. This has lead him down a road of misery because the person who held the highest expectations for Pip was Pip himself. But, in spite of this, Pip does learn the error of his ways and becomes a much better person, though not before hurting those that have the most loyalty to him.

    The money Pip received clouds his vison completely. He, in his innocence, longed to be a gentleman, but when he has the chance he forgets everything thing he is. In his self-imposed aggrandisement he can only deduce that his money came from a source of respectability; his limited capacity has determined that only he, a gentleman, could receive money from a worthy source. But, what he perceives as respectable is the problem. Indeed, Dickens contrasts societies’ gentleman (created through social station) with the true gentleman of the age who may, or may not, have any money. Pip has falsely perceived that to be a gentleman one must have money, and must have the social graces that comes with it. However, this is far from the truth as Pip later learns. He thinks Joe is backward and ungentlemanly, but Joe, in reality, is more of a gentle man than Pip could ever be.

    In this, he has forgotten his routes and his honest, if somewhat rough, upbringing. He has been tainted by money and the rise in class that came with it. I think if he never received the allowance he would have eventually been happy at the forge. He may have sulked for a year or two, but, ultimately, he would have got over himself as he does eventually do. The money gave him hope; it gave him a route in which he could seek his Estella. Without the money he would have realised she was, in fact, unobtainable regardless of his class; he would have moved on and got on with his life. But, that wouldn’t have made for a very interesting novel.

    Indeed, Pip wouldn’t have learnt a thing. Through the correcting of his perceptions he learns the value of loyalty and simple human kindness. This changes him and he is, essentially, a much better person for it. He learns the errors of his ways, and how shameful and condescending his behaviour has been to those that hold him most dear, namely Joe. You can feel the pain in his narration as he tells the last parts of his story; it becomes clear that Pip could never forgive himself for his folly. He wishes forgiveness from those that love him that’s why he forgives Havisham, but I don’t think he fully deserves it. He is repentant, but the damage is done.

    Pip’s morale regeneration was a necessary facet for the brilliance of this work. It creates an ending that, for me, was perfect. It is not the ending that Pip thought he would get, but it is the ending this novel deserved. Pip’s morale regeneration and revelations are just not enough to offset the past. He has grown but, like Havisham, cannot turn back the clocks. The ending Joe receives signifies this; he, as one of the only true gentleman of the novel, receives his overdue happiness. Whereas Pip is destined to spend the rest of his life in a state of perpetual loneliness, he, most certainly, learnt his lesson the hard way.

    Pip’s story though, ultimately, sad is not the most woe begotten of the character stories in this novel. Abel Magwitch and Miss Havisham are two incredibly miserable individuals because life has really got them down. Havisham is the caricature of the spinster; she is stuck in the past (quarter to nine to be precise) and is unable to move on; she has turned bitter and yellow; she has imposed herself to perpetual agony. Despite her harshness and venom there is a flicker of light within her soul that Pip unleashes. For me, she is the most memorable, and well written, character in this novel because her story transcends that of Pip’s.

    And then there is the lovable Abel Magwitch. The poor man had been used and cheated; he had been bargained away and sacrificed. He has been shown no kindness in his life and when he meets a young Pip in the marshes he is touched by the small measure of friendship the boy offers him. His response: to repay that debt, with what he believes to be kindness, in turn. These characters are incredibly memorable and harbour two tragic and redemptive stories. But, in order to display their anguish to the world and society, they both use another to exact their revenge. Havisham uses Estella to break the hearts of men, like hers was once broken; Magwitch creates his “own” gentleman as a revenge to the world of gentleman that betrayed him.

    I love

    . It is more than just a story of love; it is a strong story about the power of loyalty and forgiveness; it is a story about falsehoods and misperceptions; it is a story of woe and deeply felt sadness: it is about how the folly of youth can alter your life for ever. It is an extraordinary novel. I've now read it three times, and I know I'm not finished with yet.

  • Renato Magalhães Rocha
    Apr 25, 2014

    Excuse me for this infamous pun - which I'm sure has been wearily used since the book was first published -, but I had

    about it. Not only had I never read anything by

    - who seems to be one of those polarizing authors that continues to inspire, decade after decade, a love/hate relationship with his readers -, but also because

    is regarded as one of his most important works. For someone as anxious as myself - I should really look into that - it

    Excuse me for this infamous pun - which I'm sure has been wearily used since the book was first published -, but I had

    about it. Not only had I never read anything by

    - who seems to be one of those polarizing authors that continues to inspire, decade after decade, a love/hate relationship with his readers -, but also because

    is regarded as one of his most important works. For someone as anxious as myself - I should really look into that - it seems expectations and anxiety are like non-identical twins: they're born together – or just few minutes apart from each other - but while the first born is a hopeful and optimistic attitude about something to come, his younger brother denotes an unpleasant state of inner turmoil, a sensation that his good twin may never come to fruition.

    I expected Dickens's text to be dark and bleak, with touches of sadness and even over-sentimental at times. More, I expected a black and white - heavy, sluggish - Béla Tarr film. Because of that, I was anxious and feared that if I wasn't in the right state of mind or in a proper setting (which is a fair feeling, I guess: it's curious how much external variables - as the rain leisurely falling outside or infuriating noises of beeps and horns in a rush hour in traffic - can have effects on our most internal sensations; it's amazing how physical can also have control over psychological and the brain isn't always the commander in chief), I wouldn't be able to properly enjoy and absorb what the novel was about.

    As it turned out with

    though, I really appreciated the book (whenever and wherever I spent time with it) and actually found the story to be humorous - as I caught myself giggling on more than three or four occasions - and even have a gothic touch - which I never supposed about it. Parts of the novel - volume 2, as to be completely clear - were harder to get through, which only came to add up to my initial concern about the remaining of the book.

    Divided in three volumes, the book has different paces and approaches for each one: Volume 1, as it happens with every book we're starting to read, feels slower and more descriptive. We get to observe everyone - and the places, and people's manners - like we've just arrived to a party that's been famous for years and we've been anxious to attend to, still a little shy to go around meeting and talking to the other guests. Volume 2, as important as it was to determine Pip's character - and also for covering an important part of his life and setting the stage for the final and striking act -, I must confess, dragged a little bit and added to my anxiety that while I was enjoying the book, it might not have what it takes to carry it to the next level, to a great 5 stars book - and to think it was supposed to be twice as long! Volume 3, on the other hand, has a rapid pace and is surprisingly quite a page turner! Everything unfolds and we find out that the characters and events were a lot more connected than we could ever have suspected them to be and, because it was so masterfully written, it never felt like those common and overused cheap plot twists.

    I expected Pip's great expectations to fail as I resented him and I intimately cheered that he wouldn't become a rich man because I worried he wouldn't do Joe and Biddy - always there for him, always his faithful companions - justice if his design and ambition to become a gentleman was successful. On the other hand, I never expected that Joe would turn his back when Pip needed him again, and I was glad to find out that Joe never did - it was never even an option for him.

    I never expected that Pip's journey would be all about self-understanding and education: what first seemed to be a simple quest for society and financial triumph, turned out to be much deeper than I had anticipated at first. In offering Pip money, Magwitch thought he was doing his dear boy a big deed and changing his life for the better; eventually, what accomplished that was something much simpler: Magwitch's presence. Ashamed of the past - his life conditions, his friends, the house he lived in - Pip was all about living in the future, erasing his childhood and trying to write himself a future like he was writing a book - conversely, the book he ended up writing was all about his past. Ashamed of his relations with an ex-convict, initially he tried everything he could to avoid being associated with Provis, worrying about the damage it would do to his own reputation. As the story went on, Pip was able to reconnect with his past and free himself from all the shame, assuming Provis as his benefactor and fighting to save his life. Without realizing it, Pip was becoming a better person.

    Like our narrator - a boy who would grow up to be a gentleman as opposed to a man who was unsuccessful for most of his life and looked down in society for being an ex-convict -, Estella is also a product of frustration, a creation of Miss Havisham: a girl who would become a heartbreaker to revenge Miss Havisham's own broken heart. It's interesting, to say the least, to follow their stories to find out if they'll be able to cut their puppets strings and become their own selves without having to comply to what was initially expected and planned for them and - as those expectations were blurred with what they wanted for themselves - unveil their free will to live on a future they could be active parts of.

    There are two different endings to this story: Dickens's original intended finale and that which became the official one - although nowadays both are included in most of the editions published. On Dickens's original manuscript, Pip was to have a brief and random encounter with Estella, after being many years apart, where he would see that she had experienced sufferings in her own life and was lonely as himself:

    After having his friend, also a writer, Edward Bulwer-Lytton to read the novel, he was then convinced to change the ending so it would be more romantic and not so much hopeless. The "new" ending, although being controversial for its many interpretations, implied that Pip and Estella would end up being together in some way or another - if not as lovers, at least as good friends:

    Although both conclusions work and are satisfying as far as my tastes go - and both are so beautifully worded as well! -, I prefer Dickens's original ending as it seems to be more consistent with the story, also more psychologically believable and less sentimental, less "everything works out perfectly in the end".

    Rating: for what I was expecting - to not say, again, "my great expectations" - have been met with acclaim and success, 5 stars.

  • Jeffrey Keeten
    May 03, 2014

    I hadn’t ever met Miss Havisham officially, although I knew of her. I have he

    I hadn’t ever met Miss Havisham officially, although I knew of her. I have heard of her circumstances, discussed her in English Literature classes, and even referenced her in a paper. She is a tragic figure tinged with true insanity; and yet, someone in complete control of her faculties when it comes to talking about HER money. She was jilted at the altar and like a figure from mythology she is suspended in time. She wears her tattered wedding dress every day and sits among the decaying ruins of her wedding feast.

    We meet our hero Pip when in an act of charity born more of fear than goodwill he provides assistance to a self-liberated convict named Abel Magwitch. It was a rather imprudent thing to do similar to one of us picking up a hitchhiker in an orange jumpsuit just after passing a sign that says

    Little does he know, but this act of kindness will have a long term impact on his life.

    Pip is being raised by his sister, an unhappy woman who expresses her misery with harsh words and vigorous smacks.

    She also browbeats her burly blacksmith husband Joe into submission. Mr Pumblechook, Joe’s Uncle, is always praising the sister for doing her proper duty by Pip.

    In other words she didn’t spare the rod or the child. Mr. Pumblechook is one of those annoying people who is always trying to gain credit for anyone’s good fortune. He intimates that he was the puppet master pulling the strings that allowed that good fortune to find a proper home. Later when Pip finds himself elevated to gentleman’s status Pumblechook is quick to try and garner credit for brokering the deal.

    Things become interesting for Pip when is asked to be a play companion of Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter Estella. The girl is being trained to be the architect of Miss Havisham’s revenge...on all men. She is the brutal combination of spoiled, beautiful, and heartless. She wants Pip to fall in love with her to provide a training ground for exactly how to keep a man in love with her and at the same time treat him with the proper amount of disdain.

    As Pip becomes more ensnared in Estella’s beauty Miss Havisham is spurring him on.

    Pip is fully aware of the dangers of falling in love with Estella, but it is almost impossible to control the heart when it begins to beat faster.

    His hopes, almost completely dashed that he will ever have a legitimate opportunity to woo Estella properly are buoyed by the knowledge of a benefactor willing to finance his rise to gentleman status. No chance suddenly becomes a slim chance.

    Pip is not to know where these

    are coming from, but he assumes it is Miss Havisham as part of her demented plans for exacting revenge by using Estella to break his heart. He is willing to be the patsy for her plans because some part of him believes he can turn the tide of Estella’s heart if he can find one beating in her chest.

    The book is of course filled with Dickensonian descriptions of the bleaker side of Victorian society.

    As I was reading the book it felt like the plot suddenly sped up from a leisurely world building pace that permeates most Dickens novels to the final laps of an Indy 500 race. I was not surprised to discover that Dickens had intended this novel to be twice as long, but due to contractual obligations with the serialization of the novel Dickens found himself in a quandary. He had a much larger story percolating in his head, but simply out of room to print it. Nothing drives a reader crazier than knowing that this larger concept was realized, but never committed to paper.

    Pip is a willing victim; and therefore, not a victim because he fully realized that Miss Havisham was barking mad, and that Estella had been brainwashed into being a sword of vengeance. He was willing to risk having his heart wrenched from his body and dashed into the sea for a chance that Estella would recognize that happiness could be obtained if she would only forsake her training.

    Pip like most young men of means spent more than his stipend allowed and as debts mount he is more and more anxious to learn of his benefactor’s intentions. It will not be what he expects and provides a nice twist to the novel. There are blackguards, adventures, near death experiences, swindlers, agitations both real and imagined, and descriptions that make the reader savor the immersion in the black soot and blacker hearts of Victorian society. Better late than never, but I now have more than a nodding acquaintance with Miss Havisham, Pip, and the supporting cast. They will continue to live in my imagination for the rest of my life.

  • Kalliope
    Mar 29, 2015

    It is said that Satisfaction is equal to Reality minus Expectations.

    I reckon then that my rating should be around Eight Stars since Reality would be Five Stars and as my Expectations were on the negative axis—with an absolute value of about three--, it has resulted in a positive eight. The Great Eight, I should anoint this book, then.

    How and when were my expectations formed? If I depart on search of my forgotten memories, I think it all started with those black & white

    It is said that Satisfaction is equal to Reality minus Expectations.

    I reckon then that my rating should be around Eight Stars since Reality would be Five Stars and as my Expectations were on the negative axis—with an absolute value of about three--, it has resulted in a positive eight. The Great Eight, I should anoint this book, then.

    How and when were my expectations formed? If I depart on search of my forgotten memories, I think it all started with those black & white films, possibly filmed in the 1940s, watched on TV a couple of decades later and depicting bleak houses, miserable families, desolate cemeteries, poor and unhappy children. A child horrified by cruel settings.

    Then it followed a couple of encounters with the somewhat compulsory activity of reading still incomprehensible text with abstruse terms, obscure and alien meaning and unpronounceable titles.

    … phew…!!!

    That was Dickens for me. Clearly on the negative values.

    Expectations were affected by my relatively recent read of

    . The humour and the excellent construction of the plot were the reality checkers. That could have also been an exception, though.

    But yet again, the humour in GE captivated me, both in some of the situations, the characterisation and the language -- with the effective use of repetitions. Yes, I also appreciated Dicken’s campaign against the social injustices, the moral hypocrisies and the quagmires of the legal system of his time. But these I observed more from the box of a historian and not from the sentiments of a citizen. The world has changed too much for engaging that kind of empathy. And the somewhat caricatured characters, drawn in black and white, gained the solidity of statues. If not made of flesh they were imposing.

    Full redemption was sealed when I then watched

    , one of the many old versions that may have daunted me years ago…and found it delightful… and funny. My thinking of Dickens now is of a sophisticated facetious writing, and this I could now detect in the filmed version. May be the quality of the camera work, surprisingly sophisticated, as well as the excellent acting, enchanted me. No longer perceived as dreary, the old prejudices have positively been dissolved. Even the filmed version has been exorcised.

    Braced with courage, I took the risk to watch a newer filmed version. This is dangerous because often modern renditions of classics which have been filmed many times, is to depart from the book and offer us an excursion into the sensational, with explicit passion and sex, and modern dialogue. Well,

    production was another joy. Excellent acting and filming. But the most interesting feature was their fleshing out the somewhat caricatured characters. Modern psychology has been infused in the reasoning and motivations of the personalities, so that we understand them more. Yes, even the eccentric Miss Havisham or the much more complex Estella come across not as endearing characters thanks to their peculiarity, but as multifaceted individuals. Likelihood at the expense of the humour,-- but everything has a price.

    This other version used the original ending, since Dickens changed it after his friend Edward Bulwer-Lytton advised him to do so. This was another perk of watching this excellent version.

    We expect expectations to be better than reality…. It is nice when reality is the other way around.