The Classics Club: Great Expectations

Great Expectations

After reading and enjoying Oliver Twist by Charles Dickens at the end of 2012 I have been even more keen to read more of Dickens work. Already having Great Expectations on my to-be-read pile pretty much made up my mind which of Dickens’s work would be my next read. As the cold weather seems to have descended on the UK again I thought Great Expectations would be a great read to snuggle up in a blanket with as the dark nights drew in.

Great Expectations follows the life of a young orphaned boy nicknamed Pip. When we join young Pip he is living with his strict sister and her big-hearted husband Joe Gargery. At which point Pip has little to no expectations other than to join Joe as an apprentice in his smithy. A series of strange events and encounters are to set Pip on a completely different road though. As a young man he is visited by a London lawyer who informs him that he has a secret benefactor who wishes to pay for Pip to become a gentleman. Pip moves to London with his great expectations looking to make a name for himself and finally claim the hand of the woman he loves. Great Expectations reminded me of a previous Dickens’s read Nicholas Nickleby because they both span a great deal of one individual’s life. There was plenty of time to really get to know Pip, his virtues as well as his faults and failings, and how he goes on to grow and change from a boy into a man.

As I said above the last Dickens’s novel I read was Oliver Twist which as many of you will know follows the trials and tribulations of the orphan Oliver. It was hard not to find myself comparing the two orphans against each other, even though I don’t believe it is necessarily a fair comparison. Oliver is a highly loving, patient, and well-mannered child but we only really see him during his younger years. Pip on the other hand is no angel but I do think Pip is honest about his own faults and on the whole his heart does seem to be in the right place. The real crucial difference though is that I got to see Pip grow. From a confused, self-conscience, and naive boy, to a proud, foolish but generous young man, to finally a loyal, loving, and sensible man. It is not an easy road but in the end I think Pip becomes a good man. I particularly loved watching his transformation.

I still find that Dickens’s use of language is rather convoluted and highly detailed but the more of his work I read the easy to get into the flow of his style is. Once I’m into the style I find I am free to just get lost in the story. And boy, can Dickens weave a wonderful story. This one in particularly is the most intricate and twisting tales I’ve read of his so far. Yet like previous novels what really makes Dickens novels for me is the vast array of colourful characters. I read recently the criticism that Dickens’s characters are rather one-dimensional and more caricatures rather than real people. I can see where they are coming from his characters are very over the top but that’s what make them so memorable for me. And in Great Expectations I wasn’t disappointed along the way we meet the simple but big-hearted Joe, the mysterious lawyer Jaggers, heart-broken Miss Havisham, ridiculous Mr Pumblechook, the cold and beautiful Estella, friendly Herbert Pocket, several scary convicts, and many, many more. I particular loved Joe, I would love my own Joe Gargery.

Great Expectations is a charming and exciting journey seen through the eyes of young orphan trying to find himself and make his way in Victorian England. I highly recommend reading this novel. This is now my 11th read off my Classics Club list. I now have copies of A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, and The Pickwick Papers to choose from for my next Dickens read.

Are you a fan of Charles Dickens? What Dickens’s novel do you think I should read next?


18 thoughts on “The Classics Club: Great Expectations

  1. I am hoping to read this book soon. Hopefully I will be able to finish it. Most classics don’t.

  2. I read Great Expectations last year and loved it! Who can ever forget Miss Havisham? I haven’t been tempted to read any other Dickens since, though, but I would like to read Bleak House one day because I so adore the tv adaptation.

    1. Anbolyn I think Miss Havisham has got to be one of the most memorable characters ever written! I would also like to read Bleak House as I too loved the TV adaptation 🙂

  3. This is a really interesting review, Jessica. Granted I’ve only seen the film, not read the book, but it never occurred to me to compare Oliver and Pip and it’s a really interesting idea. Pip really has it a lot easier than Oliver, and yet the basic structure of their lives is the same – criminals, someone to help them, getting out of their problems. The writing style does get easier to read as you continue, I have to agree. His stories make it worth it.

    1. Charlie it never occurred to me until I read the two books after each other so it was easier see the similarites and differences beween the orphans. Pip definitely has it a lot easier than poor old Oliver which means at first you can find yourself a little frustrated with him. However this not a novel of the here and now but how time changes things, particularly people.

  4. I am a great fan of Dickens! I just read “Great Expectations” this past fall. My older brother was assigned it in high school many years ago and christened it “Great Expectorations”! I enjoyed it, though I was very impatient with Pip because he took so long to shape up. “A Christmas Carol ” is wonderful and so often bypassed because of our inundation with Christmas movie versions. It has the benefit of being short, so I recommend that next. Then on to “A Tale of Two Cities” – which I need to re-read myself. Someone recently said I need to read “Little Dorrit” (sp?).

    1. I can sympathise with your thoughts on Pip he certainly did take a while to shape up but if he’d been perfect all along not sure he would have been so interesting.

      I haven’t read Little Dorrit but I did watch a charming adaptation of it made by the BBC, because of which I have put it on my Classics Club list to read.

      So that’s a vote for A Christmas Carol thank you. As much as I want to read it part of me thinks it would better to read it at Christmas?

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