Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

Book #876
Reviewer: Lizzie C.

Great ExpectationsThis novel is focused around an orphan by the name of Pip. He lives with his sister and her husband Joe in Kent near the marshes. Joe is a fatherly figure that Pip feels affection, from whereas his sister is harsh and seems to just want to continually put a guilt trip onto Pip for her being so kind as to bring him up.

Pip’s life is not easy; what with his sister’s lack of affection and little money they live a fairly simple life with little pleasure. Joe is a blacksmith and ranked somewhat in the lower classes in society of which there is seemingly no escape from.

One night which I have to mention, Pip has a chance encounter with escaped convict Magwitch. This turns out to be of greater significance than previously thought, but this does not become apparent until later in the novel.

When Pip is introduced to Miss Havisham (a rich lady living in London) via his uncle, he begins to feel ashamed of his life, his clothes and social standing. Through Miss Havisham, he meets Estella who, whilst beautiful, is cold hearted and fairly dismissive of Pip whilst at the same time almost willing him to love her so that she can turn him down. She has been influenced heavily by Miss Havisham whose life more or less stopped some years ago. She is dressed in her wedding dress for a wedding that never happened. She stopped her clocks that day and has lived in the darkness of her house ever since. She is bitter and revengeful, a character you want to know more about in my opinion.

Pip falls in love with Estella due to her beauty but she forever holds him at arm’s length. Miss Havisham encourages Pip’s feelings; she knows Estella’s ways being her teacher and she seems to get pleasure out of the feelings not being returned Pip’s way. Estella is never far away from Pip’s thoughts throughout the novel, even when his life takes a drastic turn.

He is soon advised, as the novel progresses, that a benefactor wishes Pip to become a gentleman and to have a privileged life. Pip is to leave his current life and to move to London in order to advance. He allows this to occur but is not advised of who the benefactor is until further into the novel. He turns his back on his previous life and seems to wish to distance himself from it, and from Joe who cannot change his own social standing.

Pip encounters various characters in this time in London and makes some decisions that impact on the direction of his life. As the novel progresses you feel that Pip has let go of some of his values and has forgotten how good Joe was to him as a child – but only temporarily as events occur that push them together for a short time once more.

I also believe it could be seen as a portrayal of classes being high and low and how the two interacted in that era, especially through Pip’s change of status and how he realigns his relationship with his past life and Joe.

I would recommend this novel; it is not a complicated read but there are underlying story lines and characters of interest. I personally believe it could be read by a teenager but I still got enjoyment out of it as an adult. Perhaps I had the benefit of more insight into relationships and their workings, and perhaps a deeper understanding of class, but on a purely reading-for-pleasure level, it works well and is worth reading.


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