Week 22: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

I haven’t posted in a while, but I wanted to take a minute to crank out a review on this British Lit classic. I loved this novel and recognized it as being worthy of its reputation in the canon of English literature.

Illustration of the first scene of "Great Expectations" - Pip meets Magwitch at the cemetery.

Illustration of the first scene of “Great Expectations” – Pip meets Magwitch at the cemetery.

The story is a coming of age (bildungsroman) tale of Pip who is a young, orphaned country boy taken in by his sister and loyal husband Joe. His sister raises him up “by hand,” until a wealthy Miss Havisham takes interest in him. Pip falls madly in love with Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter Estella and as the book progresses, Pip finds himself to be the recipient of an anonymous inheritance which puts him in a better social position to pursue the beautiful Estella.

Reviews and summaries for this book are available via any standard google search, so I don’t want to get too wordy in my contribution to a conversation that is already over-discussed. The book is great. The characters are hearty and real and every bit as entertaining as any you come across in today’s literature. The plot twists kept me on my toes at every corner, and the narration of the main character is wonderfully self-reflective and insightful. Dickens brings the themes of social class, love, and growing up to his readers across time and space and makes them universally relatable. As the first of Dicken’s works I have read since I was younger and less appreciative of good writing, it does not surprise me that he has found himself on the list of “greatest writers” time and time again. That being said, I will finish off this post with some of my favorite quotes from the book.

“The broken heart. You think you will die, but you just keep living, day after day after terrible day.”

“Ask no questions, and you’ll be told no lies.”

“In a word, I was too cowardly to do what I knew to be right, as I had been too cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be wrong.”

“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”

“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.”

Overall Score: 9.7. Loved it.



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