Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

great ex wow

Title: Great Expectations
Author: Charles Dickens
Published: 1860
Number of pages: 495
Rating: 4 out of 5

Expectations are a dangerous thing.  Held in check, they encourage us to achieve great things. Given free reign, they can cause destruction as great as any other folly: pride, greed, or jealousy. I was highly drawn to this book, not only because of it being a classic work of Dickens’, but because of the whole concept of expectations which consume his characters, and if I’m not careful, me.

The book opens in a graveyard; is that not a fitting setting for the imminent destruction we will soon see? Our young hero Pip suddenly meets a convict, who has escaped from prison and entreats Pip to bring him some food and a file. Which Pip promptly steals from his sister’s home where he lives. In helping the convict escape, he has no idea of the return he will find from that one act of kindness.

Unhappily living in his uptight sister’s home, with the exception of her husband, Joe, Pip believes his benefactress to be Miss Havisham. She is a woman who lives in Silas Manor, dressed in the very same rags which were once her wedding dress. Jilted at the altar, she has refused to step away from the expectations she held for her wedding day. She wears her wedding dress, holds her wedding shoe, has all the clocks stopped at twenty minutes to nine. Her wedding cake is covered in cobwebs, and her bitter heart keeps her from experiencing life any longer. In fact, she raises an adopted daughter, Estella, to be as bitter and vengeful as she herself has become.

When Pip is told that he has come into a huge inheritance, and may freely live in London, he flees his humble home with hardly a backward glance. Never mind that he has turned his back on Joe, the one true friend and man of character that he knows; he’s off to fulfill his expectations for a grander life than being an apprentice blacksmith to Joe can ever provide.

Assuming that his benefactress is Miss Havisham, he’s greatly surprised to find his financial endowment has come from the convict, Provis. He is also terribly saddened by the scorn with which Estella treats him, despite his love for her. It is not until the completion of the novel that he finally recognizes the scorn with which he himself has treated Joe.

This novel gives us a chance to examine the effects of expectations on characters we are lucky enough only to observe. But, perhaps more importantly, it gives us a chance to examine our own expectations. Hopefully, we can draw an appropriate balance between too few or too many before we suffer their consequences.

Find another review at Rose City Reader.

40 thoughts on “Great Expectations by Charles Dickens”

  1. Fantastic review Bellezza 🙂 You write so eloquently! I absolutely love Dickens…he's one of the few classic authors that I thoroughly enjoy! Glad you enjoyed this one as well.

    Like

  2. I did have my moments, Chris, when I thought it very tedious. I have to say that of the Dickens works I've read, not many unfortunately, The Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol are my favorite. This one had some applicable points for me personally, though, as I tend to have enormously high expectations. Thanks for the compliment, by the way. 😉

    Like

  3. As most of my blogger friends know, I am pretty inept at my classics, and this one has been on my list for some time. There are so many wonderful classics, its hard to know which I should tackle next. This one will definitely go on the list. I'm hoping I can upload it free on my Kindle!

    Like

  4. Nancy, it took me quite awhile to read it, too! Of course, my son has read it, and claims it as one of his favorites along with Les Miserables. Anyway, as with most classics, I find an important lesson along with the plot. Unlike you, though, I really had to push to finish it. It was tricky to keep all those characters straight!Sandy, I think I saw it on Amazon as a download. I've been wanting a Kindle…

    Like

  5. Pip and his "Aged P," Miss Havisham in her wedding dress. Oh, I loved this one, but that's all I can remember. Thanks for your great review–point taken!

    Like

  6. You really make me want to reach for my worn out volume and read this one again! I'm glad you found yourself drawn to this one, especially since it seems people have trouble with it (although I think being assigned to read it in 9th grade has something to do with that). Isn't Miss Havisham a piece of work? Dickens has the best characters.

    Like

  7. What a great review, Bellezza! I really need to read this…two of my three daughters loved it and keep pushing it toward me. It took me a long time to get through A Tale of Two Cities. I really liked it, but got bogged down a couple of times. Bleak House is waiting on my shelf, too.

    Like

  8. Love that book cover. Nearly makes me want to buy another copy of Great Expections, one of my favourite books.I also rather liked Lloyd Jones's take on the power of literataure in his novel Mister Pip. Reading Dickens in the tropics with unexpected consequences.

    Like

  9. I've read this one before but just started it again yesterday. I remember having had a more positive impression of Pip after the first time than in your review. It will be interesting to see how I perceive him this time. I was a lot younger the first time I read it, so may not have seen his flaws so clearly. It's an interesting perspective though and a change for Dickens, since he usually portrays the children as the victims and not the perpetrators.Randomly, I also love both A Tale of Two Cities and A Christmas Carol. If you've never read it, try Oliver Twist. I just read that at the beginning of the year and could hardly put it down.

    Like

  10. It is so good to know that Dickens lives on! I love Charles Dickens. I read all of his books when I was in my early 20's, and have very fond memories of the time and the experience. He does teach lessons, doesn't he!?I agree with your son – I loved Les Miserables too. Also the Red and the Black and The Three Musketeers. Good stuff.

    Like

  11. Great review of one of my very favorite books! Woot! I'm glad you enjoyed it and chewed it over. It really is full of great things.

    Like

  12. I. Love. this. book. REad it in 8th grade. Incredibly impressed by it at that time. Especially the characters. And their names. Estella. Magwich. Pip.Great stuff, to this day.

    Like

  13. Thanks to Estella's Revenge I read this one as part of the reading challenge last year and was so caught up in the story. Wasn't Joe a great character? Really enjoyed reading your review!

    Like

  14. Nancy, I remember your Chunkster Challenge, and all the fun that was. You are certainly good at getting through the classics. It is my aspiration to read as many as I can before I die. Ew, don't like that word…

    Like

  15. I'll never forget Miss Havisham! What an image she made! Talk about dressing yourself in your unfulfilled dreams and wishes which have all worn down to rags.

    Like

  16. Michelle, I feel that there's a lot I must have skipped; I just touched on the highlights as they struck me. But, thanks for enjoying my thoughts all the same.

    Like

  17. Dickens does have the best characters! Unfortunately, I am more familiar with them through film than through his novels. I loved "Bleak House", and of course "Oliver Twist" but I've only seen the movies. That's one of the reasons I want to complete his books.

    Like

  18. Bleak House was a great series when PBS did it in 2006. My whole family was mesmerized. And, I'll never forget A Tale of Two Cities. Talk about sacrifice for one's 'brother' as Christians are taught to do!

    Like

  19. You'll have to tell me if you like your Kindle or not. In one respect I am drawn to buying one (for the simple fact that I'm running out of shelf space!), on the other hand, I'm afraid I'd lose the joy of holding the book's pages, smelling the paper, etc.

    Like

  20. Melinda, I could be looking at Pip from the point of view of a parent who sorely misses her son's appreciation even though it's buried in him somewhere. It's funny how what we're feeling at the time influences our appreciation of the book we're reading. I plan on trying Oliver Twist soon!

    Like

  21. Oh, I've been dying to get to Stendhals' Red and The Black! Also, what an amazing thing to have read all of Dickens books. Someday, my friend, I hope to say the same.

    Like

  22. Oh, I can't imagine having to read this in eighth grade; how did the class ever manage to digest it? You have an awesome memory of the characters and their names; even I didn't put down Magwitch, and I read it two days ago! 😉

    Like

  23. I really enjoyed reading your review. It has been a loooong time since I've read any Dickens and this is one I haven't read at all. I've enjoyed reading about Dickens in the Nick Hornby essay collections as he is certainly a fan.

    Like

  24. I read this in college and was pretty bored with it, but that could be the effect of having to read what I'm told syndrome. Great review, it almost makes me want to read it again. Maybe one day.

    Like

  25. I'm back after having finished the book and you were right. Pip really was pretty selfish and ungrateful. One's perspective does change with age. I'm sure your son will get there one day too. Sometimes it's just lack of experience that makes us a little self-centered. Pip certainly proved that, or rather, Dickens did with his story.

    Like

  26. Melinda, I agree; age and experience often improve one's attitude/perspective. I was struck by Pip's apparent lack of appreciation for Joe because I see it teenagers so much today, but obviously that's not a new problem. This is one reason I love classics so much; they shed light on age old problems.

    Like

  27. Superb review, Bellezza!!I read this a few years ago and enjoyed it, but not as much as A Tale of Two Cities (my favorite of Dickens'). It's one of those classics I'm glad to have finally read. 🙂

    Like

  28. Like you, Les, I much prefer A Tale Of Two Cities. But, it is nice to get a few other works of Dickens under my belt. This makes a grand total of three I've read… 😉

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s