Earlier this month I read Great Expectations, and previously, the only other Charles Dickens books I’d read were Oliver Twist and A Christmas Carol. Recently, I’ve been making an effort to read the classics, and since this is where I talk about books, I thought I’d share some thoughts, highlights, and favorite moments from Great Expectations, a classic, beloved story (because clearly, “reviewing” the classics is utterly useless!).
Even if you haven’t read Great Expectations, you probably know a little about the story: a poor little boy named Pip lives with his sister and her husband, and is set to be a blacksmith when he gets older. However, he has these wild fantasies of being a gentleman, and is ashamed of his poverty, his low status in society, and of his family, who are like him. His “great expectations” are to be a proper gentleman (and to come into money), and eventually, he gets what he wants—but not the way he thought he would.
Along the way, he meets people from all corners of society, and learns that social circles and maintaining status are difficult and superficial. There’s Miss Havisham, an old woman who has never changed out of her wedding dress (or thrown away the cake) since her groom abandoned her on her wedding day decades ago.
There’s also Estella, the adopted child of Miss Havisham, who was raised to be a weapon by which Miss Havisham can get back at men for what her groom did to her. There’s also Joe Gargery, the simple, proud, and loving father figure to Pip, whom Pip utterly abandons when he comes into money. And then there’s Pip himself, a man who has a good heart, but whose obsession with money and status makes him forsake the people who loved him unconditionally.
There’s something about reading Dickens that makes you feel like you’re greeting familiar friends. Here are some of my favorite passages from this book:
“Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before—more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.”
I love this quote, because it makes me feel like our emotions are our links to our humanity. Emotions need to be felt, wholeheartedly, in order to be human. It’s when we deny our emotions that we lose what makes us human, which is a big theme of Great Expectations, especially in the case of Miss Havisham and Estella, two women who have hard hearts and are maimed psychologically because of their inability to love or feel compassion.
“That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.”
LOVED this quote when I heard it read to me over audiobook, haha! How true is it that each day of our lives contains events that change it without our even noticing, or decisions that we made that put us on a completely different path? I thought about that a lot after I read this: that if I think of one memorable day in my life (or a dozen), it always set my life on a different course, and that it would have been so different if that one day had gone differently. And that each day holds an opportunity to change your life.
“It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.”
I just thought this quote was so appropriate considering we’re desperately close to spring! I hope your month was lovely and fun, and thanks for stopping by. 🙂 Here’s to March and more books!