‘Great Expectations’ by Charles Dickens

My rating: 4 stars

Great Expectations was the first novel I read by Charles Dickens. Although I had watched the 2012’s film adaptation, it was with great curiosity about the writing style that I started to immerse myself in the pages of this book, which is considered to be one of Dicken’s masterpieces. My journey through the pages wasn’t always the most enjoyable, but I couldn’t have rated it with less than four stars, since the characters are so well developed and the events so perfectly linked.

The story is told in the first person by Pip, the main character, who is an orphan living with his abusive older sister and her kind husband, Joe Gargery. Pip guides the reader through part of his life, from the time he is a child until he is a young adult. The narration starts at the moment when Pip encounters, near his parents’ graves, a convict who wants him to get some food and a file, so he can get rid of his shackles.

At the beginning of the story, Pip lives in harsh conditions but seems quite at ease with that fact. His only major complaint is the abuse he is subjected to by his sister. However, that starts to change after he is chosen to visit the peculiar Miss Havisham and her adoptive daughter Estella, whom he falls in love with. Later, he becomes an apprentice of Joe’s as a blacksmith but dreams of achieving something more.

Sometime after, he is approached by Mr Jaggers, a lawyer, who tells him he has expectations from an anonymous person who wants him to become a gentleman. Assuming the benefactor to be Miss Havisham, Pip moves to London to be groomed for a new life. It is in the capital city that he finds a new friend and that he needs to deal with his ambition while abandoning the people who cared for him.

All the characters in the novel are quite distinctive and I didn’t get them mixed up, despite the book being quite long. Pip is a well-crafted character that is capable of both kind and shameful actions throughout the novel. He learns from his mistakes and becomes a better person by the end, being conscious of what he did wrong. Joe Gargery is for me the kindest soul in the story, he never stops loving and caring for Pip, even when he doesn’t seem to deserve it. Miss Havisham is one of the most interesting characters. Although Pip’s visits in the first part become quite repetitive, the mysteries surrounding that woman wearing an old white dress keep that part of the story interesting, nevertheless.

I had two main problems while reading Great Expectations. The first one was that the first and second volumes are quite monotonous during some parts. And the second was that the way the dialogue is written to show the lack of education of some of the characters, replicating their mistakes, made the reading experience much more complicated for me, as I am not an English native speaker.

Great Expectations is a good book that takes you back to the 1800s while discovering interesting characters and places, through powerful descriptions of the marshes and London, for example. Get to the third volume and see all the missing pieces come together.


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