Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Book Report: Great Expectations

You're probably thinking, "It's been a couple of weeks since she read a book! What's taking so long?"

Well, I've been poring through Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens. This is the book club selection for the month. Whew. It took awhile for me to get through all 500+ pages. Here are some examples of why:

" . . . You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since - on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the light, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea, in the streets. You have been the embodiment of every graceful fancy that my mind has ever become acquainted with. The stones of which the strongest London buildings are made, are not more real, or more impossible to be displaced by your hands, than your presence and influence have been to me, there and everywhere, and will be. Estella, to the last hour of my life, you cannot choose but remain part of my character, part of the little good in me, part of the evil. But, in this separation I associate you only with the good, and I will faithfully hold you to that always, for you must have done me far more good than harm, let me feel now what sharp distress I may. O God bless you, God forgive you!"


". . . And when it come to character, warn't it Compeyson as had been to the school, and warn't it his schoolfellows as was in this position and in that, and warn't it him as had been know'd by witnesses in such clubs and societies, and nowt to his disadvantage? And warn't it me as had been tried afore, and as had been know'd up hill and down dale in Bridewells and Lock-Ups? And when it come to speech-making, warn't it Compeyson as could speak to 'em wi' his face dropping every now and then into his white pocket-handkercher - ah! and wi' verses in his speech, too - and warn't it me as could only say, 'Gentlemen, this man at my side is a most precious rascal'? And when the verdict come, warn't it Compeyson as was recommended to mercy on account of good character and bad company, and giving up all the information he could agen me, and warn't it me as got never a word but Guilty? . . ."

So, now you understand?

Great Expectations is the story of an orphan named Pip from the time he was seven-years-old to about 35-years-old and his efforts to become a gentleman.

The story was first serialized in an English publication in 1860, but the plot holds up well. Dickens divided the novel into four stages of Pip's life expectations. Interestingly, there are two different endings. The original and a second one Dickens wrote because a friend suggested the first one wouldn't be accepted by the public. The version I read had both endings...I liked the original best.

Like many of Dickens' books {eg., Oliver Twist, Hard Times, Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol} there's a lot of suffering and poverty portrayed throughout Great Expectations. Dickens used his books {many semi-autobiographical}to highlight the social ills of the time and the great disparity between rich and poor.

Even though I struggled...struggled, I say...to wade through all the ye olde English writing...I loved the story. I appreciate why there have been more than 250 stage and screen adaptations of the novel. Still, much like A Christmas Carol, I can't say I thoroughly enjoyed reading the book. That said, it was good to stretch past my comfort limits.

The plot also started me thinking about my own life's expectations and how I would divide the years up. Hmmmm.

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