on October 12, 2003
Looking at the reviews for this book, it seems many are reading this book for the first time, as I did, as part of an English Literature course in high school.
Believe me, we can all assure you that this can be a difficult book for a ninth grader to enjoy. After all, we're talking about blacksmiths, pirates, and so on. Hardly things the average teenager of the 2000s can relate to.
But if you're in your twenties, thirties, or forties, this book is as compelling a novel as you'll ever read. It's an opportunity to look back at Pip and ourselves, the great expectations we all have, and the major surprises, disappointments, and regrets of life.
The adult reader can understand the vindictiveness of Miss Havisham, the pride of Magwitch, the true and rare friendship of Herbert Pocket, and, of course, Estella. Each man has in his life an Estella.
Beyond the true-to-life tale of hope and defeat, is the wry humor throughout the book that a more mature reader can appreciate.
Surprise yourself. If you hated this in high school, pick it up now; you may find this is one of the best books you ever read.
on June 5, 2004
Why do I come here to "review" this? It isn't anyone's book club selection, no. But tonight I want to talk about this incomparably rich and wonderful book, and how as a fourteen year old kid I simply sank into it, taking it slowly week by week, glorying in its mysteries, its great grotesque portrait of Miss Havisham in her rotting bridal finery, its often painful recounting of a young boy's awakening to a seductive world beyond the blacksmith's forge to which destiny has condemned him. This book was about me. It was about wanting to learn, wanting to transcend, wanting to achieve while anything and everything seems hopelessly beyond one's dreams. Of course life changes for Pip. And the world Pip enters was a world that dazzled me and only made my adolescent ambitions burn all the more hurtfully. I think this book is about all who've ever tried for more, ever reached for the gold ring -- and it's about some, of course, who've gotten it. It's also a wondrous piece of storytelling, a wondrous example of how in the first person ("I am, etc." ) a character can tell you more about himself than he himself knows. What a feat. And a very strange thing about this book, too, was the fact that Dickens said more about Pip and Pip's dreams than Dickens knew he was doing. Dickens himself didn't quite realize, I don't think, the full humanity of the character he created. Yet the character is there -- alive, captivating, engaging us throughout with full sympathy. Go for it. If you never read anything else by Charles Dickens, read and experience this book. Afterwards, David Copperfield will be a ride in the sunshine, I assure you. And both books will stand by you forever. For whom am I writing this? For myself perhaps just because Pip meant and still means so much. For some one perhaps who's unsure about this book and needs a push to dive into a classic. Oh, is this book ever worth the effort. -. Enough. Read it, know it.
on June 2, 2005
During the course of the year I try to read a few, "Important Novels" in order to get a fuller understanding of literature. Dicken's GREAT EXPECTATIONS has been on my list for nearly a year. I completely dreaded reading what I thought would be a long and drawn out story about something I could careless about. Well, I was wrong. Normally I go for a bestseller such THE MERMAID CHAIR or McCrae's CHILDREN'S CORNER, but went for this classic instead.
GREAT EXPECTATIONS is now #1 on my all-time favorites list. While, admittedly, it took me roughly 150 pages to get any enjoyment out of the novel- once I was in- I was hooked. Pip's journey through life is a very refreshing look at how distorted we let our lives become by focusing on the unimportant. Dicken's ability to slowly alter Pip's views on life, without changing his essential character/morales (Ex. How Pip looks to help his friend in his business pursuits). Some have called "Great Expecations" his masterpiece... but in my opinion, it may be the "Masterpiece" of English Literature.
I also wonder why this is required High School reading. While I loved this book at age 28, I think most 16 year-olds would find it unbearable. It seems like such a waist to ruin both the book and Dicken's name on minds that are not ready for such a reading task. Would also highly recommend two other books: LIFE OF PI and a book titled BARK OF THE DOGWOOD.
on July 7, 2004
Virtually every writer that has lived after Dicken's owes him a debt. While by today's standards he may seem verbose and long-winded, taken into context he is a marvel of craftsmanship and wit. And even taken out of context, he still survives, like Shakespeare, Marlow, or many of the other great writers. GREAT EXPECTATIONS is one of the few "perfect" books that have ever been written. What constitutes a "perfect" book? I'd say it would have to be pacing, excellent story material, a plot that makes sense and resolves itself, and wonderful writing. Believe it or not, few books fall into this category. Steinbeck's EAST OF EDEN comes to mind, as does McCrae's THE BARK OF THE DOGWOOD or Capote's OTHER VOICES, OTHER ROOMS. There are more, but not a lot. Of all of Dicken's works, GREAT EXPECTATIONS is by far his best effort. It's not as long as DAVID COPPERFIELD or some of his more protracted works, and this is probably the reason it's read in high school. If you're just now discovering this immense and talented genius, try this book first.
on June 23, 2004
Many reviewers have called this Dickens' greatest novel. One reviewer says it was the first time a character's feeling had been explored in such detail. These things I cannot comment on - this is the first Dickens novel I ever read, and I am not familiar with other works of this period. I can say that it was a damn fine read though.
I must admit, maybe it was a convention of the time, but there were a great many impossible coincidences in this story. The term "soap opera" even crossed my mind at one point. In the end I forgave these improbable coincidences because the story was so compelling, and the novel so old, and the author of legendary repute.
I loved the saint-like character Joe. I think he was my favorite character. And Dickens does a masterful job of showing the friendship between Pip - the protaganist - and Joe and especially Herbert. Miss Havisham is the picture of the bizarre rich recluse. And Estella the epitome of the cold-hearted shrew. All of the characters are rich.
And it is true, as many other reviewers have commented, that so many issues are explored in this work. The meaning of true love, genuine friendship, the implications of "moving up" and it's effects on family and friends, good fortune, redemption, etc. It's all there - life is there.
The book was slow at certain parts, but most of the time I found myself eagerly turning the pages. Dickens is a master at compelling his reader to turn the pages. What will happen next? At some of the titanic coincidences and plot turns I found myself thinking, "what?! You've got to be kidding me..." and then begging for more. I think you will too.
There are some deeply heartfelt moments. Deeply heartfelt, touching, that inspired warm feelings in me. It was a pleasant change of pace from the darker, more cynical literature of today (though there are evil people and violent actions in Great Expectations as well). The final lesson of redemption is truly heartwarming.
on May 11, 2004
"Great Expectations" is an extraordinary novel of a young boy's journey to adulthood. We meet Pip as he describes his sister who "raised him by hand." However, despite his misgivings about his sister he still feels very fondly towards his brother-in-law Joe Gargery. He meets many extraordinary characters along the way one of them being the classic literary figure Miss Havsiham. Miss Havisham had a broken heart and she raised her daughter Estealla to view men the same way she did. As Pip grows up and moves out on his own he becomes the only person to know the true identity of Estella. The other important character in "Great Expectations" is a criminal. He had threatened Pip in the marshes when he was a young boy and came back from New Zealand many years later to see Pip again. All though the criminal meets his untimely demise we still grow close to the character and miss him when he goes. This book gives an excellent view of not only a young boy's thoughts and emotions but outlook as well. It takes you on a journey that provides you with many lessons that can be carried throughout your life. Despote the magnificence and brilliance of the author's writing it is still a very difficult book. Dickens gives an amazing outlook on life and he deserves the recognition he has gotten, even since his death. "Great Expectations" is a true classic and deserves to go down in literary history.
on March 26, 2004
Another reviewer claims that you have to be at least 21 years old to read this book. Although I don't think it should be "forced" on schoolchildren (they will only hate it) I read this novel when I was a child and I loved it. I have just re-read it now and I enjoy it all the more. This is my favorite novel by Dickens. It is from his later period and is criticized for being too dark - which, however, makes it more perfect for today's sensibilities. Stephen King cites this work as one of his favorites: he believes that it is this book that brought the gothic novel mainstream.
Was there ever a novelist who created more memorable characters than Dickens? Here, we meet perhaps his most intriguing - Miss Havisham. For anyone unfamiliar with the story, I will not spoil it by describing her. The story is similar to parable about the prodigal son - good Pip inexplicably comes into some money and goes off to the corrupting city.
AN IMPORTANT THING TO NOTE: Dickens wrote two ending for this book. His friends thought that the original ending was too downbeat and they asked him to come up with a different one. It is the upbeat ending that is the official ending of the novel. However, most critics agree that the original unpublished ending is better. Most modern editions feature the unpublished ending in an appendix. MAKE SURE YOU BUY A COPY THAT CONTAINS THE ORIGINAL ENDING!
on February 22, 2004
I was just 10 years old, when I first read an abridged version of this Dickens Classic. I must have read it many times since, and everytime I read it, I am filled with array of emotions, and a deep respect for the author. Pip, the hero, is a character that embodies hopes, disappointments and dreams of every boy. As he narrates his life, we grow with him, see many people come in and go out of his life, and we feel with him his emotions and predicaments. Life is full of surprises, unexpected twists and turns, and this novel is a great chronicle of the possibilities of fate. But most importantly, this is a story of pining... and a novel worth pining for.
Miss Havisham, the old lady, epitomizes eccentricity, while Estella in her cold abandon represents every heartbreaker. This story is about pining, about love, about friendship (especially Pip and Joe, and later Pip and Herbert), about relationships, and most importantly about what one feels and lives by. Like all Dickens novels, this is a very well written story, and is much more engrossing than any of its on screen versions. This is a story that must be read at leisure and it must be failing of the reader to try and compare it with some cheap paperback that one can scram through while watching a movie and munching chips and cola. Classics deserve respect, attention and concentration: dedicate yourself to one, and trust me you will discover a lot more. A lot more about the novel and a lot more about your own self.
We all have Great Expectations, and this one by Dickens beats them all!!
on February 10, 2004
Charles Dickens develops the characters, the plot, and the conflicts in Great Expectations spectacularly. The characters Dickens develops throughout the story are human and easy to connect with. Pip is the most real to life character, because he exhibits the most human-like qualities. Pip is a very personable character that makes the reader feel sorrow and happiness along with him. As Pip looks to better himself and become a gentleman, he comes to realize a very important life lesson; money cannot buy happiness. As Pip goes through the story, he allows the reader to see and feel exactly what he feels and sees.
Estella is described as a beautiful young woman that captures Pip's heart. Estella has a very insensitive personality, and enjoys making Pip cry; something everyone has encountered in a person some time in his/her life.
Herbert is a young man with many dreams and aspirations. Herbert becomes Pip's best friend, and Pip realizes that this young man works very hard for what he believes in. This is the kind of friend that will push a person where they would not normally go by themselves.
Abel Magwitch is the convict that Pip encounters at the beginning of the story. Magwitch gives Pip a large amount of money to start his life as a gentleman. Magwitch is the kind of person that would give the clothes off of his back to anyone in need. Magwitch is also a very personable character because he is not all good or all evil. He exhibits both of these; he is a convict and he devotes his life's earnings to Pip.
Charles Dickens develops an outstanding plot as the novel unfolds. There are many life lessons throughout the novel. Pip realizes that all of the money in the world cannot buy happiness. Pip also finds out that true love is not just the woman he cannot obtain, because love has to be much more. The plot has many twists and turns throughout. There is always something new happening to Pip. It is almost like a soap opera, because there are so many people and events interacting with each other during the novel. When the plot becomes a little thin, Dickens begins to create suspense for the next big event about to occur. Dickens chooses to develop the plot through the character's actions. Not once did Dickens explain what was happening in the story, he let the characters take over, and within a few pages all questions were answered.
The novel has many conflicts that develop throughout the plot. Pip and Estella have a love-hate relationship going on. Pip loves Estella, but she could care less about him. Pip and Joe have a conflict, too. Pip wants to see much less of Joe now that he is a gentleman, but Joe just wants to see Pip, period. Pip thinks he is too good for Joe, even though he is still just the same human as he was before. Money changes people's outlook on life. Pip was once a benevolent, caring, young man, but once he fell into money, he changed dramatically in the way he acted towards others. These conflicts provide for some pretty interesting facets in the story. Charles Dickens develops the characters, the plot, and the conflicts excellently throughout the novel.
on December 13, 2003
Charles Dickens's acknowledged masterpiece, Great Expectations, is rightly considered one of the greatest novels of all-time. It depth and breadth are staggering, as it follows its protagonist, Pip, from his early childhood through his later life. During the course of his life, we encounter a vast catalog of raw human emotions: love, hate, jealousy, hope, sadness, despair, anger, pity, empathy, sympathy -- and on and on. The story is treasured and revered for many reasons. One of its main strengths is its plot: after a somewhat slow introductory section, Dickens puts his story in fifth gear and delivers a fast-paced and exciting story that gallops along without ever losing interest or clarity. The incredibly complex plotline, full of separate stories and incidents that seem totally unrelated to each other, but are then all harnessed together as the book heads straight toward its denouement, is also full of constant plot twists, which continue up until, literally, the last paragraph. But, of course, as with all of Dickens's major works, it is the characters that make the book. Like Shakespeare, Dickens preferred to have the story develop through the characters, rather than having the characters be mere set pieces inside of an overriding story. And what great characters they are: the perennially paradoxical but essentially human Pip; the bitter and mysterious Miss Havisham; the beautiful and haughty Estella; the simple and saint-like Joe; the kind and benevolent Herbert; the very human convict, Magwitch -- and all of the other wonderful characters. Dickens excelled in creating well-rounded, very human characters who harbored very real and very complex emotions -- that is, human emotions. We identify with Pip as he winds through his life, because we have been there, too -- the disappointments, the surprises, the loves, the anger, the sadness. In whatever way his story may differ from our own, it is still essentially human, as is ours. For all of his complex and paradoxical emotions and sentiments, Pip is a recognizably human character -- and that is why we love him and this book. A masterpiece for the ages, which will endure for years yet to come, Great Expectations is a great book that can be loved by one and all, for, at its heart, is that grain of simple truth that says so much about what is human in all of us -- whether we have great expectations or not.