For ages, I've wanted to read a Dickens novel. Back in High School, I tried to delve in, even during my college years I attempted one or another, but I could never get into it. I was convinced that Dickens just wasn't my cup of tea.
I was so wrong.
Great Expectations had it all, a compelling narrative, fascinating characters, gothic themes, and suspense!
Sometimes the dialog and wording was a bit confusing, but I loved sinking deep into a book, one that required me to think, grow conclusions, piece together themes throughout. I felt like I was back in grad school again, ha! Every once in awhile, I love a novel that demands critical thinking. This one surely delivered.
My favorite part? I loved the characterizations. So many fascinating characters in this novel! One of my favorites was Miss Havisham. This lady was straight out of a gothic novel! Stuck in times past, dwelling upon a wedding that never happened, infested, bemoaning, begrudging, more a ghost than a woman. She's a spectacular character!
Pip describes his first meeting with Miss Havisham as thus:
She sits in her house, day after day, one wedding shoe on and the other off, stopped at a moment in time that never progressed forward (p.91). Pip views her as a living skeleton, someone who is, truly, no longer living (92). She sits smoldering with resentment and hatred over the man who jilted her. She never sees the light of day and refuses to acknowledge that time has progressed. Even her wedding cake has been left out on a table, to rot away in a most disgusting way:
Miss Havisham's spitefulness over being jilted is shown through the way she refuses to move on, move past the experience. Instead, she fumes, insisting that her life was ruined at that moment. And so, the clocks stand still in her household, the cake rots, she never puts on her other wedding shoe. Perhaps the worst result of her hatred is seen in her treatment of Estella. Estella is a young ward who is placed in Miss Havisham's house. Miss Havisham molds this young child, teaching her to hate from an early age, enforcing a heart of stone upon her. It is only near the end that she realizes just what an error she made, in raising up Estella so.
It is only near the end of her life that Miss Havisham recognizes the mistake she'd made (p.443). Although Pip feels sorry for her, he can't help but acknowledge just how selfish she had been:
Miss Havisham had shut out the world, long before her time. Instead of living out her purpose, of inviting people into her life and living, she lived as if she was already dead. And that, Pip recognizes, what a grave mistake. Pip has his own lessons to learn in Great Expectations as well. But I think Miss Havisham's sad story teaches him something as well. People can have a great influence over others, they must use it wisely. And people are not meant to live alone. They need their loved ones to go through life with, through the easy and hard times, supporting one another, teaching each other to love and forgive. Miss Havisham missed out on life, because sat and fumed with resentment. She sewed hatred, instead of love. Perhaps a bit of a lesson for us all?