Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1861)


L: 4.5/10

M: 3/10

Analysis from a sequestered scream, with worn-down shoes:

A slower track, of future unpromising, fell upon me with years of correct decision making lacking. Novels such as this, in the appropriate years, would have been forcefully consumed in appropriate ways. I sat in a state of indifference, apathetic to great works of fiction, falling farther from the beaten path of a normal track. Regrettable years behind, this work was consumed in regrettable years of my life, but much hope was pointed in hopes of enjoying the much-celebrated work of literature.

There is a captivating story somewhere here, it just doesn’t come from the main character. Pip, the humdrum protagonist, idly flows from one year of life to another with no real direction or goal. A terrible childhood where brain damage is likely bestowed upon through “being brought up by hand” leads to being a puppet in some strange pursuit of revenge by a scorned lover. He is then catapulted into a curious fortune, only to slowly drown in debt and wash ashore back where the tale started. An attempt is made to smuggle a convict out of the country, a rival steals his love, jealous family members hover like vultures, and lifelong friends are made. These all sound like interesting side tangents, but Pip remains boring through it all. Everyone around him seems slightly more interesting. Maybe I’m missing the book’s main direction; the many generations of time and their confusing traditions lost something on me. If Pip would only take charge of his own life, stand up for himself, the spark within the timber of these story threads could have turned into a flame. I would have even settled for Drummle getting a jackknife in the throat. (Seriously, fuck you, Orlick)

Dickens paints this period perfectly, and along with some google searches, it felt as if I was walking the streets and marshes of mid 19th century London. Unfortunately, I feel as if the story never really goes anywhere. The story of Pip’s life unfolds into unhappiness and depression, with no real conclusion. Multiple Wikipedia and Sparknotes pages were feverishly referenced in all efforts to understand and process these pages. I was left unmoved, feeling like a teenager’s eyes glazed over, half-asleep in the back of English class.

Analysis from a shenanigan loving maker of beach ball cupcakes

Full disclosure: I read this in high school and wanted to revisit it to finish off our Pip streak. I wouldn’t say I regret my decision, but I could have lived without it.

The way Dickens can turn one single line of dialogue into a page and a half of explanation is both a gift and very trying to his readers. He is thorough to over-explain every situation, so if you have the time to re-read sentences and break them down phrase by phrase, you’ll never be lost.

In regards to the storyline itself, it is only okay. I remembered it having more of an impact on me, but then again, 10th grade me was far less jaded, and something cruel as making a child incapable of love seemed far more earth-shattering than it does now. It reads as a tame book that never really goes anywhere with the main character who has never accomplished much, and I suppose never intends to. Pip is a bit of an ass from the beginning, always expecting more and then forgetting his roots. There were some redeeming points, but the damage was done and so my interest in his well being faded quickly.

I had every intention of breezing through this book quickly as a follow up to such a heavy novel as Purity, but instead, this book seemed to drone on forever. The simple fact that it seemed more of a chore than a pleasure to read delayed the process for me.

All in all, I get the required reading for students, and I’m glad I’ve had a little Dickens, but our affair is over. He’s very much the high school flame that I had built up in my mind as the one that got away only to find out at the reunion that he’s bald, greasy, and plays drums in a band at the bowling alley. C’est la vie.

Charles Dickens.jpg
Charles Dickens

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