Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations [book review]

Great Expectations is a social novel that explores the English Victorian society.

Charles Dickens was born in Portsmouth, England, on February 7, 1812. Great Expectations was published in 1860. The novel is an epic tale of a young orphan, Pip, who rises from rags to riches. Pip goes to Satis House, later grows to maturity and falls in love with Miss Havisham’s cold hearted niece, the icy Estella.

Dickens uses Pip and Estella to portray the English society at the time. When Pip goes to the church cemetery to get some comfort after running away from his sister’s wrath, he meets an escaped convict, Abel Magwitch, who has got chains on his legs and also has wounds. Little does Pip know what will come out of his friendship with the convict.

Pip is mistreated by his sister, Mrs Joe Gargery. She is extraordinary harsh and embittered and mistreat both Pip and her husband, Mr Joe. Mr Joe’s simple nature does not save them from suffering at the hands of his wife and Pip’s sister. Pip is required to play at Satis House only for the company he gives to Miss Havisham and to heal her from her obsession of her broken heart. Miss Havisham had a broken marriage with Compeyson who professed he loved her but did not turn up on the wedding day.

In an attempt for Miss Havisham to revenge against Compeyson, Miss Havisham uses Estella a tool of revenge. She urges Estella to break men’s heart and to have no mercy. Miss Havisham therefore ends up being responsible for the suffering that Estella bears at the climax of her life when she lacks a heart that can respond to love. Pip is the first victim to suffer Miss Havisham’s scheme of vengeance. To Miss Havisham, all men are the same and that their hearts should be broken. Miss Havisham took Estella’s heart away and in its place put ice.

Charles Dickens portrays the satire of romantic love where there is no mutual love between Pip and Estella. Pip makes effort to love Estella but she does not love him back due to Miss Havisham’s up bringing which she uses as revenge to all men. According to Charles Dickens, love should be reciprocated in order to be enjoyed by both partners.

The great expectations that we expect are for Pip to become a gentleman as his dream from childhood. He is set to attain education per the wishes of his benefactor whom he apparently does not know. However the effect caused on him by Estella and Satis House changes him into a snob and he starts undermining his roots to the extent of wishing to buy off Mr Joe Gargery’s visit to him in London. Here, Dickens seems to suggest that gentlemen are born rather than made.

“No varnish can hide the grain of wood. The more varnish you put on, the more wood will express itself.”

Source : New Era