Saturday, March 26, 2011

Book Reviews: Great Expectations

Yes, I do realize that I have not posted for over a month, almost two. I offer my most sincere apologies...that will not happen again. Mea culpa, mea culpa, mea maxima culpa. ;) From now on, I will post at least one post per week, unless something crazy is going on.
So! To start back up, here is a review of one of my all-time favorite works of literature: Great Expectations, by the prolific author Charles Dickens. When I saw the title of this book on my eighth-grade reading list, I was excited to read it, having heard much good about it, and thus opened the book with curiousity. I finished it quite quickly, and promptly decided that it was one of my all-time favorites!
Here is the basic storyline. Ever since her fiancée broke up with her on her wedding day, time has stopped for an old woman by the name of Miss Havisham-literally.  That is, until she hires Pip, an orphan with a strong sense of curiosity, to come ‘play’ for her. Pip, living with his volatile sister and her husband, is shocked at the eccentric woman and is stunned by the beautiful yet proud Estella, Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter. Miss Havisham has decided that, to take revenge upon her flighty fiancee, she will teach Estella to hate all men, and to break their hearts. To Miss Havisham's delight, Pip falls in love with the gorgeous Estella, but must find a way to win her over, as he finds that Miss Havisham has succeded in replacing Estella's heart with a cold slab of stone. Spanning from Pip’s childhood to adult life, Dickens’ classic details the mysterious adventure of Pip, Estella, and Miss Havisham, who becomes Pip’s benefactor and confidante.  All the while, Pip must learn to cope with his great expectations.
Following Miss Havisham’s repentant death, Pip is able to deal with the oddities of his childhood and tries to forget Estella.  However, after meeting her in the graveyard as a changed, more mature woman, he learns that sometimes, you don’t have to forget to forgive.
That is the basic storyline-now, here are my personal thoughts about the piece.Throughout the whole book, you can easily see that Miss Havisham is filled up with hatred and a deep feeling and need for revenge.  The book details how everything that was set up for her wedding is still left in its original position from decades before. Because of how clear everything was, I could see in my mind a picture of Miss Havisham.  I could see her eternally sorrowful, yet hate-filled face, and at her death, her penitent and sorrowful face. This book is not true, but its concepts certainly are.  After all, the human reaction to disappointment like this is revenge and hatred.  Although I cannot think of anything as large-scale as Miss Havisham’s reaction, I'm sure that something like this has certainly happened in some young woman’s life and turned her hope and excitement to hate and ruthlessness.  I think that many things were happening in Dickens’ life which with he could barely cope.  Something must have happened in his life, or he must have seen something which made a huge impact on him.  He obviously felt this message needed to come across, the message of revenge and then forgiveness.
Charles Dickens does himself proud in this serious story. It is up there along with A Christmas Carol and Oliver Twist. Also, the story itself is heart-wrenching.  After all, it’s hard to read about such human characters such as Pip and Estella without getting attached to them as I did.  It is a beautiful re-telling of a very human occurrence.  When I read it two years ago in the abridged version, it didn’t hold my attention for very long.   However, now, reading it unabridged-and probably as a result of my own maturity-I can’t believe that I didn’t enjoy it at first!
This is exactly what my copy looks like, although this picture from shows their little 'look inside!' button. Be assured, mine does not have that. ;)
For each book report, I'm going to have a section entitled Growing in Virtue. That'll list the negative and/or positive character traits or virtues in each book. Here is the first one-
Growing in Virtue for Great Expectations...obviously, there are a few character traits in here that one would NOT want to copy. Things such as revenge, hatred, etc. are bad things and I certainly am not endorsing them by endorsing this book. However, the main character trait that comes out of this is forgiveness. This whole book is about forgiveness-Pip must forgive Miss Havisham for estranging him from Estella. Estella must forgive Miss Havisham  for teaching her wrong behaviors, and Miss Havisham must forgive her fiancee who killed all the love in her heart. Dickens succeeds in creating this tableau of forgiveness in a strikingly real way, and it gives the book an aura of reality. Other than an aura of reality, however, it also displays Christian virtues. Christ tells us, "And forgive us our sins, just as we have forgiven those who have sinned against us...If you forgive those who sin against you, your heavenly Father will forgive you. But if you refuse to forgive others, your Father will not forgive your sins." (Matthew 6:12,14-15) The Scriptures clearly tell us that forgiveness is an important virtue.  Since we are on earth to be more like God, and since God displays His mercy to us unconditionally, we should imitate him by forgiving others. The Catechism of the Catholic Church says, "There is no one, however wicked and guilty, who may not confidently hope for forgiveness provided his repentance his honest." Obviously, there is no sin too great for God to forgive! We also should forgive our fellow human beings.
I have already recommended this book to multiple individuals, and have recently purchased my own copy. I also gave this book to a friend of mine for her birthday, and hope she will enjoy it as much as I have. :D I certainly encourage everyone to read this wonderful piece of literature, and I hope you enjoy it!
In XC,

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