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Great Expectations
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Great Expectations > Discussing the Novel as a Whole

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Tristram Shandy | 4367 comments Mod
Dear Friends,

We have now finished Great Expectations, and it behoves me to open the thread for a general discussion of the novel as a whole as well as to summarize the original ending Dickens had wanted for the story, before he was talked out of it by his friend and fellow-writer Edward Bulwer-Lytton, who said that this ending was too bleak and would not go down well with the reading public. I was actually quite astonished to find that there were two endings, because this reminds me of the practice of some film production firms of showing a movie to a number of test audiences before finally releasing it, and to observe the audience’s reactions in order to make changes in the movie, should they find that the audiences react in a way that is deemed likely to endanger box office profits. Apparently, Dickens, too, was too much of a businessman to neglect the wishes of his readers, or “fans”. Okay, this does not come as too much of a surprise, seeing that he wrote all those Christmas books, whose major object was to make money and pay his bills.

Here, then, is the original ending to the novel, which is way shorter. According to my Penguin edition, there was no Chapter 59, and the original ending was supposed to follow the last lines of Chapter 58. It does not make any sense to summarize it because it is very short, efficiently short, and that’s why I give it word by word:

”It was four years more, before I saw herself. I had heard of her as leading a most unhappy life, and as being separated from her husband who had used her with great cruelty, and who had become quite renowned as a compound of pride, brutality, and meanness.

I had heard of the death of her husband (from an accident consequent on ill-treating a horse), and of her being married again to a Shropshire doctor, who, against his interest, had once very manfully interposed, on an occasion when he was in professional attendance on Mr. Drummle, and had witnessed some outrageous treatment of her. I had heard that the Shropshire doctor was not rich, and that they lived on her own personal fortune.

I was in England again — in London, and walking along Piccadilly with little Pip — when a servant came running after me to ask would I step back to a lady in a carriage who wished to speak to me. It was a little pony carriage, which the lady was driving; and the lady and I looked sadly enough on one another.

‘I am greatly changed, I know; but I thought you would like to shake hands with Estella, too, Pip. Lift up that pretty child and let me kiss it!’ (She supposed the child, I think, to be my child.)

I was very glad afterwards to have had the interview; for, in her face and in her voice, and in her touch, she gave me the assurance, that suffering had been stronger than Miss Havisham's teaching, and had given her a heart to understand what my heart used to be.


So, which of the two endings do you like best, and for what reasons?

There’s also a bunch of other questions we could discuss, e.g.:

Is Pip’s inner development believable? And at what stages do we find any development at all? I am asking this question because so far, I am still at a loss of what to make of Pip and whether to like or dislike him.

Related to this, there is this question: Compared to Dickens’s other bildungsroman, David Copperfield, which protagonist do you find more convincing?

What can be said about the apprenticeship motif, which Peter worked out for us, with regard to the novel as a whole?

What can we say about biblical motifs in the story? Is it a story of sin and redemption?

What characters, scenes, passages did you particularly like or dislike?

As usual, these questions are just supposed to give you some ideas, to spark off discussion, but, of course, you may discuss anything you like.


LindaH | 124 comments Tristam, what a good idea to have a separate thread for the novel as a whole! I look forward to this discussion.

I want to just weigh in on the your What Is the Ending You Prefer question. I prefer the original ending. It shows that Pip moved on from his infatuation with Estella, and that he was reassured by this chance meeting, that her life was comfortable. Doesn't it speak highly of Pip that he ends his narrative by telling of all the happy endings, including Joe and Biddy, without dwelling on his own? Dickens gives us so much in those last words, that he, in his later years, understands the human heart.


Peter | 2949 comments Mod
LindaH wrote: "Tristam, what a good idea to have a separate thread for the novel as a whole! I look forward to this discussion.

I want to just weigh in on the your What Is the Ending You Prefer question. I prefe..."


Linda

You and I are in agreement. I too much prefer the first ending. As to why, well, that would take a long time, and so here is a summary.

The first ending is the ending Dickens wrote to be his ending. Tristram points out that he was convinced to change the ending to please his public, which meant (says I cynically) Dickens wanted the money.

The second ending offers some ambiguity so the reader can decide how they want the Pip-Estella narrative to end. O.K. But it is not what Dickens originally intended. Thus, where Dickens had been taking the novel is not where he ended it.

Obviously, Dickens originally chose not to have a comedic ending like all his previous novels but rather chose to end the novel on a somber, if not tragic note. Somewhat like Shakespeare's The Tempest, perhaps we could define the Dickens ending as a tragicomedy.

I think GE shows a great leap forwards in his creation of the protagonist. I don't think Dickens intended us to happily embrace Pip, as we have all his other of his major characters. To me, Pip is a much more subtle, finely drawn character in terms of psychology than anything Dickens had attempted previously.

Thackeray may lay claim to having written a novel without a hero; Dickens wrote a novel with an ironic hero. Pip is often hard to like. We mock him, chide him, tut tut him and get frustrated with him. That is how Dickens wanted us to respond to his character. That is also why, I believe, Dickens employed the interpolated speaker's voice so often, and with such great effect.

When I read the original ending I see a Pip who will never marry. Walking with little Pip I see Dickens establishing a note of wonder. What will this little Pip's expectations be? Can parents like Biddy and Joe raise a child to be different than our Pip? I like that doubt. I think Dickens intended it.

Dickens warned us earlier through an incident with a horse in Chapter 43 and the Finches of the Grove in ch 34 and the fireplace possessions against Pip that Drummle was a bad, violent person. Dickens intended Estella to suffer with her choice - if she really ever had a freedom of choice in her life. Again, we see Dickens leaving his script of earlier novels happy endings.

And consider the fact that Dickens calls Estella a "lady" three times in one paragraph of the original ending. While she is in "a little pony carriage" she is still in a carriage. Pip is walking. While she has married to a doctor who "was not rich" she still has "her own personal fortune." Pip is not married and he is not in a carriage. He is walking. Estella asks Pip to "lift up" young Pip. Thus, literally and symbolically, Pip (both Pip's actually) are beneath her. The final words of the novel mention two hearts, Estella's and Pip's, and the fact that both hearts have learned a lesson. Still, it is Pip who has suffered the most. He is unmarried and without children.

And so I find that I like Pip because he is so realistic. We often banter about Little Nell and her saccharine perfection. I think Pip is the closest Dickens ever came to giving us a truly human character in a remarkably honest novel.


Everyman | 829 comments Mod
I'm another vote for the original ending. As Tristram said, he sold out his art for money, which is a shame. At least he had the decency to leave the future Pip/Estella relationship ambiguous in the revised ending, but the original ending fit much better with the artistic integrity of the novel.


Tristram Shandy | 4367 comments Mod
Peter wrote: "And so I find that I like Pip because he is so realistic. We often banter about Little Nell and her saccharine perfection. I think Pip is the closest Dickens ever came to giving us a truly human character in a remarkably honest novel."

I think you made a very good point here, Peter: Pip is a truly realistic person, with good qualities like honesty, a sense of decency and the ability to realize when he has made a mistake, but also with not so good character traits, like being quite impressionable and sometimes not very self-confident (just remember his first visits to Satis House), forgetfulness of who his true and most loyal friends are, eagerness to please, a certain proneness to arrogance, and at times a lack of tact - just consider how he betrayed Wemmick's secret to Jaggers or how he mentioned Drummles loan of money in company. Granted, Drummles is a brute, but still it is bad tact to use an ad hominem even to a brute when you can simply ignore him.

All these spots of light and shade, and his reflections upon his own character, as voiced through the more mature narrator, make Pip a round character. So I like Pip as a literary character for the same reasons that I strongly dislike Little Nell, and also Quilp, who seem to me nothing more than grimacing faces in a Punch and Judy show. One has to like Pip as a literary character because he gives you food for thought and the opportunity to discuss his motives and his overall development till the cows come home. There is little interesting to be said about Little Nell and Quilp, and that's why I don't really like them as literary creations. They are simply boring, and Pip surely isn't.

I am not yet sure whether I should like Pip as a human being, though. I really doubt that he would remain loyal to his friends in any given situation, his betrayal of Wemmick coming quite late in the novel. I have my good and bad points like any other person, and it happens that I have some good points that I miss in Pip, who might have more redeeming qualities than I in other respects.

As to me, I am quite a loyal person: If you have done me a good turn, you will find me truthful and sturdy, and so it came as a shock to me how readily Pip blurted out the private household affairs of a man who had invited him to his home and helped him in many ways. Of course, my thankfulness also has its darker side in that if once a person has got into my black books by disappointing or insulting me, it is nigh impossible for him or her to ever get out of them again - and maybe Pip is readier to forgive than I am, since he is readier to trespass.

Unlike Pip, I would never ever run after a woman like Estella, who looks down on me and gives me the cold shoulder. I sometimes found it quite cringeworthy to see Pip yearn for Estella when it was obvious that she was emotionally crippled to a degree that would make her very likely to hurt and to humiliate him.

Maybe, it's quite a personal thing how you react to a round character like Pip. There's another famous round character in literature that is generally frowned upon but that I can sympathize with very well, and that is Ahab from Moby-Dick. I can share his sense of anger and bitterness against elementary forces that simply do not care for a human being. I would certainly not go as far to condone all his actions and the extremity of his desire for revenge, but there are speeches in the novel delivered by Ahab that make me feel very close to him, dislikeable as he is in many ways.

With Pip, it's the other way round: We are clearly supposed to like him more than to dislike him, but there are certains flaws in his character that are so alien to mine own that on a personal level I find it hard to link with him.


Peter | 2949 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "Peter wrote: "And so I find that I like Pip because he is so realistic. We often banter about Little Nell and her saccharine perfection. I think Pip is the closest Dickens ever came to giving us a ..."

Yes. I agree with you. And I really found your comments on Captain Ahab insightful. I have never considered him from your perspective but I do agree he is a very human character. Human means to me, at least, believeable if the person lives in a book.

I really like Doc in Cannery Row as well. I think, perhaps, I digress ...

Pip. I have a wee bit more sympathy for him than you. His Wemmick revelation was very tacky. Often, those we fear or dislike we try to please, often at the expense of those we truly care for, sad to say. That idea is mentioned somewhere in Dickens but I can't put my finger on it.


LindaH | 124 comments I've been trying to unravel the string of so many coincidences , and my first question is, is Miss Havisham's interest in Pip connected to Pip's encounter with Magwitch?

My first stop was ch 7, and I immediately discovered this little gem related to Pip's idea that Miss H is his benefactor. I think Mrs Joe sets us all up right here, Pip AND the reader.

“if this boy ain't grateful “this night, he never will be!”

I cannot find confirmation that Miss H did not know of Pip before she spoke to Pumplechook.

“Well to be sure!" said Joe, astounded. "I wonder how she come to know Pip!"
"Noodle!" cried my sister. "Who said she knew him”
“Which some individual," Joe again politely hinted, "mentioned that she wanted him to go and play there."
"And couldn't she ask Uncle Pumblechook if he knew of a boy to go and play there? Isn't it just barely possible that Uncle Pumblechook may be a tenant of hers, and that he may sometimes—we won't say quarterly or half-yearly, for that would be requiring too much of you—but sometimes—go there to pay his rent? And couldn't she then ask Uncle Pumblechook if he knew of a boy to go and play there? And couldn't Uncle Pumblechook, being always considerate and thoughtful for us—though you may not think it, Joseph," in a tone of the deepest reproach”
as if he were the most callous of nephews, "then mention this boy, standing Prancing here"—which I solemnly declare I was not doing—"that I have for ever been a willing slave to?"
"Good again!" cried Uncle Pumblechook. "Well put! Prettily pointed! Good indeed! Now Joseph, you know the case.”


Mrs Joe speculates, and I don't put it past Pumplechook to take advantage of Mrs Joe's notions.

It's possible, given the Jaggers connection, that Miss H was specific about the boy. Or, did I miss the verification of this later?

I just am interested in undoing the coincidence .


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Mary Lou | 2239 comments If I follow Linda's line of thought, it makes me wonder if Miss H. didn't have some grudge against Pumblechook and chose Pip as a way to get back at him for some real or imagined slight. But I think that track is a bit too convoluted, even for Dickens.

My question on the book as a whole is this - why did Estella marry? Wasn't she brought up to break hearts? She didn't need a place in society or money. It seems to me that Miss H. would have had her leading men to the altar and leaving them there. But Estella not only married, but married someone cruel and heartless. Which makes me wonder if Pip was chosen early on to be the sole recipient of her revenge. If so, that makes Miss H. even more awful. She is more sympathetic than many of Dickens' other antagonists, but in many ways just as horrible. I wonder if she and Mrs. Clennam were based on the same person - they have quite a bit in common.


Mary Lou | 2239 comments As to the end of the book, I'm with those who prefer the original ending. Pip and Estella could not believably have the possibility of living happily ever after. I would only accept such a twist if Dickens continued on and had Pip realize after marrying her what a mistake he had made. The original ending is quite satisfying to me. They both are content, but have matured and embraced the hard lessons they've learned.

We can only hope that wee Pip will be brought up with love, ignorant of the cruelty that our Pip had to endure at the hands of Mrs. Joe, Miss Havisham, Estella, Orlick, and - in their early encounters - Magwitch. He made mistakes aplenty, but when you think about it, Pip endured quite a bit for one so young.


Peter | 2949 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "If I follow Linda's line of thought, it makes me wonder if Miss H. didn't have some grudge against Pumblechook and chose Pip as a way to get back at him for some real or imagined slight. But I thin..."

That's an interesting question. Why did Estella marry?

Drummle does have a social position and money. As odious as he is, perhaps Estella saw him as the best fish in the sea.

On the other hand, she could have married Drummle as a twisted way to punish herself. Estella no doubt would have known what Drummle was like. Did she marry him as a means of self-inflicted pain? What would the cost be she was willing to pay to rid herself of Miss Havisham and Satis House?

Structurally, Dickens did not have many other males available in the novel for her to marry. She would not want to marry down the social register so Drummle is the only available male in the story to marry. I don't think Estella married Drummle to punish Pip in any way. Indeed, she warns Pip that she is poison.


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Kim | 5524 comments Mod
I thought she married Drummle because of her childhood. Growing up living alone with a woman who spent most of her time in her bedroom dressed in the same thing - except to wash it I hope - never cleaning the wedding dishes from the table - hating all men and most women I would think - must have been awful. She has taught Estella to hate men, but I imagine she has also taught Estella to hate her, even if it's only a little bit, too for all the years drumming the hate lesson into her. So to show Miss Havisham she has learned her lesson of hate a little too well, she has married the man Miss Havisham would hate more than all others. She couldn't marry Pip because Miss Havisham does care for him in her own strange way. Whatever reason she married him for it wasn't love.


Everyman | 829 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: " I wonder if she and Mrs. Clennam were based on the same person - they have quite a bit in common. "

Wow. I don't see that. Mrs. Clennam seems very kind to Little Dorrit, helping her out, which seems quite different from Miss H. She is also a woman of business, which Miss H is definitely not. They're both strong minded women with tragic backgrounds and largely invalid, which are indeed parallels, but in terms of their characters and intentions, can you say more about how you think them similar?


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Kim | 5524 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "I strongly dislike Little Nell, and also Quilp, who seem to me nothing more than grimacing faces in a Punch and Judy show."

I absolutely refuse to say poor, poor Little Nell again.

I like the original ending also except for one thing. The last paragraph sounds to me like Pip is glad that Estella has suffered:

"I was very glad afterwards to have had the interview; for, in her face and in her voice, and in her touch, she gave me the assurance, that suffering had been stronger than Miss Havisham's teaching, and had given her a heart to understand what my heart used to be."

He is glad to know that she now has a heart that can feel, I know what he means, but I don't like that she had to be beat by her husband to get her understanding heart. I never like the idea of husbands beating their wives. It's happened in my family more than it should - my mom in her first marriage, and two of my sisters - and whatever they learned from the experience wasn't worth being beat up for.


Everyman | 829 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "My question on the book as a whole is this - why did Estella marry? Wasn't she brought up to break hearts? "

Might it have been a way to break Pip's heart. She surely knew he had a long time crush on her. Probably knew that he wanted to marry her. And almost certainly knew that he disliked and looked down on Drummle. Wouldn't it crush Pip to know that she chose Drummle over him and that his hope of marrying her was forever gone?

Looking into the text:

She looked towards Miss Havisham, and considered for a moment with her work in her hands. Then she said, “Why not tell you the truth? I am going to be married to him.”
I dropped my face into my hands, but was able to control myself better than I could have expected, considering what agony it gave me to hear her say those words.


Might not knowing she was going to cause such agony, marrying a man that Pip thought a "brute," have been her motive?

It seems also that she just wanted a change. She hasn't yet become Miss H's heir, doesn't have her money, so the notion that she can marry a man who is wealthy and I suspect she thinks she can manipulate to her will might have attractions.

"I am tired of the life I have led, which has very few charms for me, and I am willing enough to change it. Say no more. We shall never understand each other.”
“Such a mean brute, such a stupid brute!” I urged, in despair.
“Don’t be afraid of my being a blessing to him,” said Estella; “I shall not be that."


She is not really abandoning her upbringing, is she? Isn't this a suggestion that she intends to break Drummle's heart (assuming he has one)?


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Kim | 5524 comments Mod
From "The Life of Charles Dickens" by John Forster

GREAT EXPECTATIONS.

The Tale of Two Cities was published in 1859; the series of papers collected as the Uncommercial Traveller were occupying Dickens in 1860; and it was while engaged in these, and throwing off in the course of them capital "samples" of fun and enjoyment, he thus replied to a suggestion that he should let himself loose upon some single humorous conception, in the vein of his youthful achievements in that way.

"For a little piece I have been writing—or am writing; for I hope to finish it to-day—such a very fine, new, and grotesque idea has opened upon me, that I begin to doubt whether I had not better cancel the little paper, and reserve the notion for a new book. You shall judge as soon as I get it printed. But it so opens out before me that I can see the whole of a serial revolving on it, in a most singular and comic manner."

This was the germ of Pip and Magwitch, which at first he intended to make the groundwork of a tale in the old twenty-number form, but for reasons perhaps fortunate brought afterwards within the limits of a less elaborate novel.

"Last week," he wrote on the 4th of October 1860, "I got to work on the new story. I had previously very carefully considered the state and prospects of All the Year Round, and, the more I considered them, the less hope I saw of being able to get back, now, to the profit of a separate publication in the old 20 numbers." (A tale, which at the time was appearing in his serial, had disappointed expectation.) "However I worked on, knowing that what I was doing would run into another groove; and I called a council of war at the office on Tuesday. It was perfectly clear that the one thing to be done was, for me to strike in. I have therefore decided to begin the story as of the length of the Tale of Two Cities on the first of December—begin publishing, that is. I must make the most I can out of the book. You shall have the first two or three weekly parts to-morrow. The name is Great Expectations. I think a good name?"

Two days later he wrote: "The sacrifice of Great Expectations is really and truly made for myself. The property of All the Year Round is far too valuable, in every way, to be much endangered. Our fall is not large, but we have a considerable advance in hand of the story we are now publishing, and there is no vitality in it, and no chance whatever of stopping the fall; which on the contrary would be certain to increase. Now, if I went into a twenty-number serial, I should cut off my power of doing anything serial here for two good years—and that would be a most perilous thing. On the other hand, by dashing in now, I come in when most wanted; and if Reade and Wilkie follow me, our course will be shaped out handsomely and hopefully for between two and three years. A thousand pounds are to be paid for early proofs of the story to America."

A few more days brought the first installment of the tale, and explanatory mention of it.

"The book will be written in the first person throughout, and during these first three weekly numbers you will find the hero to be a boy-child, like David. Then he will be an apprentice. You will not have to complain of the want of humour as in the Tale of Two Cities. I have made the opening, I hope, in its general effect exceedingly droll. I have put a child and a good-natured foolish man, in relations that seem to me very funny. Of course I have got in the pivot on which the story will turn too—and which indeed, as you remember, was the grotesque tragi-comic conception that first encouraged me. To be quite sure I had fallen into no unconscious repetitions, I read David Copperfield again the other day, and was affected by it to a degree you would hardly believe."


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Kim | 5524 comments Mod
"The Life of Charles Dickens" by John Forster:

It may be doubted if Dickens could better have established his right to the front rank among novelists claimed for him, than by the ease and mastery with which, in these two books of Copperfield and Great Expectations, he kept perfectly distinct the two stories of a boy's childhood, both told in the form of autobiography. A subtle penetration into character marks the unlikeness in the likeness; there is enough at once of resemblance and of difference in the position and surroundings of each to account for the divergences of character that arise; both children are good-hearted, and both have the advantage of association with models of tender simplicity and oddity, perfect in their truth and quite distinct from each other; but a sudden tumble into distress steadies Peggotty's little friend, and as unexpected a stroke of good fortune turns the head of the small protégé of Joe Gargery. What a deal of spoiling nevertheless, a nature that is really good at the bottom of it will stand without permanent damage, is nicely shown in Pip; and the way he reconciles his determination to act very shabbily to his early friends, with a conceited notion that he is setting them a moral example, is part of the shading of a character drawn with extraordinary skill. His greatest trial comes out of his good luck; and the foundations of both are laid at the opening of the tale, in a churchyard down by the Thames, as it winds past desolate marshes twenty miles to the sea, of which a masterly picture in half a dozen lines will give only average example of the descriptive writing that is everywhere one of the charms of the book. It is strange, as I transcribe the words, with what wonderful vividness they bring back the very spot on which we stood when he said he meant to make it the scene of the opening of his story—Cooling Castle ruins and the desolate Church, lying out among the marshes seven miles from Gadshill!

"My first most vivid and broad impression . . . on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening . . . was . . . that this bleak place, overgrown with nettles, was the churchyard, and that the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond, was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea. . . . On the edge of the river . . . only two black things in all the prospect seemed to be standing upright . . . one, the beacon by which the sailors steered, like an unhooped cask upon a pole, an ugly thing when you were near it; the other, a gibbet with some chains hanging to it which had once held a pirate."


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Kim | 5524 comments Mod
More from the book:

When therefore the closing scenes bring back Magwitch himself, who risks his life to gratify his longing to see the gentleman he has made, it is an unspeakable horror to the youth to discover his benefactor in the convicted felon. If any one doubts Dickens's power of so drawing a character as to get to the heart of it, seeing beyond surface peculiarities into the moving springs of the human being himself, let him narrowly examine those scenes. There is not a grain of substitution of mere sentiment, or circumstance, for the inner and absolute reality of the position in which these two creatures find themselves. Pip's loathing of what had built up his fortune, and his horror of the uncouth architect, are apparent in even his most generous efforts to protect him from exposure and sentence. Magwitch's convict habits strangely blend themselves with his wild pride in, and love for, the youth whom his money has turned into a gentleman. He has a craving for his good opinion; dreads to offend him by his "heavy grubbing," or by the oaths he lets fall now and then; and pathetically hopes his Pip, his dear boy, won't think him "low": but, upon a chum of Pip's appearing unexpectedly while they are together, he pulls out a jack-knife by way of hint he can defend himself, and produces afterwards a greasy little clasped black Testament on which the startled new-comer, being found to have no hostile intention, is sworn to secrecy.

At the opening of the story there had been an exciting scene of the wretched man's chase and recapture among the marshes, and this has its parallel at the close in his chase and recapture on the river while poor Pip is helping to get him off. To make himself sure of the actual course of a boat in such circumstances, and what possible incidents the adventure might have, Dickens hired a steamer for the day from Blackwall to Southend. Eight or nine friends and three or four members of his family were on board, and he seemed to have no care, the whole of that summer day (22nd of May 1861), except to enjoy their enjoyment and entertain them with his own in shape of a thousand whims and fancies; but his sleepless observation was at work all the time, and nothing had escaped his keen vision on either side of the river. The fifteenth chapter of the third volume is a masterpiece.


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Kim | 5524 comments Mod
And again:

The characters generally afford the same evidence as those two that Dickens's humour, not less than his creative power, was at its best in this book. The Old-Bailey attorney Jaggers, and his clerk Wemmick (both excellent, and the last one of the oddities that live in everybody's liking for the goodheartedness of its humorous surprises), are as good as his earliest efforts in that line; the Pumblechooks and Wopsles are perfect as bits of Nickleby fresh from the mint; and the scene in which Pip, and Pip's chum Herbert, make up their accounts and schedule their debts and obligations, is original and delightful as Micawber himself. It is the art of living upon nothing and making the best of it, in the most pleasing form. Herbert's intentions to trade east and west, and get himself into business transactions of a magnificent extent and variety, are as perfectly warranted to us, in his way of putting them, by merely "being in a counting-house and looking about you," as Pip's means of paying his debts are lightened and made easy by his method of simply adding them up with a margin.

"The time comes," says Herbert, "when you see your opening. And you go in, and you swoop upon it, and you make your capital, and then there you are! When you have once made your capital you have nothing to do but employ it."

In like manner Pip tells us:

"Suppose your debts to be one hundred and sixty four pounds four and two-pence, I would say, leave a margin and put them down at two hundred; or suppose them to be four times as much, leave a margin and put them down at seven hundred."

He is sufficiently candid to add, that, while he has the highest opinion of the wisdom and prudence of the margin, its dangers are that in the sense of freedom and solvency it imparts there is a tendency to run into new debt. But the satire that thus enforces the old warning against living upon vague hopes, and paying ancient debts by contracting new ones, never presented itself in more amusing or kindly shape.

A word should be added of the father of the girl that Herbert marries, Bill Barley, ex-ship's purser, a gouty, bed-ridden, drunken old rascal, who lies on his back in an upper floor on Mill Pond Bank by Chinks's Basin, where he keeps, weighs, and serves out the family stores or provisions, according to old professional practice, with one eye at a telescope which is fitted on his bed for the convenience of sweeping the river. This is one of those sketches, slight in itself but made rich with a wealth of comic observation, in which Dickens's humour took especial delight; and to all this part of the story, there is a quaint riverside flavour that gives it amusing reality and relish.


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Kim | 5524 comments Mod
And as to the ending:

Sending the chapters that contain it, which open the third division of the tale, he wrote thus:

"It is a pity that the third portion cannot be read all at once, because its purpose would be much more apparent; and the pity is the greater, because the general turn and tone of the working out and winding up, will be away from all such things as they conventionally go. But what must be, must be. As to the planning out from week to week, nobody can imagine what the difficulty is, without trying. But, as in all such cases, when it is overcome the pleasure is proportionate. Two months more will see me through it, I trust. All the iron is in the fire, and I have 'only' to beat it out."

One other letter throws light upon an objection taken not unfairly to the too great speed with which the heroine, after being married, reclaimed, and widowed, is in a page or two again made love to, and remarried by the hero. This summary proceeding was not originally intended. But, over and above its popular acceptance, the book had interested some whose opinions Dickens specially valued (Carlyle among them, I remember); and upon Bulwer Lytton objecting to a close that should leave Pip a solitary man, Dickens substituted what now stands.

"You will be surprised" he wrote "to hear that I have changed the end of Great Expectations from and after Pip's return to Joe's, and finding his little likeness there. Bulwer, who has been, as I think you know, extraordinarily taken by the book, so strongly urged it upon me, after reading the proofs, and supported his view with such good reasons, that I resolved to make the change. You shall have it when you come back to town. I have put in as pretty a little piece of writing as I could, and I have no doubt the story will be more acceptable through the alteration."

This turned out to be the case; but the first ending nevertheless seems to be more consistent with the drift, as well as natural working out, of the tale, and for this reason it is preserved in a note.


Peter | 2949 comments Mod
Kim

Thank you for all the research. The process of the writing, the decisions and the commentary were all quite revealing.

Whatever the "such good reasons" of Bulwer were we may never know. I love all these "behind the scenes" looks at the novel.


Mary Lou | 2239 comments Everyman wrote: "can you say more about how you think them similar? "

Just that they're both bitter old women who have held onto grudges, and in doing so have sacrificed their own happiness. And, as you said, they've both isolated themselves in homes that are not being maintained. I'm not sure Miss H. was truly an invalid, though both of them might as well have been. Each of them chose to create their own prisons instead of moving on from the men who wronged them and finding happiness.


Everyman | 829 comments Mod
Mary Lou wrote: "Everyman wrote: "can you say more about how you think them similar? "

Just that they're both bitter old women who have held onto grudges, and in doing so have sacrificed their own happiness. And, ..."


Thanks. That's basically what I saw, but I thought you might be seeing more parallels that I missed.


Tristram Shandy | 4367 comments Mod
As to Miss Havisham's knowing Magwitch and having chosen Pip for the reason of his being connected with the ex-convict, I must say that I rather doubt that. It is one of Dickens's countless coincidences, and basically one on which most of the story rests. It seems fully believable to me that she asked one of her tenants, Mr. Pumblechook, who just happened to be near, on a whim about a boy who could come to her house. All she wanted was a boy of low social status, and asking Mr. Pumblechook, who ranks below her in the social scale and therefore would refer to a boy roughly from his own rank, would do the trick for her. Maybe, she even asked several people, and Mr. Pumblechook was quickest to respond?

Why did Estella marry Drummle? - I don't really think that this might have been Miss Havisham's most favoured course of action, but that it was more out of Estella' headstrong will to have it her own way, to put some distance between herself and her "benefactress" that she accepted Drummle's hand in marriage. Her meaningful words to Pip, that she would not be much of a blessing to him, do show her lack of respect for herself, but they also indicate that she overestimated her own ability to dominate Drummle. To put it brutally, she probably got more than she bargained for when she accepted Drummle. - Apart from that, I think that eventually Estella would have had to marry somebody (either with or without Miss H.'s consent), because you can probably only once lead a man to the altar and there forsake him. Wouldn't it have given a woman a bad reputation in Victorian society? Would it not have cost Estella a lot of her social capital? And was there not also the "breach of promise" thing, i.e. the danger of being held liable for jilting a bride or a bridegroom? It happened to Mr. Pickwick, and there is also some talk of it in Little Dorrit. It might probably have ruined Estella's social life and harmed her financially to have acted on Drummle as Miss H. had been acted upon.


Tristram Shandy | 4367 comments Mod
Kim,

I wholeheartedly agree: Nothing is worth the experience of domestic violence, and it seems extremely cruel, thoughtless and self-centred in Pip to have made such a remark. He does not seem to care about the cruelties experienced by Estella as long as she finally learns to understand how he had been feeling about her. This is quite a jarring tone.

Still, the original ending is more believable than the Bulwer-inspired one because as some of you said here, the idea of Pip and Estella being able to live together happily is quite naive.


Tristram Shandy | 4367 comments Mod
The parallels between Mrs. Clennam and Miss Havisham you mentioned are quite interesting, and they did not really occur to me in that light. You got me thinking there because actually, I felt sorry for Mrs. Clennam to a certain extent, and I could even understand why she was so bitter - finding out that the man she was supposed to marry was already in love with somebody else but too cowardly to own up to it. This is indeed a parallel with regard to Miss H.

However, I also see a difference: Miss Havisham tries to harm Pip and, all in all, she plays a false game, having him come to her house, apparently to have some company but really and truly to crush his heart. Mrs. Clennam has Little Dorrit come to her house, apparently to have some sewing done but really and truly to atone, in her own little way, for the injustice she has committed. It is right, she does not really take all the consequences of her earlier vengeful behaviour but still she sees to it that Little Dorrit does not suffer dearth and misery. Mrs. Clennam is self-righteous, cold, even hypocritical in some ways, but there is this good in her that she looks after Little Dorrit. Miss H. has used Estella as a tool from the very beginning, and at the same time when she twisted the young girl's heart, she still expected to be loved by her.

All in all, for all the parallels between these two women, I think Miss H. the more despicable of the two.


LindaH | 124 comments Tristram wrote: "As to Miss Havisham's knowing Magwitch and having chosen Pip for the reason of his being connected with the ex-convict, I must say that I rather doubt that. It is one of Dickens's countless coincid..."

Thank you, Tristram, for addressing my question . I get engrossed in crazy puzzles sometimes, like the coincidences in GE.Now I wonder why . Everything you say makes sense.

I just thought of the fact that both Magwitch and Miss H were communicating with Jaggers, so maybe it was not a coincidence that Pip wound up at Satis House. Jaggers, because of his relationship with another convict, Molly, was responsible for Estella being there. What if he mentioned the blacksmith's boy to Miss H. when she asked about a boy of low breeding, having heard of him from Magwitch ?


Everyman | 829 comments Mod
It was a shock to read, in the review that Jean posted in the Bargemen, that Pip and Joe were brothers-in-law. When you think about, of course they were, but I always saw Joe in the role of stepfather.

Brothers-in-law? The mind boggles. At least mine does.


Tristram Shandy | 4367 comments Mod
You're right, Everyman. Since Mrs. Joe brought up her ingrateful brother by hand, she was more like a mother than a sister to him, which makes Joe something ike a stepfather - albeit a very relaxed one.


message 29: by Tristram (last edited May 27, 2017 05:36AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Tristram Shandy | 4367 comments Mod
LindaH wrote: "I just thought of the fact that both Magwitch and Miss H were communicating with Jaggers, so maybe it was not a coincidence that Pip wound up at Satis House. Jaggers, because of his relationship with another convict, Molly, was responsible for Estella being there. What if he mentioned the blacksmith's boy to Miss H. when she asked about a boy of low breeding, having heard of him from Magwitch ?"

Hmm, but would Jaggers, as a very professional lawyer, wish to mix up the affairs of his different clients? Would he not rather prefer to keep Magwitch's affairs separated from Miss Havisham's, not knowing what conflicts might arise between potential interests?

I think it's really just a coincidence, and while we readers might look down our noses on an author relying too much on coincidence, I think we must all admit that there are lots of these strange coincidences - like knowing A and then getting to know Z and finally finding out that A's sister is married to Z's cousin - in life. So, to a certain degree, I am finding myself more and more willing to accept coincidence in literature.


LindaH | 124 comments Tristram wrote: "LindaH wrote: "I just thought of the fact that both Magwitch and Miss H were communicating with Jaggers, so maybe it was not a coincidence that Pip wound up at Satis House. Jaggers, because of his ..."

Good point. I'm convinced by this argument, which goes to the nature of Jaggers' character.

Your example of coincidence--"A's sister is married to Z's cousin--reminds me of the sensational novels , especially the early mysteries (Lady Audley's Secret, The Moonstone, The Notting Hill Mystery)).


LindaH | 124 comments Since I've challenged myself to be more mindful geographically this year, I went in search of more info on the setting in GE and found a photo of the graveyard in Kent that inspired Dickens' "lozenge-shaped gravestones ".

https://adventurewalksbooks.co.uk/blo...


Mary Lou | 2239 comments LindaH wrote: "Since I've challenged myself to be more mindful geographically this year, I went in search of more info on the setting in GE and found a photo of the graveyard in Kent that inspired Dickens' "lozen..."

I'm hoping to visit England this year, circumstances permitting, and I debate how much time I want to devote to Dickens destinations. I think this would be a powerful one to visit.


LindaH | 124 comments Mary Lou wrote: "LindaH wrote: "Since I've challenged myself to be more mindful geographically this year, I went in search of more info on the setting in GE and found a photo of the graveyard in Kent that inspired ..."

I agree, this plus Dickens' house! I'm envious.


Tristram Shandy | 4367 comments Mod
The last time I wanted to visit Dickens's House in Doughty Street it was closed for renovations but that was some years ago, and so they'll have opened again. It's really a marvellous place to go and visit and I was very disappointed I had to miss this opportunity back then. It would have been my third visit.


Mary Lou | 2239 comments Tristram wrote: "The last time I wanted to visit Dickens's House in Doughty Street it was closed for renovations but that was some years ago, and so they'll have opened again. It's really a marvellous place to go a..."

This one is non-negotiable. :-) I'm glad that you think it's worthwhile.


Tristram Shandy | 4367 comments Mod
It was very much non-negotiable to me the first time I was in London (but also any other time). Now, my first time in London was in 1989, and at the time I went with my English course, in my final year at school. Of course, our English teacher had a very tight schedule, full of sights and the Dickens House was not among them. In our spare free time I would not have had any opportunity to go there, and so I talked my English teacher into giving me half-a-day's leave from our course's programme so that I could go and visit Dickens's House. At first, he did not really want to, fearing that everybody would then want their extra-sausage, as we say in German, but I had and still have my way of going on and on and on about things, and finally he gave in and let me have my time at the Dickens's House - on the express condition that I would never ever again make a reference to Dickens when he was in earshot. Hmmm, coming to think of it, maybe I should invite him to the group ...


Mary Lou | 2239 comments Tristram wrote: "It was very much non-negotiable to me the first time I was in London (but also any other time). Now, my first time in London was in 1989, and at the time I went with my English course, in my final ..."

I had to remind myself that for you, an English teacher must have meant a teacher of the English language, and not what we, in the US would call an English teacher, which would, predominantly, teach English literature, and should encourage students to embrace one of the most celebrated authors in English history! I was about to get very indignant on behalf of Mr. Dickens!


Tristram Shandy | 4367 comments Mod
He was the best English teacher I ever had, and I am sure he did not dislike Dickens, but ... ahem ... after spending one or two days with me in the country of Dickens, he just had an overdose.


Everyman | 829 comments Mod
Tristram wrote: "but ... ahem ... after spending one or two days with me in the country of Dickens, he just had an overdose."

The mind boggles at what he would think of a week or two with you in this group.


Tristram Shandy | 4367 comments Mod
Everyman wrote: "Tristram wrote: "but ... ahem ... after spending one or two days with me in the country of Dickens, he just had an overdose."

The mind boggles at what he would think of a week or two with you in t..."


He would probably realize what he had missed all these years.


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