Great Expectations is one of my favourite Dickens novels, and also (I think) has had the best adaptations made of it. Look out for the latest BBC mini-series for a very dark version of the novel, or for the South Park adaptation “Pip” which is brilliant, and I think gives the best explanation for Miss Havisham’s attempts to warp Estella’s mind (I don’t want to spoil anything, but it involves using the broken hearts of men to a Dark Purpose).Great Expectations follows Philip Pirrip, also known as Pip, as he grows up, helps an escaped criminal, and falls in love with Estella, the ward of Miss Havisham – a crazy lady who lives in a house where all the clocks have been stopped and she refuses to remove her wedding dress. He later learns that he is a young gentleman of Great Expectations and goes to London where the knowledge of his expectations makes him become spoiled. I said last week that Oliver Twist could hold your attention, but it is by no means as good at it as Great Expectations is. the slightly haunted nature of Miss Havisham, as well as Pip’s flaws, make the novel a good deal more compelling. Estella, at first, comes across as horrible, but Dickens manages to round her nicely and actually give her some psychological reasons for acting as she does.
As with Oliver Twist, the plot revolves around coincidences. These coincidences actually do make some sense, however, as they are all linked to Jarrold the lawyer and his connection to the characters is explained and, again, makes sense. So I will forgive Dickens this time; the coincidences are at least reasonable.
There are also some fun bits of writing in Great Expectations. The novel is written from Pip’s perspective, and so in the beginning it is written with the same kind of notions which children can get. Pip has been “brought up by hand” by his sister, which he assumes refers to the amount she hits him. Because his sister is not good-looking but his brother-in-law is really nice, he also assumes that his sister made him marry her “by hand”. I have said before that I enoy Dickens’s writing style, and in Great Expectations it has become a great deal smoother.
Great Expectations is well worth reading. It is a comparitively easy read and the storyline helps keep you going. There is also Dickens’s wit and humour, and a whole cast of interesting and fun characters. Occasionally the descriptions can get a bit long, but otherwise there is little to complain about.
Next Week: Bleak House – one of Dickens’ loooong novels.