Sunday, September 24, 2006

Do I have Great Expectations?

Last night, I finally finished Charles Dickens's Great Expectations. If you're like me, you probably read it in high school, maybe 9th grade. You probably didn't like it. If you read it now (say, five or six years post-high school), you'll likely enjoy it much more. Or at least I did.

In case you forgot, this rite-of-passage story follows Phillip Pirrip (a.k.a. Pip) from about the age of 6 until something like 30. At first, Pip's sister is taking care of him, along with her husband, Joe Gargery. The story begins with Pip delivering "wittles" to an escaped convict. Next thing we know, the local rich and eccentric lady, Miss Havisham, invites Pip over to play. There, he meets Estella, a more innocent (but not much) version of Steinbeck's Cathy. Predictably, Pip's taste of the high-class world of wealth makes him jealous for it and discontented with his blacksmith's destiny.

Eventually, Pip receives news that he has "great expectations." Thence begins the story of Pip's spoliation, devastation, and eventual reincarnation as somebody worth spitting on.

Like I said, when I read it in 9th grade, I didn't like it. When I saw the movie a few years after, I still didn't like it. I read it now, and I can relate to Pip these days. I have had times in my life where I was as low as Pip got. It supports a theory of mine: that we only like stories (be they books, movies, magazines, whatever) where we can relate to a character or where we wish we could relate to one of the characters.

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