Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

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Great Expectations
“My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.”

From poverty to wealth and love to rejection, this is one of Dickens most acclaimed works.

Great Expectations was Charles Dickens’ thirteenth novel, and the last he completed before his death. Published in nine segments from 1860 to 1861, the first complete volume wasn’t released for another year. Listed as Dickens’ greatest success all over the world, it’s named by numerous critics as a must-read.

The epitome of a Dickensian hero, the story follows Pip from 1812 to the late 1840s as he grows from a young orphan into a distinguished young man.


Summary

Growing up penniless with his sister and her husband, Pip doesn’t have any visions for the future. Until he meets Miss Havisham, that is. An elderly, rich, and somewhat eccentric woman, she demands that he visit her adopted daughter once a month. This simple act sends him on an upward spiral, from a blacksmith’s apprentice to a wealthy gentleman thanks to an annoymous patron. But everything is not as it seems, and Pip soon learns that mysterious prisoners, cold hearted ladies, and gambling debts are the least of his problems.



Commentary

Great Expectations is one of the best coming-of-age stories that I have ever read, second only to Dickens’ own David Copperfield.

Praise

  • Every single character is well developed and interesting. From the reclusive Miss Havisham in her moth-eaten wedding dress to Joe’s resolute honesty and simple kindness. They all have their own personalities and quirks, and you can’t help but fall in love with every single person.
  • It has one of the greatest plots ever written. As a coming-of-age story and stretching a span of 25-plus years, there were uncountable chances for the novel to feel flat. Yet despite the poor odds, Dickens manages to keep the story interesting throughout. It’s unpredictable and fun and keeps readers hooked on every word.
  • At its basest level, this is a story about a young boy who’s given the opportunity to have everything he ever wanted. It’s relatable and bittersweet and each and every single reader can understand what Pip feels.

Critique

  • If you love fast-paced and action-packed novels, then this isn’t the book for you. Great Expectations tells the story of Pip’s life. It’s a long novel with many dips and hollows and interesting parts and boring bits. If you’re a crime or thriller fan, then chances are, this book will bore you.
  • It’s subtly sexist throughout the entire story, though Miss Havisham’s hatred of men does balance the scales somewhat. Pip falls in love with Estella purely because she’s “pretty”. Pip’s sister herself takes up the stereotypical ‘evil stepmother’ role. And every other woman we come across is eventually transformed into perfect obedient little wives.
  • Pip’s character develops throughout the story, but he doesn’t become a better person. Wealth makes him bitter, and for a good proportion of the novel, he becomes downright unlikeable.


Recommendations

Overall, I’d give Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations a four out of five. It’s a beautiful and bittersweet coming-of-age with love and loss and hope and regret.

I’d recommend this novel to teenagers and older, and especially to any fans of The Catcher in the Rye, To Kill a Mockingbird, and The Outsiders.


4/5 Star



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