Great Expectations for 2012

by Charlotte Reads Classics

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.