Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
I read the Amazon kindle edition.
There is Pip, the orphan, “brought up by hand” by his sister and Joe the blacksmith, visiting his parent’s graves on Christmas eve. There is the young man in the graveyard. There is a young boy making a choice, the anguish and guilt that go with that choice, and the consequences that occur from it.
Since that time, which is far enough away now, I have often thought that few people know what secrecy there is in the young, under terror. No matter how unreasonable the terror, so that it be terror. I was in mortal terror of the young man who wanted my heart and liver; I was in mortal terror of my interlocutor with the ironed leg; I was in mortal terror of myself, from whom an awful promise had been extracted; I had no hope of deliverance through my all-powerful sister, who repulsed me at every turn; I am afraid to think of what I might have done, on requirement, in the secrecy of my terror.
Pip makes his choice, and it changes his history. Later there is Estella and, of course, Miss Havirsham, and the fight with the “pale faced boy” in the over-grown garden. (I cannot wait to see Helena Bonham Carter in that wedding dress).
Great Expectations is a coming of age story that covers the themes of family, class, greed and ambition, touching on human needs and human failing. It is a story of friendship and of love. Interestingly, the original ending was different then the one most of us are familiar with. Charles Dickens changed it because he was told it was “too sad”.
Reading Great Expectations at the time it was first published must have been thrilling and exciting. The serialization left cliff-hangers, characterization and description brought the people, class differences and places to life. Dickens, like Shakespeare, helped to fuel the idea of popular culture, entertainment made available to the masses along with the elite. Then there is the question of the literacy of the time, how many people of that era could read?
A great book to reread, Great Expectations also has me thinking about the history of popular literature and class. The next Dickens on my classics TBR list is Bleak House, a book I have not read.