Great Expectations

By Charles Dickens, George Bernard Shaw

680,272 ratings - 3.78* vote

Introduction by George Bernard Shaw   Pip, a poor orphan being raised by a cruel sister, does not have much in the way of great expectations—until he is inexplicably elevated to wealth by an anonymous benefactor. Full of unforgettable characters—including a terrifying convict named Magwitch, the eccentric Miss Havisham, and her beautiful but manipulative niece, Estella, Gr Introduction by George Bernard Shaw   Pip, a poor orphan being raised by a cruel sister, does not have much in the

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Book details

Paperback, 480 pages
February 13th 2001 by The Modern Library New York

(first published 1861)

Original Title
Great Expectations
0375757015 (ISBN13: 9780375757013)
Edition Language

Community Reviews

Michael Kneeland

My students (and some of my friends) can't ever figure out why I love this novel so much. I explain how the characters are thoroughly original and yet timeless, how the symbolism is rich and tasty, and how the narrative itself is juicy and chock-full of complexity, but they just shake their heads at me in utter amazement and say, "What's wrong with you, dude?"

What's wrong, indeed.

I give them ten or fifteen years. Perhaps they'll have to read it again in college, or maybe they'll just try reading it again as an adult to see if they can try to figure out why it's such a "classic," but after some time has passed from their initial encounter with the novel, they will find that I am not so crazy after all and that the book is in fact one of the best examples--if not the best example--of the novel. This happens to me all the time: I will re-read something I was forced to read in middle school and high school, remembering how much I hated it then, and will find that I actually love it now, as an adult. Sure, those "classics" may have taught me something about literary analysis, symbolic patterns, and the like, but I couldn't appreciate it for its complexity until I was older. I guess the rule of wine appreciation applies here, too: good taste only comes after much patience and experience.


Perhaps the thing I love best about this novel is the cast of characters--their names as well as their personalities. Ms. Havisham is one of my favorite characters to ever appear in all of the literature I have read. There is so much density and complexion to her character that I could literally make an entire career out of writing discourses on her characterization. She has even invaded the way I think about the world and the people I have met: I have, for instance, started referring to those instances where parents try to achieve success through their children "the Havisham effect" (unfortunately, you see this all too often in the world of teaching). Havisham's name is another exasperatingly fantastic aspect of her character: like the majority of Dickens' characters, you pretty much know what you're in for when you first read her name--she is full of lies, tricks, and deceits (or "sham"s). You don't get this sort of characterization much of anywhere else in the literary scene.

Another reason I love this novel so much is its plotting. Remember, Dickens was writing in a serialized format so he needed to keep his readers hooked so that they'd want to buy the next issue of his periodical, All the Year Round, in order to see what happens next. Thus, the plot of Great Expectations is winding, unpredictable, and quite shocking at points. Certainly, in terms of heavy action--well, what our youngsters these days would call action, fighting and big explosions and what-not--there is none, or very little at most, but that's not the thing to be looking for. Figure out the characters first, and then, once you've gotten to know and even care for them (or hate them), you will be hooked on the plot because you will want to know what happens to these people who you've invested so much feeling into. This is, of course, true of all novels, but it's what I tell my students when they read Great Expectations for the first time, and by gum, it's helped more than a few of them get through the novel successfully.

So, if you read Great Expectations in middle school, high school, or college, but haven't picked it up since, I urge you to do so. With a more patient and experienced set of eyes, you just might surprise yourself.

Emily May

“There was a long hard time when I kept far from me the remembrance of what I had thrown away when I was quite ignorant of its worth.”

I first read Great Expectations when I was thirteen years old. It was the first of Dickens' works that I'd read of my own volition, the only other being Oliver Twist, which we'd studied parts of in school. You know, I missed out on a lot when I was thirteen. By this, I mean that I didn't always understand the deeper meaning lying beneath the surface of my favourite classics. I favoured fast-paced and gritty stories and didn't understand the love for Austen (later cured). But there was something about Great Expectations that hit me hard on all levels and there was a deeper understanding I took from it even back then.

I should say first of all, this book makes me feel sad. Not a Lifetime movie emotionally overwrought pass-me-the-kleenex kind of sad. I have read it several times and have never once cried while reading it. But the book never fails to leave me with this hollow feeling that things could have been so different. When I was a kid, I often wished I could jump inside the TV and warn the good guys not to do something; stop something horrible from happening. This is that kind of book for me. All the not-knowing and mistaken assumptions that float between the characters in this novel is torture.

Some readers don't like Dickens. He's been called "lacking in style", as well as a bunch of other things. Well, I think he's like the Stephen King of the Victorian era. He loves his drama, his characters are well-drawn but sometimes edging towards caricatures, he has a wonderful talent for painting a vivid picture of a scene in your mind but a bunch of his books are a hundred pages too long. Whatever. I love his stories. And I love his characters.

In Great Expectations, you have the orphaned Philip "Pip" Pirrip who has spent his short life being poor and being bullied by his sister who is also his guardian. You have Joe Gargery, a kind man who also allows himself to be bullied by Pip's sister (his wife). Then you have the infamous Miss Havisham who was abandoned at the altar and now spends her days wandering around her mansion in her old wedding dress, hating men and raising the young Estella to be just like her.

“You are in every line I have ever read.”

At its heart, this is a book about someone who is given an opportunity to have all their dreams come true, to be better than they ever thought they could be, to be loved by someone who they never thought would look at them. We all yearn for something badly at times. Imagine having the chance to get exactly what you always wanted. Imagine becoming better and higher than you knew was possible. Imagine having all of that and then realizing that perhaps the most important thing you ever had got left behind.

Pip was always my favourite Dickens protagonist because he wants so much and I sympathise with him. I can understand why he does what he does and why he wants what he wants. But the saddest thing is that ambition can make you lose sight of other important things and Pip has a lot of hard lessons to learn along the way. It's a book that was extremely relevant to the times when social class was of utmost importance in Britain. Essentially, the book deconstructs what it means to be a "gentlemen" and makes a not-so-subtle criticism of a class-based society.

Who are the real gentlemen? The top hat wearing men of London with all their fine china and ceremony? Pip, who gets a chance to become one of them? Or Joe Gargery, the rough-talking blacksmith who even years later tells Pip: "you and me was ever friends"?

There is a powerful lesson in here and I love it. Even after all these years.

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Jeffrey Keeten

”I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes. I saw that the dress had been put upon the rounded figure of a young woman, and that the figure upon which it now hung loose had shrunk to skin and bone.”

 photo MissHavisham_zps3f113031.jpg
How do you do Miss Havisham? She makes many lists of the twenty greatest characters from Dicken’s novels.

I hadn’t ever met Miss Havisham officially, although I knew of her. I have heard of her circumstances, discussed her in English Literature classes, and even referenced her in a paper. She is a tragic figure tinged with true insanity; and yet, someone in complete control of her faculties when it comes to talking about HER money. She was jilted at the altar and like a figure from mythology she is suspended in time. She wears her tattered wedding dress every day and sits among the decaying ruins of her wedding feast.

We meet our hero Pip when in an act of charity born more of fear than goodwill he provides assistance to a self-liberated convict named Abel Magwitch. It was a rather imprudent thing to do similar to one of us picking up a hitchhiker in an orange jumpsuit just after passing a sign that says Hitchhikers in this area may be escaped inmates. Little does he know, but this act of kindness will have a long term impact on his life.

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Pip and the Convict.

Pip is being raised by his sister, an unhappy woman who expresses her misery with harsh words and vigorous smacks. ”Tickler was a wax-ended piece of cane, worn smooth by collision with my tickled frame.” She also browbeats her burly blacksmith husband Joe into submission. Mr Pumblechook, Joe’s Uncle, is always praising the sister for doing her proper duty by Pip. "Boy, be forever grateful to all friends, but especially unto them which brought you up by hand!” In other words she didn’t spare the rod or the child. Mr. Pumblechook is one of those annoying people who is always trying to gain credit for anyone’s good fortune. He intimates that he was the puppet master pulling the strings that allowed that good fortune to find a proper home. Later when Pip finds himself elevated to gentleman’s status Pumblechook is quick to try and garner credit for brokering the deal.

Things become interesting for Pip when is asked to be a play companion of Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter Estella. The girl is being trained to be the architect of Miss Havisham’s revenge...on all men. She is the brutal combination of spoiled, beautiful, and heartless. She wants Pip to fall in love with her to provide a training ground for exactly how to keep a man in love with her and at the same time treat him with the proper amount of disdain.

As Pip becomes more ensnared in Estella’s beauty Miss Havisham is spurring him on.

"Love her, love her, love her! If she favors you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces,— and as it gets older and stronger it will tear deeper,— love her, love her, love her!" Never had I seen such passionate.

 photo EstellaandPip_zps3d5f175e.jpg
Estella, the weapon of man’s destruction, walking with Pip.

Pip is fully aware of the dangers of falling in love with Estella, but it is almost impossible to control the heart when it begins to beat faster. ”Her contempt for me was so strong, that it became infectious, and I caught it.” His hopes, almost completely dashed that he will ever have a legitimate opportunity to woo Estella properly are buoyed by the knowledge of a benefactor willing to finance his rise to gentleman status. No chance suddenly becomes a slim chance.

Pip is not to know where these great expectations are coming from, but he assumes it is Miss Havisham as part of her demented plans for exacting revenge by using Estella to break his heart. He is willing to be the patsy for her plans because some part of him believes he can turn the tide of Estella’s heart if he can find one beating in her chest.

"You must know," said Estella, condescending to me as a brilliant and beautiful woman might, "that I have no heart,— if that has anything to do with my memory."

The book is of course filled with Dickensonian descriptions of the bleaker side of Victorian society.

”We entered this haven through a wicket-gate, and were disgorged by an introductory passage into a melancholy little square that looked to me like a flat burying-ground. I thought it had the most dismal trees in it, and the most dismal sparrows, and the most dismal cats, and the most dismal houses ( in number half a dozen or so), that I had ever seen.”

As I was reading the book it felt like the plot suddenly sped up from a leisurely world building pace that permeates most Dickens novels to the final laps of an Indy 500 race. I was not surprised to discover that Dickens had intended this novel to be twice as long, but due to contractual obligations with the serialization of the novel Dickens found himself in a quandary. He had a much larger story percolating in his head, but simply out of room to print it. Nothing drives a reader crazier than knowing that this larger concept was realized, but never committed to paper.

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The rest of Great Expectations exists only in the lost dreams of Dickens.

Pip is a willing victim; and therefore, not a victim because he fully realized that Miss Havisham was barking mad, and that Estella had been brainwashed into being a sword of vengeance. He was willing to risk having his heart wrenched from his body and dashed into the sea for a chance that Estella would recognize that happiness could be obtained if she would only forsake her training.

Pip like most young men of means spent more than his stipend allowed and as debts mount he is more and more anxious to learn of his benefactor’s intentions. It will not be what he expects and provides a nice twist to the novel. There are blackguards, adventures, near death experiences, swindlers, agitations both real and imagined, and descriptions that make the reader savor the immersion in the black soot and blacker hearts of Victorian society. Better late than never, but I now have more than a nodding acquaintance with Miss Havisham, Pip, and the supporting cast. They will continue to live in my imagination for the rest of my life.

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Sean Barrs

"Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day."

That is such a quote. If there was ever a novel that shows us the dangers of false perceptions then it’s Great Expectations . Pip is such a fool; he constantly misjudges those around him, and he constantly misjudges his own worth. This has lead him down a road of misery because the person who held the highest expectations for Pip was Pip himself. But, in spite of this, Pip does learn the error of his ways and becomes a much better person, though not before hurting those that have the most loyalty to him.

The corrupting power of money is strong through this novel


The money Pip received clouds his vison completely. He, in his innocence, longed to be a gentleman, but when he has the chance he forgets everything thing he is. In his self-imposed aggrandisement he can only deduce that his money came from a source of respectability; his limited capacity has determined that only he, a gentleman, could receive money from a worthy source. But, what he perceives as respectable is the problem. Indeed, Dickens contrasts societies’ gentleman (created through social station) with the true gentleman of the age who may, or may not, have any money. Pip has falsely perceived that to be a gentleman one must have money, and must have the social graces that comes with it. However, this is far from the truth as Pip later learns. He thinks Joe is backward and ungentlemanly, but Joe, in reality, is more of a gentle man than Pip could ever be.

In this, he has forgotten his routes and his honest, if somewhat rough, upbringing. He has been tainted by money and the rise in class that came with it. I think if he never received the allowance he would have eventually been happy at the forge. He may have sulked for a year or two, but, ultimately, he would have got over himself as he does eventually do. The money gave him hope; it gave him a route in which he could seek his Estella. Without the money he would have realised she was, in fact, unobtainable regardless of his class; he would have moved on and got on with his life. But, that wouldn’t have made for a very interesting novel.

Pip’s journey of morale regeneration is the key

Indeed, Pip wouldn’t have learnt a thing. Through the correcting of his perceptions he learns the value of loyalty and simple human kindness. This changes him and he is, essentially, a much better person for it. He learns the errors of his ways, and how shameful and condescending his behaviour has been to those that hold him most dear, namely Joe. You can feel the pain in his narration as he tells the last parts of his story; it becomes clear that Pip could never forgive himself for his folly. He wishes forgiveness from those that love him that’s why he forgives Havisham, but I don’t think he fully deserves it. He is repentant, but the damage is done.

Heaven knows we never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of the earth, overlaying our hard hearts.


Pip’s morale regeneration was a necessary facet for the brilliance of this work. It creates an ending that, for me, was perfect. It is not the ending that Pip thought he would get, but it is the ending this novel deserved. Pip’s morale regeneration and revelations are just not enough to offset the past. He has grown but, like Havisham, cannot turn back the clocks. The ending Joe receives signifies this; he, as one of the only true gentleman of the novel, receives his overdue happiness. Whereas Pip is destined to spend the rest of his life in a state of perpetual loneliness, he, most certainly, learnt his lesson the hard way.

"Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape.

Anguish is in equal measures


Pip’s story though, ultimately, sad is not the most woe begotten of the character stories in this novel. Abel Magwitch and Miss Havisham are two incredibly miserable individuals because life has really got them down. Havisham is the caricature of the spinster; she is stuck in the past (quarter to nine to be precise) and is unable to move on; she has turned bitter and yellow; she has imposed herself to perpetual agony. Despite her harshness and venom there is a flicker of light within her soul that Pip unleashes. For me, she is the most memorable, and well written, character in this novel because her story transcends that of Pip’s.

And then there is the lovable Abel Magwitch. The poor man had been used and cheated; he had been bargained away and sacrificed. He has been shown no kindness in his life and when he meets a young Pip in the marshes he is touched by the small measure of friendship the boy offers him. His response: to repay that debt, with what he believes to be kindness, in turn. These characters are incredibly memorable and harbour two tragic and redemptive stories. But, in order to display their anguish to the world and society, they both use another to exact their revenge. Havisham uses Estella to break the hearts of men, like hers was once broken; Magwitch creates his “own” gentleman as a revenge to the world of gentleman that betrayed him.


I love Great Expectations. It is more than just a story of love; it is a strong story about the power of loyalty and forgiveness; it is a story about falsehoods and misperceptions; it is a story of woe and deeply felt sadness: it is about how the folly of youth can alter your life for ever. It is an extraordinary novel. I've now read it three times, and I know I'm not finished with yet.

Muhtasin Oyshik

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

An orphan protagonist named Pip tells us about fortune and misfortune from his childhood. The protagonist, from his point of view, presents some unforgettable characters' display. And the story is quite gripping with the theme like- ambition, guilt and redemption, uncertainty and deceit. However, it was not an easy read for me. It is a kind of wordy book and relatively hard to grasp the story, as other Dicken's books are. Still, the concept of the story is influential and pleasant.
Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but - I hope - into a better shape.

Pleasant story.


Great Expectations…were formed...were met…and were thoroughly exceeded! Over-London-by-Rail-1 v2

The votes have been tallied, all doubts have been answered and it is official and in the books ...I am a full-fledged, foaming fanboy of Sir Dickens and sporting a massive man-crush for literature’s master story-teller*.

*Quick Aside: My good friend Richard who despises “Chuckles the Dick” is no doubt having a conniption as he reads this…deep breaths, Richard, deep breaths.

After love, love, loving A Tale of Two Cities, I went into this one with, you guessed it [insert novel title] and was nervous and wary of a serious let down in my sophomore experience with Dickens. Silly me, there was zero reason for fear and this was even more enjoyable than I had hoped. Not quite as standing ovation-inducing as A Tale of Two Cities, but that was more a function of the subject matter of A Tale of Two Cities being more attractive to me.


Here Dickens tells the story of the growth and development of young Philip Pirrip (“Pip”) who begins his life as an orphan, neglected and abused, by his sister (Mrs. “Joe” Gargery). "I was always treated as if I had insisted on being born, in opposition to the dictates of reason, religion, and morality, and against the dissuading arguments of my best friends." Through a series of chance encounters, Pip rises above his disadvantaged beginnings to become a gentleman in every sense of the word. Pip’s journey is not a straight line and his strength of character and inner goodness are not unwavering, but, in the end, they shine through and he the better for it.


Dickens prose is the essence of engaging and his humor is both sharp and subtle and sends warm blasts of happy right into my cockles.
My sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery, was more than twenty years older than I, and had established a great reputation with herself and the neighbors because she had brought me up “by hand.” Having at that time to find out for myself what the expression meant, and knowing her to have a hard and heavy hand, and to be much in the habit of laying it upon her husband as well as upon me, I supposed that Joe Gargery and I were both brought up by hand.
In addition to his ability to twist a phrase and infuse it with clever, dry wit, Dickens is able to brings similar skill across the entire emotional range. When he tugs on the heart-strings, he does so as a maestro plucks the violin and you will feel played and thankful for the experience.
For now my repugnance to him had all melted away, and in the hunted, wounded, shackled creature who held my hand in his, I only saw a man who had meant to be my benefactor, and who had felt affectionately, gratefully, and generously, towards me with great constancy through a series of years. I only saw in him a much better man than I had been to Joe.

We spent as much money as we could, and got as little for it as people could make up their minds to give us. We were always more or less miserable, and most of our acquaintance were in the same condition. There was a gay fiction among us that we were constantly enjoying ourselves, and a skeleton truth that we never did. To the best of my belief, our case was in the last aspect a rather common one.
Dickens never bashes over the head with the emotional power of his prose. In fact, it is the quiet, subtle method of his delivery of the darker emotions that make them so powerful.

Okay…okay…I’ll stop on the prose. I think I’ve made my point that I love his writing.

Combine his polished, breezy verse with his seemingly endless supply of memorable characters that is his trademark and you have the makings of a true classic...which this happens to be. There are so many unique, well drawn characters in this story alone that it is constantly amazing to me that he was able to so regularly populate his novels with such a numerous supply. To name just a few, Great Expectations gives us:

- the wealthy and bitter Miss Havisham,
- the good-hearted but often weak social climbing main character Pip,
- the good-hearted criminal Magwitch,
- the truly evil and despicable Orlick and Drummle,
- the virtuous, pillar of goodness "Joe" Gargery
- the abusive, mean-spirited, never-to-be-pleased Mrs. Joe Gargery,
- the cold and unemotional Estella,
- the officious, money-grubbing Mr. Pumblechook, and
- the iconic Victorian businessman Mr. Jaggers.

It’s a veritable panoply of distinct personalities, each with their own voice and their own part to play in this wonderful depiction of life in 19th Century London.

The only criticism I have for the book is that I tend to agree with some critics that the original "sadder" ending to the story was better and more in keeping with the rest of the narrative. However, as someone who doesn't mind a happy ending, especially with characters I have come to truly care for, that is a relatively minor gripe.


P.S. A few bonus quotes that I thought were too good not to share:

Pip: “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.”

Joe to Pip: "If you can't get to be uncommon through going straight, you'll never get to do it through going crooked."

Ahmad Sharabiani

(876 From 1001 Books) - Great Expectations, Charles Dickens

The novel was first published as a serial in Dickens's weekly periodical All the Year Round, from 1 December 1860 to August 1861. In October 1861, Chapman and Hall published the novel in three volumes.

On Christmas Eve, around 1812, Pip, an orphan who is about seven years old, encounters an escaped convict in the village churchyard, while visiting the graves of his parents and siblings.

Pip now lives with his abusive elder sister and her kind husband Joe Gargery, a blacksmith. The convict scares Pip into stealing food and a file. Early on Christmas morning Pip returns with the file, a pie and brandy.

During Christmas Dinner that evening, at the moment Pip's theft is about to be discovered, soldiers arrive and ask Joe to repair some shackles. Joe and Pip accompany them as they recapture the convict who is fighting with another escaped convict.

The first convict confesses to stealing food from the smithy. A year or two later, Miss Havisham, a wealthy spinster who still wears her old wedding dress and lives as a recluse in the dilapidated Satis House, asks Mr Pumblechook, a relation of the Gargery's, to find a boy to visit her.

Pip visits Miss Havisham and falls in love with her adopted daughter Estella. Estella remains aloof and hostile to Pip, which Miss Havisham encourages. Pip visits Miss Havisham regularly, until he is old enough to learn a trade.

Joe accompanies Pip for the last visit, when she gives the money for Pip to be bound as apprentice blacksmith. Joe's surly assistant, Dolge Orlick, is envious of Pip and dislikes Mrs Joe. When Pip and Joe are away from the house, Mrs Joe is brutally attacked, leaving her unable to speak or do her work. Orlick is suspected of the attack. Mrs Joe becomes kind-hearted after the attack. Pip's former schoolmate Biddy joins the household to help with her care.

Four years into Pip's apprenticeship, Mr Jaggers, a lawyer, tells him that he has been provided with money, from an anonymous benefactor, so that he can become a gentleman. Pip is to leave for London, but presuming that Miss Havisham is his benefactor, he first visits her.

Pip sets up house in London at Barnard's Inn with Herbert Pocket, the son of his tutor, Matthew Pocket, who is a cousin of Miss Havisham. Herbert and Pip have previously met at Satis Hall, where Herbert was rejected as a playmate for Estella.

He tells Pip how Miss Havisham was defrauded and deserted by her fiancé. Pip meets fellow pupils, Bentley Drummle, a brute of a man from a wealthy noble family, and Startop, who is agreeable. Jaggers disburses the money Pip needs. ...

عنوان: آرزوهای بزرگ؛ نویسنده: چارلز دیکنز؛ (علمی و فرهنگی، دوستان، افق) ادبیات؛ تاریخ نخستین خوانش: سال 1975میلادی

با ترجمه: ابراهیم یونسی، تهران، سال انتشار 1351، با ویرایش، چاپ هفتم، با شابک 9789646207486؛ سال 1391، انتشارات دوستان

ترجمه: محسن سلیمانی انتشارات افق 1387؛ این نسخه، متن چکیده و کوتاه شده

آرزوهای بزرگ را می‌توان به نوعی زندگی‌نامه خودنگاشت «دیکنز» نیز دانست، که همچون آثار دیگرش، تجربیات تلخ و شیرین وی از زندگی و مردمان را، نمایان میسازد؛ داستان «آرزوهای بزرگ»، وضعیت سیاسی اجتماعی دوران خود ایشانست، و نویسنده حقایق اجتماعی را با بیانی لطیف به تصویر کشیده است

چکیده داستان: «پیپ» هفت ساله، زندگی محقر و فروتنانه‌ ای را در کلبه‌ ای روستایی، با خواهری بدخلق و سختگیر، و شوهر خواهرش «جو گارگِری»، آهنگری پرتوان اما مهربان، و نرم‌خو، می‌گذراند؛ او که روزی برای سر زدن به قبر مادر و پدرش، به گورستان می‌رود، بطور اتفاقی با یک زندانی فراری محکوم به اعمال شاقه، به نام «آبل مگویچ»، روبرو می‌شود؛ آن زندانی، داستانی ترسناک، برای کودک سر هم می‌کند، تا او نانی برای رفع گرسنگی، و سوهانی برای رهایی خویش، از غل و زنجیری که به دست و پایش بسته‌ است، برایش بیاورد؛ «پیپ» هم از روی ناچاری و هم از دل‌رحمی، او را یاری می‌کند

زمانی از آن ماجرا می‌گذرد، و «پیپ» کوچک، توسط زنی میانسال و ثروتمند، موسوم به «میس هاویشام (یکی از استادانه‌ ترین شخصیت‌های خلق‌ شده توسط دیکنز)» اجیر می‌شود، تا گهگاه برای همنشینی، و سرگرم‌ نمودنش، پیش او برود؛ «هاویشام» که در گذشته‌ ای دور، و به هنگام عروسی، معشوقش او را بیرحمانه ترک گفته، از آن زمان، به زنی دلسرد، و انتقام‌جو، بدل گشته‌ است؛ او «اِستِلا»، دخترکی زیبا، اما گستاخ و مغرور را، به فرزندی پذیرفته است، تا به او بیاموزد، که چگونه مردان را به بازی گرفته، و بدانسان انتقام خویش را، توسط او، از مردان بستاند؛ «پیپ» کوچک در آن خانه، به «استلا» دل می‌بندد، و تحت تأثیر توهین‌ها، و آزارهای دخترک، نخستین آرزوهایش، مبنی بر ترک زندگی محقر، و روستایی، و زیستن چون نجیب‌ زادگان، در او نقش می‌بندد؛ «پیپ»، سال‌ها نزد «جو گارگِری» شاگردی می‌کند، تا به عنوان یک آهنگر، امرار معاش نماید، اما رویدادی دیگر زندگی او را دگرگون می‌کند؛

حقوقدانی در «لندن»، به نام «جَگرز»، به او اطلاع می‌دهد، که یک ولینعمت ناشناس، هزینه ی تعلیم و تربیت او را، برای رفتن به «لندن»، و آموختن فرهنگ افراد متشخص، پذیرفته، و پس از آن، ثروت کلانی به او خواهد رسید؛ به این ترتیب، قهرمان نخست داستان، روستا و شوهر خواهر دوست‌ داشتنی خود را، ترک می‌کند، تا به آرزوهای بزرگ خویش، که یافتن تشخص، و لیاقت، برای دستیابی به «استلا» است، برسد

او در دوره ی زندگی در «لندن»، بسیاری از آداب و رسوم زندگی شهری، همچون طرز رفتار، لباس پوشیدن، و مشارکت در انجمن اشخاص فرهیخته، و با فرهنگ را، می‌آموزد، و «استلای» محبوبش نیز، که اکنون مردان بسیاری خواهان او هستند، با تجاربی مشابه، دست و پنجه نرم می‌کند؛ «پیپ» این‌بار به «استلا» اظهار عشق می‌کند، ولی «استلا» به او می‌گوید، که لیاقت عشق «پیپ» را ندارد، و به «بنتلی درامل»، مردی پست‌ فطرت، دل‌بسته‌ است؛ «پیپ» که همیشه خانم «هاویشام» را، ولینعمت مرموز خود می‌پنداشته، در پایان، به این موضوع پی می‌برد، که ولینعمتش «مگویچ»، همان زندانی فراری ست، که در کودکی یاریش داده بود؛

او همچنین درمی‌یابد، که «مگویچ» پدر «استلا» است؛ اما زمانی این راز برملا می‌شود، که «مگویچ» طی یک درگیری دستگیر، و زخمی شده، و در بستر مرگ افتاده، و تمام اموالش توسط دولت ضبط شده‌ است؛ از طرفی «استلا» نیز، با «درامل» ازدواج کرده، و بدرفتاریهای بسیاری، از او دیده‌ است؛ «پیپ» که به هیچ‌یک از آرزوهای خود نرسیده، به کلبه ی محقر روستایی خود، پیش «جو» بازمی‌گردد؛ هرچند «دیکنز» تصمیم داشت، تا «پیپ» را در رسیدن به «استلا» عاقبت ناکام بگذارد، و داستان را به صورتی غم‌ انگیز به پایان برساند، اما به توصیه ی دیگران، پایان آنرا با درس گرفتن «استلا»، از شکستهای زندگی، و بازگشتش به نزد «پیپ»، تغییر می‌دهد، تا به مذاق خوانشگران آن زمان خوش بیاید

تاریخ بهنگام رسانی 21/07/1399هجری خورشیدی؛ ا. شربیانی


Boring, dull, lifeless, and flat. This is so drawn out and boring I kept having to remind myself what the plot was. Best to get someone else to sum up the story rather than undergo the torture of reading it.


Admittedly, I can be a bit dismissive of the classics. By which I mean that many of my reviews resemble a drive-by shooting. This annoys some people, if measured by the responses I’m still getting to my torching of Moby Dick.

Even though I should expect some blowback, I still get a little defensive. I mean, no one wants to be called a “horrendous” person just because he or she didn’t like an overlong, self-indulgent, self-important “epic” about a douche-y peg leg and a stupid whale.

I’m no philistine. I console myself with the belief that I have relatively decent taste. For instance, I don’t listen to Nickelback; I read the New Yorker; and I haven’t seen an Adam Sandler film in theaters since Punch-Drunk Love. Hating Melville does not make me a backwater provincial, drunk on Boone’s Farm, Ken Follett novels, and the cinema of Rob Schneider.

Indeed, I have two principled reasons for not liking many certified classics. Strike that. I have one paranoid reason, and one semi-principled reason.

The paranoid first.

Have you ever noticed how difficult it is to read so many so-called classics? From the endless torments of Dostoyevsky to the prodigious length of Tolstoy to the impenetrability or weirdness of Joyce, Faulkner or Pynchon, the world’s great novels seem needlessly excruciating.

I think it’s a conspiracy. A conspiracy of English majors and literature majors and critics all over the globe. These individuals form an elitist guild; like all guilds and licensing bodies, their goal is to erect barriers to entry. In this case, the barriers to entry are Finnegan’s Wake and In Search of Lost Time. This snooty establishment has elevated the most dense, inscrutable works to exalted status, ensuring that the lower classes stay where they belong: in the checkout aisle with Weekly World News and Op Center novels.

Isn’t it possible that the only reasons the classics are classic is because “they” tell us they’re classic? What if they are wrong? More frightening, what if I’m right? Isn’t it possible that all the “greatest” novels in history actually suck? Am I the only one who thinks it possible that true greatness lies within Twilight? I am? Okay, moving on.

My principled objection to various classic novels is that I love reading, and have loved to read from an early age (I also loved to complain from an early age). To that end, classics are the worst thing to ever happen to literature, with the exception of Dan Brown. Every drug dealer and fast-food marketer knows that you have to hook kids early in life. Forcing students to consume classics too soon is akin to the neighborhood dope peddler handing out asparagus and raw spinach. The problem is worst in high schools, where English teachers seem intent on strangling any nascent literary enjoyment in the crib. At a fragile time in a young person’s life, a heaping dose of Homer (not Simpson) can be enough to break a reading habit for life.

At least, that was my experience. I first came across Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations when it was assigned my freshman year of high school. It was a confusing time, caught between lingering childhood (I still had toys in my room) and emerging adulthood (by the end of the year I’d get my drivers’ license). Even though I’d been a voracious reader, it had always been on my own terms. When my teacher tried to shove Dickens down my throat, I started to lose interest in the written word, and gain interest in the girls on the cheerleading chess team.

Thankfully, I regained my joy of reading, but it wasn’t until I graduated from law school. At that time, I decided to go back and read all the stuff that was assigned in high school, that I’d either skimmed over or ignored completely. Great Expectations was one of the first classics to which I returned. Returned with a shudder, I might add.

First off, it wasn’t as bad as I remembered. Heck, I liked it even. So there. Save your hate mail. I do not come here to condemn Dickens, merely to damn him with faint praise.

In many ways, Great Expectations is prototypical Dickens: it is big and sprawling; it is told in the first person by a narrator who often seems resoundingly dull; it is peopled with over-eccentric supporting characters with unlikely names; and its labyrinthine structure and unspooling digressions defy ordinary plot resolutions. This is not a book that is getting to a sole point; rather, it’s more the tale of a boy’s life, with few details withheld. It also limps to an unsatisfactory ending (one of two endings, actually, since Dickens couldn’t make up his mind) that brings to mind the hastily reshot finale to the Jennifer Aniston/Vince Vaughn movie, The Break-Up.

The central character, the first person narrator, is an orphan (surprise!) named Pip. He lives with his mean sister and saintly husband, Joe (the simplest named of all Dickens’ creations). This small, unhappy family (Pip’s sister is forever peeved at the burden of taking care of her younger brother) live in the marshes, vividly described by Dickens as a cold, creeping, lunar landscape, where prisoners rot in offshore prison hulks, and cannons boom to raise the drowned.

It was a rimy morning, and very damp. I had seen the damp lying on the outside of my little window, as if some goblin had been crying there all night, and using the window for a pocket-handkerchief. Now I saw the damp lying on the bare hedges and spare grass, like a coarser sort of spiders’ webs, hanging itself from twig to twig and blade to blade. On every rail and gate, wet lay clammy, and the marsh-mist was so thick that the wooden finger on the post directing people to our village – a direction which they never accepted, for they never came there – was invisible to me until I was quite close under it. Then, as I looked up at it, while it dripped, it seemed to my oppressed conscience like a phantom devoting me to the Hulks.

Pip’s conscience is oppressed because of his Christmastime meeting with an escaped convict named Magwitch. Pip helps Magwitch out of his shackles, and steals him a pie and some brandy. Later, Magwitch is recaptured, though Pip remains fearful that his role in the attempted escape will be discovered.

Later, young Pip is taken to the home of the wealthy old Miss Havisham, to play with her adopted daughter, Estella. Miss Havisham, of course, is one of Dickens’ most famous creations. She was left at the altar as a younger woman, and now whiles away her days in her crumbling wedding dress, all the clocks in her house stopped at 8:40. Miss Havisham’s sole delight seems to be in Estella’s cruel treatment of poor Pip. Nevertheless, Pip falls in love with Estella.

Eventually, Miss Havisham pays Joe for Pip’s services, and Pip returns to the marshes as a blacksmithing apprentice. Once, Pip found Joe’s profession to be honorable. Now, however, after all of Estella’s scornful jibes, Pip finds the work beneath his dignity. This begins the long period of insufferable Pip, who will constantly struggle to rise above his station, while simultaneously racking up debts and alienating the people who truly love him.

At some point, Pip is approached my Mr. Jaggers, a cunning lawyer with many clients who end up at the end of a noose (he also has a compulsive propensity towards hand-washing). Jaggers informs Pip that he has a benefactor, and that this benefactor has “great expectations” for Pip. To receive his money, Pip is told he must travel to London, become a gentleman, and retain his name. Pip does so, believing all the while that his benefactor is Miss Havisham.

If there is a spine to this book, a central narrative thread, it is Pip’s pursuit of the lovely, acidic Estella. To this end, Pip acts poorly in society, goes in hock to his creditors, and spars with Bentley Drummle for Estella’s affections. Of course, this being a Dickens novel, there is a lot more swirling about.

Everywhere you look, there are colorful satellite characters who seem all the more lively for orbiting Pip. (Though unlikeable at times, Pip is mostly dull. Mainly, I attribute this to the first-person narrative. It is easy to look out onto the world, and harder to look inward. Thus, Pip is better at dramatizing the people he meets than in understanding himself). One of the typical Dickensian eccentrics Pip encounters is John Wemmick, a clerk for Mr. Jaggers. Wemmick lives in a house modeled after a castle and has a father, “The Aged P,” who has an affinity for firing off a cannon. There is also Herbert Pocket, who becomes friends with Pip, even though their relationship begins with near-fisticuffs. Pocket comes from a huge, dysfunctional family, that Dickens describes with apparent glee.

Though Great Expectations is not as long as David Copperfield or Bleak House, it sprawls enough to cause confusion. Character lists may become necessary. Of course, Dickens hates randomness, and it is worth bearing in mind that most of the people you meet, even the secondary personages, will tie back into the main story. In Dickens’ London, everybody knows everybody else, and all are ruled by the Gods of Coincidence.

Great Expectations involves a bit of a twist. I won’t assume you know the substance of this twist, the way Pip assumes the identity of his benefactor, so I will not spoil it. (If it is possible to spoil something published in 1861).

I feel like I have a hit-and-miss relationship with Dickens’ work. Usually, I’m a fan of big, messy epics. The bigger and messier the better. However, with regards to Dickens, I’ve found that I like his shorter, more economical stories (A Tale of Two Cities, A Christmas Carol) to his bursting-at-the-seams behemoths.

I think this has something to do with payoff. Usually, when you read a novel, it moves towards some sort of climax, a set piece of action or emotional upheaval and resolution. With Dickens, though, you are moving towards a lesson. He was a great moralizer and critic, and he used his novels as a canvas on which to make his points.

Great Expectations is no exception. It is a homily directed at a Victorian England stratified by class and family background, where station was defined even more by lineage than by wealth. Against this backdrop, young Pip goes out into the world, abandons his family and faithful old Joe, makes horribly inaccurate judgments about people, and finally learns that there is no place like home.

That’s all well and good, but not much of a reward for the days or weeks you devote to Great Expectations, especially when you can learn the same thing after two hours of The Wizard of Oz.


Note: this 2 stars is a 25 year ago high school required reading memory. I may do a reread of this some day so the two star is subject to change.