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Great Expectations by Charles Dickes
“Great Expectations” Review
I did not have great expectations for the book “Great Expectations.”
As a matter of fact, while finding out that students had to read this “masterpiece” over summer vacation, I groaned to my greatest-teenager extent. I did not know much about the book; only that it was written much too long ago to be comprehensible. After months of tests, projects, and stress, I did not feel like embarking upon a four-hundred and fifty-page shock of words. So I “forgot” about the book, (just for a little while,) and eased into vacation with that nagging in my head.
It happened with a family trip to Borders. My motive was to find light read. I found that one of my favorite authors, A.J.Jacobs, came out with a new book. It was called “The guinea Pig Diaries”- A memoir of hilarious projects and experiments that caused both wreck and life-lessons. I dove into it right away, and took a sudden liking. Its great sense of humor (but occasional sincerity) made it an upbeat memoir. The experiments A.J. Jacobs planned to follow out were both hilarious and cringe-worthy. I particularly looked forward to a chapter in which Jacobs spends a while in a radical honesty practice, (the chapter by which is called “I think your fat.” This was the book for me.
As fate would have it, when I begged my father to buy “The Guinea Pig Diaries” for me, he decided to search for my summer reading list instead. I left the bookstore with “Great Expectations” in my hands- a mocking reminder that if I chose to tell my dad about summer reading later, I would have had a much better book as my companion.
Needless to say, I sulked the whole way home.
To those whom have never read Great Expectations, they must understand that at first glance the book is uninviting. It is written at a time when “Oh jolly me!” was of constant use; when men found more interest in the design of their handkerchiefs over sports—(often done in sweaters with good manner.) The cover is uninteresting and simple. Moreover, the opening line in the book is: “My father’s name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit that Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.” This alone, in my opinion, was a justification enough to detest this novel.
How is it then that I sit here one month later, telling you a valuable life lesson?
Never judge a book by its cover. Or by its time-period. Or by its opening sentence. Because, despite all of this, I fell in love with the novel.
I started off struggling through the first chapter, and getting used to the language. My first week of reading it was painful, and I put off reading to the point where I’d only get through a few pages a time.
But, as those nights became weeks, a new opinion bloomed in my mind as flowers slowly do in spring- unnoticeable at first, and then BAM! Suddenly that opinion was there; a shock of beauty that I could not ignore. The ominous mood of the book with a great splash of humor and wit lured me in. The incredible, different creations of characters that Dickens invented were enchanting. I found myself caring deeply about Pip, and forcing myself forward in the book just to assure myself of his ending.
And let not the hard tongue of this book impede upon your reading it! (Perhaps it’s time to stop speaking like Pip.) I admittedly had some trouble understanding this book. The language is certainly from a different era. Occasional phrases and terms confused me relentlessly. Yet, with a trusty dictionary and an online chapter synopsis, I was able to understand the book better and better. Once I got the hang of certain expressions, I could solely enjoy the rich plot that was enthralling. All it took was a bit of rewarded effort.
This book contains a theme that many authors fail to express: The art of maturing. Most books that take place over a long time fail to demonstrate the mental growth of a character. With Pip, this was shown flawlessly. The book began with a young, timid boy who grew under the thumb of his harsh older sister. Pip does what he is told, thinks just for the present, and does not yet have a grasp of the world around him. His biggest fear is “Tickler”, his older sister’s cane. As he acquires his expectations, he becomes snobbier. Pip regards himself as being like the adults around him. He is haughty and proud, even with dear Joe Gargery that raised him with labor of love. Pip becomes a self-righteous teenager who takes all of his “Great Expectations” for granted. He works only for his own personal gain. Then, as he grows even older, he resorts to helping his good friend Herbert financially. He also makes compulsive decisions, such as the one not to tell “Uncle Provis” that all his money will “Go to the Crown”. Suddenly, he worries more about the life of his benefactor over his own. Pip achieves a firm grasp on his behavior, and sets out to humbly apologize to Joe after years of acting in superiority. He becomes the kind gentlemen I always hoped him to be.
There is another great aspect to this book: Everything came together in the end. There were characters that Dickens put invented that I didn’t perceive as being necessary. I thought them to be a waste in the book. In the end, however, all the characters came together to be related in some way to each other and towards the issues that Pip came to deal with. They all had forgivable and unforgivable characteristics, which made them so alluring. The plot was quick-paced and full of unexpected twists. It is fair to say that this story had all the components that make a story beautiful: Wit, hardship, twists, confusion, shock, and humor. This comes without mentioning it’s bittersweet ending that will satisfy everyone.
In conclusion? I could not be happier that my father bought me “Great Expectations” that day at Borders. I put my hands together for a book I thought never deserved such an honor. This is saying a lot, coming from a fourteen-year-old, unreasonably picky adolescent.