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The life of Philip Pirrip The life of Philip Pirrip
by Asa Butcher
Issue 15
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Book
Great Expectations
Charles Dickens
1861
145 years have passed since Mr Charles Dickens penned this novel and he can finally rest easy because I am going to give my long-awaited opinion of this literary classic that regularly appears in 'Greatest Novels of All Time' lists and GCSE English Literature reading lists.

Expectations were naturally high. The high standard had been set after starting the Dickensian world with David Copperfield and there was anticipation in my fingers as I began reading the first sentence. The difference between reading a classic and a latest bestseller is that your expectations are higher and you want to discover for yourself what has made this book stand the test of time.

In many of my previous iKritics I have written that those of us who have not read some of these great books know certain trivia, quotes and scenes because they have passed into our social consciousness - a bit like when John Hannah says in Sliding Doors, "Everybody's born knowing all the Beatles lyrics instinctively." We just know these things.

I knew Great Expectation begins with a graveyard scene, an escaped convict, a small boy and that's about it, which left over 400-pages packed with surprises and the entire story to unravel. The plot revolves around Pip, a poor orphan who lives with his sister and her blacksmith husband, who comes into 'Great Expectations'. We follow his change from humble boy to snobbish man, his relationship with the haunting Miss Havisham and the beautiful Estella, and the shocks and surprises that come with fortune.

In the same vain as David Copperfield, Great Expectations is a Bildungsroman (a novel that follows the life of the protagonist) beginning in 1812, when Pip is seven-years-old, and concludes in 1840. Dickens' mastery of time is stunning because you barely notice that the characters are ageing before your eyes and it can come as a shock that Pip is celebrating his 21st birthday.

The one disappointment with the story was the absence of a character that you loathe, such as Uriah Heep in David Copperfield. Miss Havisham is a flamboyant and interesting substitute but she does not have a ruthless streak, although she does instil one in her protégé Estella. Estella sadly comes across a cold-hearted bitch, which is the idea, yet you hope that she doesn't end up with Pip before the final pages.

The one positive aspect are the two lovable characters that everybody would love to meet: Joe Gargery the blacksmith and Wemmick. Joe is Pip's brother-in-law and primary father figure, but he continues to love and adore Pip despite everything that Pip does to damage their relationship through embarrassment and snobbery. Wemmick is Jaggers' clerk and lives in a 'castle' with his father, commonly referred to as "The Aged Parent" and is one of the sweetest men in the book.

Reading Great Expectations was something that I should have done a long time ago as a development stage, but I am still grateful to have begun my Dickens journey with David Copperfield because it outshines Pip, Miss Havisham and Estella ten-fold.


  
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