2012 Challenges, Books, Quotes, The Classics Club

Book 134: Great Expectations – Charles Dickens

I want to like Dickens—I really do. The only problem is that I’m convinced if he had a better editor these books would have been BEYOND amazing. The same thing happened while reading Great Expectations to me while reading A Tale of Two Cities. There were probably 200(+) pages in the middle of the book that just felt waffly and I could’ve done without. The openings were both great, once I got used to the language, and the endings were PHENOMENAL!

Great Expectaions counts for both my Mount TBR Challenge (20/25) and The Classics Club (11/100)!

I don’t want to boil this down to a love story, because it is so much more, but we all know my responses generally focus on one theme that really strikes me and the love of Pip for Estella definitely overwhelmed everything else (with the exception of his learning to love Magwitch). But seriously, how can you not be bowled over by the following quote?

“Out of my thoughts! You are part of my existence, part of myself. You have been in every line I have ever read, since I first came here, the rough common boy whose poor heart you wounded even then. 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 streets. You have been the embodiment of every graceful fancy that my mind has ever become acquainted with. The stones of 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!” (720-721)

Okay, so maybe it is a bit over the top, but COME ON, who wouldn’t want to be loved like that? This is the point where I made the full connection that Ms. Havisham was ruining Estella’s life to such a point that she could never be happy. Estella’s non-response to this and Ms. Havisham’s response were a wake up call. It doesn’t help that one of the three major revelations of the story just shook Pip’s world and that’s why he was visiting.

If there is one thing that Dickens did incredibly well it was the revelation of who was who throughout the novel. I guessed who Pip’s benefactor was, but I did not guess his further relationships. I’m not sure if I guessed it because I’d heard it at one point, but not long after he received news of his great expectations I had an inkling of who it was. I like to think that perhaps Dickens knew people would guess this and thus added the further character twists at the end.

Recommendation: Overall I’m glad I read it. I surprisingly preferred A Tale of Two Cities to Great Expectations but would consider re-reading both. Definitely read Dickens for the endings! Both endings were able to rock my world a bit and make me say ‘Wait a second!?’

Opening Line: “My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.”

Closing Line: “I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so, the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw the shadow of no parting from her.” (Whited out.)

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29 thoughts on “Book 134: Great Expectations – Charles Dickens”

  1. I read this blog when I read the line ” I’m convinced if he had a better editor these books would have been BEYOND amazing”. So true – his wordiness really let him down, but of course he was writing for weekly readership (and without wordprocessing) so I can see this would have warped his output a lot.

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    1. Yeah. It really let him down, but at the same time it helped him out I’m sure. In Two Cities he really pegged the crucial hook points to end a publication that would drive readers back in droves!

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  2. I was about to say, too, that the serialization of these novels had authors drawing them out as part of the trade. Not only did it mean more money, but it was also pretty convenient to faff about for a couple weeks if you weren’t quite sure where your main plotline was going yet. It wasn’t until I’d read The Count of Monte Cristo that I was introduced to that idea.

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    1. I’ve read plenty and have actually read a few that used the serialization to their advantage by including current events. These two just seemed a bit too waffly in the middle. Like he wasn’t quite sure where he wanted to go.

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  3. I’m really looking forward to tackling this one off my list too! I’m nervous as I really didn’t like Oliver Twist (and I hadn’t taken the serialization into account) but hopefully I’ll just be better prepared when I dive into this one. -Sarah

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      1. Actually, David Copperfield was the most autobiographical of his novels… but it’s also one of his best (in my opinion). I enjoyed Oliver Twist, the novel, but the character was just a bit (very) annoying – saintlike, doe-eyed, and weepy throughout. Gah!

        Great Expectations was probably my favorite – but there are a few I haven’t read, yet, such as The Old Curiosity Shop and Bleak House. I’m really looking forward to the former. Also, his later works seem to be the best, as they get a bit more realistic and a bit darker (Mystery of Edwin Drood, Our Mutual Friend…).

        As to the wordiness…well, like everyone says, he was paid not by the story, but by the length of each segment of the story, so it’s not surprising that he would be a bit long-winded. Fortunately, although it can be irritating and not always necessary, it doesn’t break the deal for me, either.

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  4. I enjoyed Great Expectations and probably one of his novels that he did edit down! I do like Dickens… but he is capable of waffling on. I got part way through Our Mutual Friend, a great story in there but so many superfluous characters and things going on that half could have been cut out. I want to read that novel one day – perhaps when more in the mood and having patience for waffle.

    I know they were paid by page back in those days, I guess that would effect it. However, novels I’ve read by Wilkie Collins and Elizabeth Gaskell for example, who were published the same way to begin with, didn’t feel the need to babble for a hundreds of pages.

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    1. There were definitely portions I enjoyed – I mean the ending WOW! It’s funny multiple people have mentioned that they were paid for the page. I’m not as familiar with his story, but I know that at least some of his books were published in his own publication so I’m not sure if he would’ve been paid? Who knows thought right?

      I think I have at least one book each from Wilkie Collins and Elizabeth Gaskell on my Classics Club list. I’m definitely looking forward to them once I’ve taken a bit of a break from ‘old’ classics 😀

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      1. Great writers! I recently read a compilation novel (The Haunted House) which was published by Dickens, but which had chapters written by Gaskell, Collins, and others. It was very interesting, if not very good.

        The Woman in White (Collins) was surprisingly good – I wasn’t expecting to be so gripped and entertained by a Victorian novel. I usually enjoy them (from the good writers, anyway), but that one was just an awesome experience.

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          1. I enjoyed No Name by Wilkie Collins. It’s so well written and a bit of a page turner. I can’t wait to get to The Woman in White. I hope the Gaskell you got on your list is North& South. Mmmm… Mr Thornton… (kick’s Mr Darcy’s butt) and a great story too. I have read it about 5 times… so far.

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  5. I wish I could edit some of my replies. effect = affect in my first I think (grammar never a strong point) and kicks definitely without the apostrophe that somehow crept in there.

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    1. Haahaa – I’m sure the grammar in my post is incorrect so you’re just adding to the eccentric ambiance! I believe it’s No Name on my list and North and South.

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  6. ‘Great Expectations’ is my favourite Dickens novel and I enjoyed reading your post.

    Certainly, Estella did not deserve such devotion, but for me, it’s Pip’s ‘education’ that is at the heart of the novel.

    Incidentally, there’s an excellent adaptation of GE at the Theatre by the Lake in Keswick at the moment. It’s not an easy story to adapt, with the adult narrator and the range of settings, but I think this production succeeds very well. Miss Havisham was superb.

    http://www.theatrebythelake.co.uk/whatson_detail.asp?ID=1368

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    1. Thanks for stopping by and for the comment! I know what you mean about Estella not deserving the devotion! That looks like a great adaptation of the novel, I will definitely have to see if any of his stories have been adapted over here.

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  7. Funny, Tale of Two Cities and Great Expectations are both at the very bottom of my Dickens-favorite books. I think Hard Times may have been my favorite of the ones I’ve read so far. But David Copperfield is up there too. Great Expectations had too many long boring sections. Tale of Two Cities was thrust upon me when I was too young (and ended up swaying my opinion of Dickens so much that I never read another book by him for another 15 years). I might re-read it someday.

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    1. I am very glad I never had to read Dickens in school or I would probably not have read him as an adult. I don’t think I will go out of my way to read him again, but I enjoyed the two I read. They weren’t perfect and the endings were really the highlight. However, I may have to check out the few that people keep repeating are his best.

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