Classics Without All the Class discussion

Great Expectations
This topic is about Great Expectations
65 views
July 2016 - Great Expectations > The beginning: Setting and Characters

Comments Showing 1-21 of 21 (21 new)    post a comment »
dateDown arrow    newest »

Beth (k9odyssey) I'm not sure if we have a discussion reader for Great Expectations so I thought I'd start us off. I was struck first, by the setting of the marshes the graveyard and second, by the initial characters: the menacing convict and brooding, bitter sister and traumatized young Pip. His only good fortune was to have Joe in his life.

This is my third Dickens novel. I was not a huge fan of the first two but I find myself very absorbed in Great Expectations. Its edgier and full of twists and turns. The length intimidated me so I started early and am now well into it. I hope others will enjoy this book as much as I am. A welcome surprise for me.


message 2: by Paul (new) - added it

Paul Fouche | 11 comments Well put Beth, could not have said it better, Only on page 27 now and as my first Dickens it feels a bit daunting and maybe out of my league!


Beth (k9odyssey) Hi Paul, stick with it for a while. I felt that way in the very beginning but as I progressed, it became more enjoyable. I am alternating between the book and audio which helps me grasp the flowery descriptive language Dickens loved to bestow upon the reader.


George P. Beth thanks for getting us going! This is a rather long novel so I started almost a month ago also, and am a little over half way. I've read 4 other Dickens novels, my favorites being Bleak House (which I just read last year) and A Tale of Two Cities. David Copperfield and Oliver Twist were the others.
I'm reading the paper book - I can go a little faster that way for a longer one. He certainly put in a dramatic start to this one to grab the audience. The slower part of this one is probably in the middle.
Dickens was definitely one of the old masters in my opinion. He had these long plotlines but with so much detail of human nature and parody of human faults. The 1st person narrative used here gives me a lot of sympathy for the main character. I like how he weaves in mystery- who hit Pip's sister in the head? Is Miss Havisham really his benefactor?


message 5: by Paul (new) - added it

Paul Fouche | 11 comments Beth wrote: "Hi Paul, stick with it for a while. I felt that way in the very beginning but as I progressed, it became more enjoyable. I am alternating between the book and audio which helps me grasp the flowery..."

Thanks Beth, You have actually motivated to keep at it. I don't think I am going to make it in one month, but going to finish this book. The "flowery" language is amasing!


Beth (k9odyssey) I just finished and was so glad I read the whole thing. Some of the dialog between Pip and the other characters was incredibly moving. Wonderful story!


message 7: by George P. (last edited Jul 08, 2016 06:57PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

George P. I'm about 2/3 of the way through it. Pip changes from a bumpkin to a gentleman rather abruptly in the story I noticed- I think it would have been better if Dickens had shown us a more gradual transition. However, he (Pip) is a poor manager of money, which he's never been accustomed to having, so that shows some lack of maturity.
Speaking of characters, what do you think of Estella? She is haughty and rude to boys initially, later smiles and dances with the men who are attentive to her- she becomes more skilled at getting them to fall for her, all the better to break their hearts. There's a great conversation between her and Miss Havisham about the middle of the story. I think she is one of Dickens' more interesting characters. Gwyneth Paltrow played her in the movie about 10 years ago and was quite good I thought.


George P. I'm now about 80% through, the the plot has picked up the action. I feel like Dickens has devised an action-packed climax- I hope.
Pip seems to have become such a terrific guy that he's kind of boring- interesting people have faults and eccentricities I think.


message 9: by Phil (last edited Jul 16, 2016 12:41PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Phil J George wrote: "I'm about 2/3 of the way through it. Pip changes from a bumpkin to a gentleman rather abruptly in the story I noticed- I think it would have been better if Dickens had shown us a more gradual trans..."

I think that's the point. Pip is still really a "bumpkin," but he thinks he's a gentleman because of his relationship with Haversham and his great expectations.

I think Pip is one of Dickens' best characters. In his other books that I've read (Christmas Carol, Oliver Twist, and Tale of Two Cities), people are either absurdly evil or nauseatingly good. That makes for great villains, but a lily-white protagonist is hard to connect with. Pip is somewhere in the middle- mostly good, but kind of an jerk. I love the scene when he tells the girl next door (was her name Becky?) that she would have been good enough for him if he wasn't such a gentleman. I thought she'd shove him in the river for that!


message 10: by Beth (new) - rated it 4 stars

Beth (k9odyssey) Phil, that's what made me like Pip to. He's an interesting character: not all sugar sweet good but he's not all bad either. He was bumbling from chilhood through adolescence and into adulthood. I related to his flaws and the gradual change in his expectations.


George P. That was a good scene with Biddy earlier in the book- I had forgotten about that; she was very tolerant with Pip's arrogance. I've been hoping that PIP would reconnect with her, realize what a great girl she is and write Estella off & forget her.


message 12: by Leo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Leo Walsh (llleoll) | 17 comments Beth wrote: "I'm not sure if we have a discussion reader for Great Expectations so I thought I'd start us off. I was struck first, by the setting of the marshes the graveyard and second, by the initial characte..."

Characters are Dicken's gift and why I love him.

His plotting often strikes this contemporary reader as melodramatic and over-the-top... more like a Spanish telenovella than an English-language drama. His prose often purple. The "coincidences" in his plot eye-rolling and unrealistic. And his over-reliance on the heart-strings using orphans...

Bottom line, he's no Ernest Hemingway.

But his characters... they stay with you. Even when they are over-the-top and whimsical, they stay with you.

Here, Wimmick is case and point. A guy who lives in a miniature castle, complete with a moat. Who has distinct work/ home personas. And tries to act disinterested and hard-headed, yet is blessed with a heart that is golden to go along with his raw horse-sense.

BTW -- I still see the first quarter of the book, with Pip between seven and twelve (?) in black-and-white. And visualize his reactions like a scamp from "The Little Rascals." I think because they ran re-runs on our local TV station in the 80's, and my siblings and I love it. So when I read it in the 9th grade for English class, that was my image of an over-wrought child's life.


message 13: by Leo (new) - rated it 5 stars

Leo Walsh (llleoll) | 17 comments George wrote: "I'm about 2/3 of the way through it. Pip changes from a bumpkin to a gentleman rather abruptly in the story I noticed- I think it would have been better if Dickens had shown us a more gradual trans..."

Ironically, I think Pip is deeply flawed -- arrogant and willing to turn his back on Joe and Biddy to avoid seeming common. And as a first-person narrator unreliable. Since we all tend to paint ourselves in a best light possible.

So his seeming perfection is his older, wiser self reflecting on his past misdeeds. But that re-telling is tinted by his own self-serving nature, which none of us overcome.

For instance, the forty-something-narrator Pip tells us that twenty-something Pip wanted to get Magwitch out of England to protect his fortune and his reputation. And yet, that memory becomes conflated with Pip thinking he had softened towards Magwitch, who Pip now sees as softened and thus more noble.

But did that change-of-mind really happen to twenty-something Pip? Or is a trick of memory, where an older Pip rationalizes his behavior to square it with his conventional, middle-class morality?

And memory is a big part of this book. From Magwitch remembering Pip. To Miss Havisham clinging to the memory of being jilted.

Bottom line, there is more to this work when you look at it hard. At least IMHO....


George P. Here's a review just posted by a group member, Kirsten (who just finished it) that's funny:
https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...


message 15: by Jen (new) - rated it 4 stars

Jen LaBruzza (nvjen) Hi Beth, I totally agree with your assessment of the beginning of the book. My saving grace was that I am reading it on the Serial Reader app which makes it harder to "dump" out of a book. I'm glad I am persevering though. It's turned into a tremendous read. Thank you for sharing! Cheers, Jen


message 16: by Jessica (new) - added it

Jessica Sathiyanathan | 3 comments So far Great Expectations has been full of plot twists and colorful descriptions of thought. It's a pity that Pip disregards Joe after receiving his good fortune when they were on such good terms with one another. Joe's affection for Pip is endearing but strained with the continuation of the novel. Hubert is an interesting character, it is funny that Pip and Hubert become close friends when they meet each other in London though their first encounter was quite violent.


message 17: by Beth (new) - rated it 4 stars

Beth (k9odyssey) Jessica, Pip's attitude towards Joe bothered me too. At the same time, given his immaturity and background, I understood his obsession with breaking out and transforming himself. Poor Joe just wasn't a part of his plan while he was going through that narcissistic period.


message 18: by George P. (last edited Jul 23, 2016 12:24PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

George P. Beth, I think you were on the money in your comment about PIp wanting to break away from his origins. He wasn't mature enough to see the value of his relationship with Joe although he came to realize that later I think, and regret his abandonment.
I'm going to disagree after a lot of thinking about it, with the comment saying Dickens' novels were poorly plotted. I think Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, and particularly Bleak House, have very interesting plots. Admittedly, he did use coincidences in his stories that were hard to swallow for modern readers, such as Estella's parentage.


message 19: by Paul (new) - added it

Paul Fouche | 11 comments Beth wrote: "I just finished and was so glad I read the whole thing. Some of the dialog between Pip and the other characters was incredibly moving. Wonderful story!"


Well done!


message 20: by Paul (new) - added it

Paul Fouche | 11 comments "Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.”
― Charles Dickens, Great Expectations Chapter 9

How beautiful is that...Wow!


Alana (alanasbooks) | 208 comments Paul wrote: ""Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable d..."

Agreed, his writing is full of deep-thinking sentiments like this!

I have read a couple of other Dickens, but this has been the most enjoyable (thus far...I have a ways to go!). The character development is wonderful, I think Pip especially gives a very good representation of what often happens when someone of lesser means suddenly finds he has nearly (to him) unlimited resources. Suddenly the who attitude changes, and the humble beginnings are not only forgotten, but something to be hidden away from the new, "more enlightened" crowd. Those that have the truest hearts sometimes find their way back, though....

Boy, though, I want to shake some sense into him sometimes!


back to top