When you read a lot of Christian Historical Romance novels, there’s something you come to expect in every story – a happy ending. Then you come to a book like Great Expectations. Written over a hundred years ago, well, you understand that it’s a little different than what you’re accustomed to coming out of today’s modern printing presses.
Maybe you’ve heard about Pip and his dreams of a being a grand gentleman and the hard lesson he learned in the process. Yet, when you pick up this book, there’s one thing about it you shouldn’t miss; Pip isn’t the only one whose wrecked dreams we can learn from. Take, for example, Miss Havisham. She lived in a big house with hardly any wants, but rejection from her “groom-to-be” caused her to cease living in every way…except breathing. Her expectation of marriage didn’t come to pass – and she allowed it take everything she could have enjoyed in life from her. Think about it, who would live in a dark room with no sunlight wearing your wedding dress for the rest of your life? Crazy, right? Yet, so many people do the same thing on the inside. They let bitterness steal every ray of sunlight trying to get through just like Miss Havisham shut out the natural light of day. On the other hand, Estella brings an interesting twist to the theme. She doesn’t seem to have any expectations and is content to let life happen to her. She doesn’t want Pip, marries a man she doesn’t love and leads a miserable life. Do you know anyone like that? No emotion towards life, either good or bad? Then you have Magwitch. Oh, he had no great expectations, did he? In and out of jail, sentenced for life, well, you get the picture. He chose his lifestyle and paid the price. Yet…a child on the marshes changed his life in an unexpected way. By wanting to do something good for someone else, he turned his corrupt life around and made an honest living, giving all his money away to someone else so their dream could come true. The brute you didn’t like from the first chapter, by the end, can become the unsung hero if you let him. Sometimes, it’s the people who have the least opportunity who surprise you the most.
Though the supporting characters have a lot to teach us, the theme comes full circle when we consider Pip, Dickens main character. The first thing we need to establish, is that Pip was like a lot of us – dreamers, underprivileged, in love with a pretty girl and wanting something better than what he had. In itself, there’s nothing wrong with that. But Pip had one big issue in his thinking – he wanted his fortunes to come about in a way that matched his dreams; and life hardly works that way. Secondly, he didn’t know how to relate to his true friends when he had a higher lifestyle than they. What Dickens is trying to tell us is not that pursuing a better life is wrong, but rather, don’t forget those you love in the process and don’t try and be someone you’re not. I saw this in Pip when he figured out who his true benefactor was. No longer was he excited to be a gentleman; all he could think of was how he didn’t like the person the money was coming from. And his sponsor did a lot for him. Then there was a part of the story where he was ashamed of Joe because he wasn’t educated. Now, I could understand not wanting to be around his sister, because she was always mean to Pip, but why treat Joe the same way? Joe had always been good to him, even when he didn’t have to be. The good part is that Pip realized this and changed his thinking at the end of the story, which made the ending a lot better in my mind!
Conclusion: While reading the book I hit a lot of dry spells where I felt the plot lagged and had no point. To be blunt, I couldn’t wait for the story to end! Yet, when I finished the book and thought on all I read, I really liked it. The reading may have been hard, but the end was worth it. So, I wouldn’t call it a “page turner,” but I saw a lot of parallels for real life and learned a lot. …And I think Dickens would like that.