Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
I remember, when my sister and I were small children, my mother used to take an hour out on Sunday afternoons to read us a story. It was a treasured time, after church, Sunday school and Sunday lunch, our “story time” was sacrosanct. It took Mum several weeks, at an hour a time, to read us Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and it had remained one of my favourite novels so I took the opportunity to re-read it recently.
Charles John Huffam Dickens was an English writer and social critic who was born in Portsmouth, England on 7, February 1812. He created some of the world’s best-known fictional characters and is regarded as the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. Amongst the timeless characters created in Great Expectations are Miss Haversham and Magwitch. Great Expectations is Charles Dickens’s thirteenth novel it depicts the personal growth and development of an orphan nicknamed Pip.
This is a magnificent novel of guilt, desire and redemption. In Great Expectations a humble orphan called Pip is apprenticed to the dirty work of the forge but dares to dream of becoming a gentleman. Pip has a terrifying encounter with a grizzled escaped convict, Magwitch, in an overgrown church yard on the Kent marshes. The convict terrifies the young boy and threatens to kill him unless Pip helps further his escape.
Later, Pip finds himself in receipt of a mysterious summons to the ruined garden where he meets the bitter and crazy Miss Havisham and her foster child Estella, with whom he immediately falls in love. This forms the prelude to Pip’s great expectations. After a secret benefactor gives him a fortune, what he does with it, and what he discovers through his secret benefactor are the ingredients of his struggle for moral redemption.
Pip moves to London, where he cultivates great expectations for a life which would allow him to discard his impoverished beginnings and socialize with the idle upper class. As Pip struggles to become a gentleman, he is tormented endlessly by the beautiful Estella and slowly learns the truth about himself and his illusions.
Great Expectations was written in the last decade of Dickens’s life, it reveals his dark attitudes toward Victorian society, its inherent class structure, and its materialism. Yet Great Expectations persists as one of Dickens’s most popular novels. It is richly comic and immensely readable, Great Expectations overspills with vividly drawn characters, moral maelstroms, and the sorrow and pity of love. If you have not yet taken time out to read Great Expectations: treat yourself and do so now.