Great Expectations for 2012

Happy New Year!

With Clarissa being my bedtime book, as it is too heavy to carry around, I’ve been reading Great Expectations in the daytime. I have read it once before at University about six years ago and didn’t like it. In fact it put me off Dickens for six years straight, as I deemed him too dour and bleak. If you’ve read any of my posts semi-recently, you will know I am a Dickens convert, through Bleak House and then A Christmas Carol.

The BBC adaptation of Great Expectations¬†over Christmas was so good that I thought it was time to try again. I’m still quite near the beginning but there is so much to think about already.

In a word, I was too cowardly to do what I knew to be right, as I had been too cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be wrong. I had had no intercourse with the world at that time, and I imitated none of its many inhabitants who act in this manner. Quite an untaught genius, I made the discovery of the line of action for myself.

Yes, I’m reading about Pip’s moral dilemma about helping the convict out on the marshes. This, for me, is such a big part of Dickens’ genius: The book turns out to be a series of events spiraling from this one moment, and Dickens manages to believably completely define one human being from his reactions to events as a child. He completely captures what it is like to be a child:

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.

I love the image this conjures up. Remember how many secrets you had as a child? And the trade you did with other people for their secrets? I can vaguely remember not liking Great Expectations the first time around because as Pip grew up I didn’t like how he treats his family and the people from his humble origins. After thinking about this early incident on the marshes I think I will appreciate Pip’s progress more this time around.