Tuesday, 8 January 2013

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

This is one of my favourite novels by Charles Dickens and I never tire of it. It is the story of Pip and how he comes into a fortune from an unknown benefactor. We follow him from his early life under the care of his tyrannical sister and her gentle husband to his life as a moneyed young gentleman in London.

Probably the most famous character in the book is Miss Havisham. Jilted on her wedding day she sits, years later, in the rags of her bridal gown while mice devour her wedding breakfast which still sits upon the table. She is not a comic character like many of Dickens' grotesques, it is difficult to feel sorry for her because she is so imperious and fierce. She's like a spider unknowingly caught in its own web.

My favourite character in Great Expectations is Wemmick, the chief clerk at the firm of solicitors which dispenses Pip's money. Taciturn and professional to a fault when in the office, at home he is a kind and sensible man, and a good friend to Pip. His home in Walworth is one of my favourite homes in literature. It is a tiny cottage which Wemmick shares with his father and it is embellished with all kinds of novelties (such as a moat!) which Wemmick constructs in his spare time. It is a happy, homely place and Pip is made welcome there.

I think that each part of Great Expectations is perfectly weighted. There is just enough comedy, just enough mystery, just enough peril. Another reason I like this book is that it is lacking is simpering women. I love Dickens, but if I could change one thing about his books it would be to get rid of the weak, simpering girls. Miss Havisham might be mad, Estella might be cold as ice, but at least they don't simper. And Biddy seems like a sensible sort of woman.

This is a book I will return to again and again.

1 comment:

  1. I found it interesting that while reading GE my focus was very far from Pip. I was really fascinated by the relationship between Miss Havisham and Estella and like you I also loved to know more about Wemmick and his father.