Thursday, April 25, 2013

Classic Lit: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Publisher: Norton
Date: 1861 (1999)
Format: paperback
Source: purchased used
Read: for Intro to Literary and Cultural Studies
Pages: 360

From GoodReads: Great Expectations charts the progress of Pip from childhood through often painful experiences to adulthood, as he moves from the Kent marshes to busy, commercial London, encountering a variety of extraordinary characters ranging from Magwitch, the escaped convict, to Miss Havisham, locked up with her unhappy past and living with her ward, the arrogant, beautiful Estella. Pip must discover his true self, and his own set of values and priorities. Whether such values allow one to prosper in the complex world of early Victorian England is the major question posed by Great Expectations, one of Dickens's most fascinating, and disturbing, novels.

My review: I read Grave Expectations, the supernatural mash-up of Great Expectations by Sherri Browning Erwin, almost two years ago, and at that time I attributed the strangeness of the plot to the added werewolves and vampires and whatnot. To my surprise, the original is just as weird with its convict-haunted marshes, mad Miss Havisham, and strange Mr. Jaggers. It didn't seem as realistic as I would expect from an author who's known for his novels of social criticism, but hey, it was interesting in its strangeness.

Great Expectations was more enjoyable than I expected, especially given how my parents have described Dickens' writing as overly long-winded and therefore not the most interesting. (To give them credit, they have read several of his novels and attribute his verbose writing to his being paid by the word to write serials.) After dreading Dickens for years, I actually didn't find the book that difficult to read. I even found his writing amusing at times, mostly with his way of playing with words and their meanings as well as deconstructing various details from society and culture. Perhaps I should pick up those other Dickens doorstops that have been languishing on my bookshelf for years...

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