I have been known to get drunk and brag to guys that my IQ was in the 95th percentile. Why? I have no idea. Needless to say, they weren’t impressed. Which brings me to the next installment of my book reviews- or as I like to call it, “Literature from Hell Part Three: Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations.”
The first time I read this book, I was in high school. Well… now that I think about it, my previous statement is actually a half truth. I didn’t read it so much as I stared at the page until class was over. I brought the book home and still couldn’t focus on it. Who would name a child Pip? And who would trust a creepy woman like Miss Havisham with said unfortunate child? Then there was a second attempt to read it in college, for fun. I didn’t make it past page 30. I even brought it with me on a long flight. In fact, it was the only thing I had to read and still, I couldn’t bear it. Instead I slept.
Usually at this point in most of my book reviews, I summarize and make fun of the plot. If you would like a plot summary click here. Even the summary is far too confusing for me to explain. In fact, in the middle of reading its third short paragraph my concentration began to fade.
Thinking back to my college and high school curriculum, my friends and I spent a lot of time finding ways around reading the books we were assigned. A lot. Now I wonder how much untapped potential for mind expansion we wasted by not reading those books… Well… expansion or implosion… Yes, more likely it would’ve resulted in an implosion with pieces of brain splattered all over the page due of course to the “classics” that we were assigned. Those classics included but were not limited to Great Expectations, Ethan Frome, and my own personal favorite Heart of Darkness.
So after three more attempts to digest the summary while keeping my ADD in check, I have gathered the following: Pip, the main character, is an orphan. The book chronicles his growth into adulthood. During his childhood, he helps a prisoner escape capture and then falls in love with Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter who coincidentally ends up being the biological child of the prisoner Pip helps escape (oh, the irony!).
Miss Havisham is indeed the most fascinating character in this novel. This lonely “spinster” spends her days and nights sitting around the dining room table as she ages in her decades old wedding dress. Yes, she wears a wedding dress from her youth. And yes, the dress is from a marriage that never happened but you have to give her some credit. Her strong sense of determination is indisputable. She has spent every day since being left at the alter sitting in her parlor in her yellowing wedding dress waiting for her groom to come back, or as an optimist would see it, merely keeping the dream alive. Dare to dream, dare to dream! Now that’s admirable persistence, in my opinion, though if he ever does come back I strongly feel that she should get a new dress, check out the sales rack at David’s Bridal or something, as I imagine the old dress (the one she’s been wearing for thirty years) is no longer white but a color comparable to a newspaper that has been left in the attic for a century or two.
So far this sounds a lot more like a soap opera than anything else….
Pip falls in love with Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter, Estella, but Estella marries someone else (General Hospital anybody?) now in adulthood Pip is in severe debt, but luckily years earlier he was the benefactor of a large windfall- a windfall left to him by the very prisoner he helped escape years earlier! By some stroke of luck, after escaping jail (with Pip’s assistance), the prisoner became a very wealthy man. The prisoner did not forget Pip. By the end of the novel Pip uses the entire sum of money to pay off his extensive lifetime of debt, thus breaking even. Now if that isn’t a mediocre expectation than I don’t know what is. Inheriting a large amount of money only to have to throw the entire sum at a debt you spent your lifetime accruing? And finally, Estella’s abusive husband dies and the book closes with the insinuation that she will now marry Pip. The End.
So it took 500 pages for him to tell a story that I could sum up in two paragraphs without ever reading it? Comments? Questions? Grievances???
Check out my previous installments of “Literature From Hell” or as I also like to call it “The Festivus of Book Reviews”