Great Expectations

During our time overseas I finished reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.  That moment was a throw-fists-in-air-victoriously kind of moment; it wasn’t an easy read (not hard, just not easy!) and I was excited to finish my first Dickens novel.  I wrote about it a few months ago, about how good it was in comparison to some easy-to-read books, and I still stand by that. It was such a good book, like a really juicy, crunchy apple.  You know, like something absolutely delicious and healthy at the same time. But enough of the corny metaphors and onto my thoughts of it (*caution, mild spoilers await!*)

Great Expectations was a book of humanity.  It was a book about people and the pain, the mistakes, the uniqueness, and the heart of those people.  It’s also a book showing that the things that are worth admiring in someone, and worth aspiring to for yourself, are not the things that at first glance catch the eye.

In this book, you meet the eccentric Miss Havisham, who lived an eerie life, focused on the past and wrecking pain on others as a way of avenging herself, despite how in days past  she wanted to make someone else’s life better, so they wouldn’t go through what she went through.

There’s Mr Pumblechook (what a name!), the erratic and fickle ‘friend’ who wanted to please whoever was ‘cool’ and for some reason had a high opinion of himself.

Meet drop-dead gorgeous and rich Estella, a complex character who’s proud and hard.  She desperately wanted to be loved but instead was taught that she was so beautiful, she was only worthy to be put on a pedestal.  When love was finally held out to her, she was too proud to accept it and be just a ‘normal person’ with emotions.

I can’t go by without mentioning Herbert Pocket; he is one of my favourite characters because he had such a cheerful disposition and the integrity to match it.

I have to list Mr Wemmick as well, who was such a fun man at home but never mixed his personal life with his work.

And, of course, there’s Pip, who learnt that his great expectations of wealth and ‘gentlemanlyhood’ will not bring about contentment, happiness, and character – the things that counted in the end.

With his dreams shattered all about him Pip discovered that those who trusted in money and focused on themselves – like himself, Miss Havisham, and Estella – were never going to feel fulfilled until they woke up and looked out for others for a change.  When Pip put others in front of his reputation, taking responsibility for the hole he’d dug for himself out of a romantic ideal, he found a purpose in life, and although it was a much harder life, he was much the happier man for it.

We owed so much to Herbert’s ever cheerful industry and readiness, that I often wondered how I had conceived that old idea of his inaptitude [apathy, unsuitability, disinterest], until I was one day enlightened by the reflection, that perhaps the inaptitude had never been in him at all but had been in me. – Pip, Great Expectations, chapter fifty-nine

It was a beautiful story.  It had suspicious characters and people that turn out to be the good guy after all.  When I think of some people, I’ll have to smile, but there were others whose head I’d like to bang against a wall!  It had mystery and family ties and a happy ending where people get their acts together – just the kind of story I like.  It was well-written and Dickens really created characters that showed the good, the bad, and the ugly of humanity.

I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect from Great Expectations; the name ‘Charles Dickens’ always daunted me, and it was a big book.   However, it lived up to and exceeded any of my expectations – now to remember the lessons learnt from having far too great expectations


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