Monday, April 16, 2012

Book One: Great Expectations

This is the reason why I picked 51 books for the Classics Club instead of 50. I was almost done Great Expectations when I started and I wasn't sure if it counted.

So I have finished Great Expectations. And my thoughts are as such: I LOVED it.

Seriously this was better then Little Dorrit! Which, as those of you who know me well know, is saying a lot. Not the movie. It was not better than the movie of Little Dorrit{nothing but TSP is in my opinion}, but it was a little better than the book. You see there wasn't any of that going on and on and on that is so prevalent in Dickens. I really like all of Dickens writing but this seemed a bit more clean cut then any of his other stuff I have read so far.

So now down to the structured part of this review.

Note: This is a subjective review, I will rant I will gush and I will expound my opinion freely. There will be much spoilers. So be warned.

The Formal
{when I review a book from now on this section will hold a basic plot outline, age suggestion, and rating. Those of you who never read the last page first and don't like gushing rants can read this part only. Kindred Spirits may continue on to the informal as well.}

Plot: The marshes of southern England have seen many strange things but one of the strangest was the meeting of Pip the little blacksmith boy, and the escaped convict Magwitch. After Magwitch convinces pip to steal food for him and is later caught Pip's life returns to normal, but not for long. He is asked to come play by the eccentric Miss Havisham of Satis house. Pip finds Satis house a world of bitter, lightless, quiet, peopled only by miss Havisham and her beautiful ward Estella. Pip begins to loath his common life at the forge and long to be raised up in Estella's esteem. Then Mr. Jaggers comes to call and Pip's life is changed forever. Is he now to see the fulfillment of his Great Expectations?
Age Suggestion: 12 and up probably, it's a bit scary and a bit difficult to understand in places.
Rating: Ten stars! Absolutely wonderful!
The Informal

I think my favorite character was Joe. No Herbert. I don't know why but I really really loved Herbert. He was just so nice and understanding. And Wemmick! I loved the whole Walworth thing! I think my favorite part of the whole book was when he got married:

"Halloa! Here's a church! Let's go in! Halloa! Her's a pair of kid gloves lets put them on! Halloa! Here's Miss Skiffins! Let's have a wedding!' As if were all done right on the spot.

Back to Joe. The way he rubbed at his side whisker was very endearing. I cried when he came to visit Pip and cried when he helped Pip when he was sick{I cry a lot when I read books and watch movies}. I think Joe deserves hero status. The way he always loved Pip no matter what was hero material.

That brings me to Pip. What do I think of the Great Expecter himself? Well I liked him. I felt sorry for him. At the beginning of the book he's this cute little kid and I felt for him when he was stuck with Miss Havisham and Estella all that time.

Bunny path here: Who says Dickens isn't funny? The part where Pip makes up all those lies about Miss Havisham and the big dogs and the veal cutlets is a scream.

 "We played with the flags," I said. (I beg to observe that I think of myself with amazement when I recall the lies I told on this occasion)

"Flags!" echoed my sister.
"Yes," said I. "Estella waved a blue flag, and I waved a red one, and Miss Havisham waved one sprinkled all over with little gold stars, out at the coach window. And then we all waved our swords and hurrahed."

End of bunny path.

When Pip grows up I was prepared to hate him, I knew the story and I knew that he was mean to Joe and high and mighty. But I found myself liking and feeling for him just the same. The avenger had me in stitches and the way that he a Herbert handled debt made me shake my head and moan.

I found myself loving and feeling for every important character except for Orlick, Compeyson, and Mr. Pumblechook. The first I hated, the second I loathed, the third I despised.

I even loved Miss Havisham. Or rather I should say I especially loved Miss Havisham. That is what I love about Dickens so much. He makes you feel for characters you want to hate. He breaks your heart over these people.

Miss Havisham is a bitter twisted woman who has gone slightly crazy with grief and hatred, yet when she gets down on her knees and begs forgiveness of Pip who is there that doesn't cry? Read the book. I dare you not to cry. I dare you not to love her and forgive her.

Miss Havisham repents of what she did to Pip and Estella. And that brings me to Estella. Again. Someone it would be easy to hate on the surface but once you see a bit inside of her you can't. Miss Havisham raised her in ice. She trained her not to feel not to love. And Estella knows it. She has no feelings, only a sort of cold horror at her own coldness. You see a sort of pain in her that doesn't come out except in that one scene when she tells Pip to beware. I think that's why she married Bentley Drummle instead of Pip. With Pip she felt more human than she did with anyone else. And it scared her. Pip awakened a bit of the dormant feeling in her heart and her nature was to kill feeling. So she married Drummle. She did not want to be thawed. Thawing is painful.

Then her husband dies. Before he did he treated her horribly. The pain and bitterness of her life softened her and by the end of the book you can see that she is a different woman. Just maybe ready to love.

And I think she does. Great Expectations ends with these words. "I saw no shadow of another parting from her." I take that to mean that they kept on together. Pip carefully loving her and helping her, she slowly healing. Then when they were both in the middle of life they got married. Not a wild passionate romance but a quiet slow healing love that replaced Pip's early infatuation and Estella's earlier ice.

"We are friends," said I, rising and bending over her, as she rose from the bench."And will continue friends apart," said Estella.I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her. 
And I cried my eyes out.


Alexandra said...

Great Expectations remains one of my very fave Dickens novels ever. I read it through in two days, I was so hooked.

And whoever said Dickens wasn't humorous has obviously 1., never read Dickens or 2., has no sense of humor. Because to quote Captain Brown in Cranford, "I defy you not to roar." I always do.

And I love Joe. And Herbert. And Wemmick! That scene you mentioned is one of my faves. :-)

Rosamund Gregory said...

Did you read the original ending? It's more depressing. :( So some knight made Dickens change it.

Jemimah C. said...

Oh my, oh my! I love this review! I recently read Great Expectations again with the intent of trying to understand a Charles Dickens novel that I once did not understand and like. But now I love it, and it's one of my favorite Dickens' books.

I do believe we have the same favorite characters. Joe and Herbert are absolutely wonderful! But I still think I love Herbert better!

I used to rather hate Miss Havisham, but when I read the book again, I gained a renewed perspective of her. Yes, you are quite right about Dickens and the way he makes us feel about the characters. The part when she asks for forgiveness from Pip is exceptionally touching. *sobs*

Anne-girl said...

Ally: I hope to read Pickwick soon!That's the one he was talking about right?

Rosamund: Yes! Our copy has it in the back. Ugg! I love the ending he settled on.

Jemimah: I can find no real reason for my incredible liking for Herbert. he isn't a main character and he isn't heroic or anything. But there you have it. I squiggle whenever I read his name and I suspect I have fallen in love with yet another fictional character. Fickle fickle!

Amy said...

This is one of my favorites. I've just reread it. It's Dickens at his best--humorous, endearing, and compassionate. And yes, I *heart* Joe.

Allie Danielson said...

I loved this one too! It's the book that really made me change my mind about Dickens.