Sunday, January 6, 2013

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

First bookclub choice of the year and we started out with a fairly long Classic.
I had not read it before but the story was vaguely familiar.   Pip meets and helps an escaped convict Magwitch when he is quite young. There is a good description of his life with his domineering sister and easy-going Blacksmith brother-in-law. There is a half-hearted effort to get him educated and circumstances lead him to meet the local rich eccentric Miss Haversham, who never quite got over being 'taken advantage of' - a sort of physical representative of what many jilted women have to suck up and push aside to continue with Life?  At this meeting Pip meets Estelle the rather cold adopted daughter of Miss Haversham whom he falls in love with and basically remains true to her throughout the novel, even though she warns him that she is incapable of returning that sort of Love.  This introduction to a different Class begins to make Pip ashamed of his own humble beginnings and his future prospects of becoming a Blacksmith himself. Redemption comes in the form of an unknown benefactor via a London lawyer who indicates that he need not work and leads Pip to have Great Expectations. Pip basically drifts about central London and becomes a bit of a snob - I actively disliked his character when he treats Joe, his faithful brother-in-law and serving girl, Biddy very poorly. There was a saving grace in that Pip remains a loyal friend to Herbert - a 'soft' layabout like himself whom he serectly supports with the allowance that he is given.
His benefactor turns up congratulating himself on producing a worthless 'gentleman' and to Pip's horror, the benefactor is even lower on the social scale than Joe! Estelle turns out to be a bit of a Becky Sharp (Vanity Fair) and gets what she deserves-- though I thought the end was a bit ambiguous and Dickens left it to his readers to decide whether the twarted lovers ever get together. There was a lot of 'coincidences' as Dickens made tenuous connections between his characters - good and bad - in an effort to tie up the end of the book. I thought the pyschological formations of the characters were interesting - that 200yrs ago writers were attempting to illustrate how people become who they are from their experiences in their formative years.

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