Friday, January 28, 2011

Charles Dickens 'Great Expectetions'

One of Dickens’ shorter novels and also one of his most influential is Great Expectations. It appeared initially in serial form in All The Year Round between 1860 and 1861 and is now considered to be one of his finest novels. It concerns the young boy Philip Pirrip (known as ‘Pip’) and his development through life after an early meeting with the escaped convict Abel Magwitch, who he treats kindly despite his fear. His unpleasant sister and her humorous and friendly blacksmith husband, Joe, bring him up. Crucial to his development as an individual is his introduction to Miss Havisham (one of Dickens’ most brilliant portraits), a now aging woman who has given up on life after being jilted at the altar. Cruelly, Havisham has brought up her daughter Estella to revenge her own pain and so as Pip falls in love with her she is made to torture him in romance. Aspiring to be a gentleman despite his humble beginnings, Pip seems to achieve the impossible by receiving a fund of wealth from an unknown source and being sent to London with the lawyer Jaggers. He is employed but eventually loses everything and Estella marries another. His benefactor turns out to have been Magwitch and his future existence is based upon outgrowing the great expectations and returning to Joe and honest laout. Eventually he is reunited with Estella. There have been a number of film adaptations of the novel, the most recent of which featured Anne Bancroft as Miss Havisham. Doubtless, this was something of an in-joke meant for those who know Bancroft best as Mrs. Robinson in The Graduate which is very much inspired by this Dickens novel and benefits from the comparison.

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