Nina's Reading Blog

Comments on books I am reading/listening to

Great Expectations

Posted by nliakos on October 15, 2007

by Charles Dickens (narrated by  ?)

I think I have read this before, or listened to it before, but  I didn’t remember much of it.  I know I’ve watched parts of a dramatization or movie, but I think not all.  I do remember Miss Havisham’s ghostly appearance and her horrible surroundings.

Dickens weaves a great story.  “Pip” is a small boy when he helps an escaped convict in the marshes near his home; this good deed (involuntary though it was) will have repercussions on his later life that will change its course completely.  Instead of becoming a blacksmith like his kind, slow brother-in-law Joe, Pip is given the chance to become a gentleman with property and “expectations”.  (I had always believed that the strict class divisions of English society made it impossible for mere money to raise up a person from the low classes into the upper classes; but of course Pip is educated by Matthew Pocket and taught social graces by Matthew’s son Herbert, who becomes his dear friend and rescuer.  Pip erroneously believes his benefactress to be the eccentric Miss Havisham.  He falls hopelessly in love with her beautiful adopted daughter, Estella, raised to be heartless and to make men suffer as Miss Havisham’s intended caused her to suffer by jilting her on their wedding day.

Early in the novel, I wanted to shake some sense into this young man who would choose the haughty Estella over the gentle Biddy, who would be a much more appropriate mate for him, and who is ashamed of Joe, his sister’s husband, who is a saint if there ever was one.  He is repelled by Magwitch when his true benefactor reveals himself to him; he is unable to appreciate the man’s sacrifices for him.

Later on, however, Pip matures into a more likable character than he is at the beginning.  He fully gives himself over to the saving of Magwitch, and he reconciles himself, insofar as possible, to the loss of Estella.  I really enjoyed the story and the narration of it.

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