Feb 7, 2012 is the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens birth. He is surely one of the most loved authors of all times. I am pretty sure I first read Great Expectations as a high school student and I also read it about 17 years ago when I did a read through in publication order of all of the novels of Dickens. Great Expectations, the second from last completed novel, is the only one of his novels told in the first person. I recently also read in observation of Dickens 200 Day A Tale of Two Cities. The opening and closing chapters of A Tale of Two Cities are really flawless.
The plot of Great Expectations is probably well known to a lot of people who have not read it through one of the several movies that have been based on it. I will not spend much time retelling the plot. It is all about the life and development of Pip, an orphan and his ups and downs in life. I will just say what I like about this novel and what picky points I might make. Great Expectations is for sure part of the literary canon.
I like the great subtly and sheer brilliance of some of the characterizations. As in most of his other works, the "good" people in Dickens tend not to be as well developed as those with a bit of an edge to them. I thought the characters of the attorney Mr. Jaggers and his clerk and man of all work John Wemmick were just perfect. As to Pip himself, an overall well realized central character but not perfect. I found the character of Estella really not that well done and in small note if her mother was a Gypsy as the story line suggests, then Estella's appearance does not fit in with this. One of the noted characteristics of a Dickens novel is the fixation on an adolescent female and I think the character of Estella could have been better done. As to Pip's brother in law who was a father figure to him, Joe, he is your typical Dickens saintly figure along with the teacher Biddy.
While I am being difficult, how do people like the scene where Miss Havisham catches on fire?
Dickens does his usual great job describing the events in the novel. His descriptive or scene setting sections may not have the depth as those in some of this other works but this is because the story is being told by the young Pip.
Given the large role an escaped convict who has done well for himself and for others plays in this book, I could not help but think of another book I read last year, Les Miserables by Victor Hugo. OK hard for a Dickens lover like me to admit, Les Miserables is the more powerful work, in my opinion. Please share your opinion on this with us.
The only advise can give in good consciousness to literary autodidacts such as myself is to read all of the novels of Dickens in publication order.
I had hoped to also read Bleak House, his consensus best novel, by Feb 7, 2012 but I will not be able to fit this in but I will hopefully read it very soon. I am keeping the whole year open to posting in honor of the 200th anniversary of the birth of Charles Dickens.