Great Expectations Great Expectations discussion


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Your opinion on the book!!! [Formerly :Is it worth it?] but I've finished it. Share all your thoughts!

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message 1: by Michelle (last edited Jun 30, 2011 03:37AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Michelle Geaney I'm currently trying to get through this book ahead of starting an English Literature course. I'm finding this very hard going.I can read about two pages at a time but my mind wanders. Did anybody here actually finish it?


message 2: by Eric (last edited Jun 30, 2011 06:03AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Eric I've read it twice, once in my twenties and once in my thirties, and enjoyed it both times. I did however try to slog through it in high school and had the same problem you seem to be having. Dickens tends to be long-winded (as does Victorian prose generally) so it's easy for your mind to wander. Personally I can't read at all with any other distraction. Maybe you need a really quiet place and a determined mind set, once you get a hundred or so pages into it the story should become more captivating and help to maintain your interest.


Kressel Housman Just keep pushing through. The characters and the story will hook you if the style doesn't.


BubblesTheMonkey It gets better and a lot more interesting.


Maxine Funny, this is the book that started my love of classic literature when I read it in high school. Although it's no longer my favourite Dickens novel, it's definitely worth the time it takes to get invested in the story.


Kressel Housman Maxine wrote: "Funny, this is the book that started my love of classic literature when I read it in high school. Although it's no longer my favourite Dickens novel, it's definitely worth the time it takes to get ..."

Maxine, what is your favorite Dickens novel?


Kristen Try reading it somewhere with few distractions and read many pages at once--it is much harder to get into if you only read it a few minutes at a time. This is a quality book that you need to set aside at least 30 minutes at a time to read. I thought it started off really quickly, but I also read a lot of British literature from earlier periods that have frame narratives and lots of introductory material so that may have warped my views.


Mickey There are several things that you can experiment with and see if any of theses strategies work for you:

Listen to the audiobook instead. Some people's listening skills are way ahead of their reading skills. Also, people tend to have a much larger listening vocabulary than reading vocabulary, which is a factor with Victorian literature. Make sure that you get an unabridged version (which means that they left no parts out), since this is for a class. I would also get as many versions as you can, because some readers are much better than others. Find the one that you prefer. You can follow along with the book, if that helps you focus better, or you can experiment with how much activity you can take while still paying attention. (Some people exercise, clean, drive...)

Get Cliff Notes or look at SparkNotes (which I've heard is the on-line version) or any other book that summarizes the story and talks about the themes and motifs. Read it after you read the section in the book. This is good if you often find yourself skimming whole pages without understanding. It'll ground you into the book and help you focus on what is happening.

Another companion to the book could be movies. Try to get a faithful rendering of the book, and watch it piecemeal as you read the book. Try only watching the parts that you've read first, or you could do it before, but I don't recommend that. BBC is usually pretty good at not condensing down too much and leaving the main parts of the story intact. Later, you can watch more updated, modern versions if you like.

I apologize if these tips do not pertain to you. They are more for someone who is just starting to read the classics, rather than for someone who is finding Charles Dickens, in particular, tedious.


message 9: by Michelle (last edited Jul 01, 2011 07:08AM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Michelle Geaney Thanks to everyone for their input, I'll definitely take it all into consideration. I just HAVE to finish it and I agree that the characters in it are definitely appealing. I think what Eric said about it being longwinded is the part I dont like and I also reckon because I have it on EBook and I'm very traditional in the sense I'd rather paper and turning pages rather than technology might be it! Thanks all!!!


Kressel Housman I loved the early scene at the dinner table. It revealed so much about character.


Jennifer I've read it twice and was not thrilled either time. There were some intriguing moments, but overall, no. I should mention that I had to read it for an academic competition (and again for the finals), where the test could cover anything. Debating split infinitives is a little 0ff-putting.


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

Jim B I LOVE Dickens on audiobook. Remember that when he wrote, many of his stories were written serially for publication. Imagine the 19th century version of television: the family gathered around as the latest chapter is being read. It was meant to be listened to, like a radio program. The scene descriptions create a mood, and the humor is so much more apparent when you're hearing it read (usually with well done accents).


Torie I wouldn't have made it through this book if I read it on my own. Thankfully my mom read it aloud to my brother and me, so together we made it from beginning to end!
There were definitely some interesting aspects to the story, but the novel is full of big words and just too long for me to enjoy thoroughly or recommend. *Shrug* OH and the ending was disappointing.


Geoffrey Arrgggggh! Mickey-it`s people like you who are befouling us teachers` efforts to get students to read.


Mickey Geoffrey wrote: "Arrgggggh! Mickey-it`s people like you who are befouling us teachers` efforts to get students to read."

I'm not understanding your post. I am a teacher, and every suggestion I made was to help the reader with comprehension, so she would get more out of reading the book.


message 16: by Char (new) - rated it 5 stars

Char You know I look back at when I had to read books for school and I think if I had to read this one I would have found it to be a boring, difficult read but now in my 30's I gave it a go and loved it. I had a difficult time reading in school. I believe it had to do with the pressure of having a deadline and also the choice in books. Each student's interests are different and can't be expected to soak up a book as the next student. When given a choice on books to read it becomes more enjoyable and in turn you get students interested in reading. Try it, Geoffrey and Mickey. :) I'm a bookaholic now. lol


message 17: by Mickey (last edited Jul 06, 2011 08:32PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Mickey Luna wrote: "Each student's interests are different and can't be expected to soak up a book as the next student. When given a choice on books to read it becomes more enjoyable and in turn you get students interested in reading."

I know many great teachers who would agree with you wholeheartedly. Around where I live, this is called "self selection". I always like inheriting students from teachers who practice self selection in their classrooms, and I consider teachers like that to be my natural allies. However, I don't practice self selection in my classroom, and I have a few reservations.

When you expect a student to read largely on his own, you have to give him book choices that are closer to his own experiences and close to his current reading level, especially if he's a struggling reader. Anything slightly weird or confusing will shut him down. The amount of support you can give to any student is limited, because everyone is reading different books. So, instead of reading Charles Dickens, you have a kid who is reading Louis Sachar or S.E. Hinton. (I love both authors, by the way, and I think they're good writers.) He might enjoy it, but he is not getting exposed to mind-blowing literature. One great book can turn a person into a reader, because he sees the depth and possiblity that comes with reading. I want to offer that to my students. I think I would rather chase after that possibility than be satisfied that the students are enjoying reading.

I prefer, in my classroom, to read great works, but there is always a lot of support. I provide a lot of background information. We go through the text together and discuss it. We discuss the themes and discuss the relevance to their lives. If there's a type of teacher that I dislike, it is the sort that simply assigns chapters and does not make an effort to help students connect or understand the texts. They ruin great literature by not giving the right support.


message 18: by Enid (last edited Jul 06, 2011 09:09PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Enid Mickey wrote: "Luna wrote: "Each student's interests are different and can't be expected to soak up a book as the next student. When given a choice on books to read it becomes more enjoyable and in turn you get s..."

I wish I'd had a teacher like you when I was in school!!! And it seemed clear to me you weren't suggesting the movies or cliff notes as substitutes for reading the books.


Michelle Geaney Mickey...you should set up your own group here with that exact idea. I'm dreading facing English Literature on my own - Im doing Home Study and struggling through Great Expectations isnt helping. I loved reading everybodies comments here and theyve all been very helpful. Its nice to see the variety of opinion!!!


Zorro Hi Enid! Mickey's suggestions are my best ways of loving classics....especially reading the book and watching segments of the movie!


message 21: by Jane (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jane Michelle wrote: "I'm currently trying to get through this book ahead of starting an English Literature course. I'm finding this very hard going.I can read about two pages at a time but my mind wanders. Did anybody ..."
I agree with the post of whoeversuggested audio books or cliff notes but even if you do that please try to finish the book, later on in life if not now. Its one of my favorites but I got interested through seeing what is now a very old J. Arthur Rank movie. Maybe y ou an find that and watch it.


message 22: by Jane (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jane Mickey wrote: "Geoffrey wrote: "Arrgggggh! Mickey-it`s people like you who are befouling us teachers` efforts to get students to read."

I'm not understanding your post. I am a teacher, and every suggestion I .."

Teachers should think about the book and how hard it is to read for a teenager today. The language is as obsolete to them as Shakespeare, and they probably no nothing about the period or about Dickens and his background. Maybe if they knew how he felt abandoned as a child when he was made to work in a blacking factory when very young, heard his mother and father arguing about whether he should keep on working there when his father was released from debtors prison and his own mother actually wanted him to stay in the factory, etc. Also about how children were treated then, etc. It might become interesting,


Mickey Jane wrote: "Teachers should think about the book and how hard it is to read for a teenager today. The language is as obsolete to them as Shakespeare"

I agree with you. I remember reading Shakespeare in middle school for the first time. The class used one of the versions of the play that had the original on one side of the page and a rewritten, more modern version on the other, as well as act synopses. I was a good reader, but I definately needed to use the extra materials to understand what was going on. If someone is new to the classics, they need to know that there are materials out there that can help them understand better, especially if they are on their own as far as reading it. If they just continue to force themselves to process the words, they will end up not understanding. The end result is that they will hate the book.

There are certainly difficulties for teenagers in reading the classics, but I would never agree with the idea that they should not be introduced to them. More hand-holding, more background knowledge, extra time in explaining and going over, but don't take the very best books away from them.

By the way, I was the one who suggested Cliff Notes. I would never suggest using them instead of reading the book. That series was originally intended as a way to get more out of the books you're reading. I used them all through my education as a supplement to the books. I, personally, waited until after I'd read the entire book, but I wouldn't have hesitated to read chapter by chapter if I were having problems comprehending. Used as a supplement, they are very useful, especially if you are just starting to understand more abstract concepts like theme and symbols, which is where most teenagers struggle.


David I just finished GE, I worte a little review on it- I just didn't like it. I can copy past the review- or, if you want, go check it out. My review has lots of spoilers so only access it if you have read it- or really don't care to.


message 25: by Lisa (new) - rated it 4 stars

Lisa James I'm in my 40's, read GE in high school, & loved it. Yes, the prose in places was a little long winded, but I think that's more of a sign of the time it was written in vs a Dickens thing. I enjoyed figuring out the symbolism, it was like a puzzle to me, & made it all the more interesting.


michelle I teach GE to 9th grade students. The long-winded part is pure Dickens. I tease the students that he was paid by the word, but it's not far from the truth. GE was produced as installments in a mag. Dickens published. If you follow the orginal map of installments, you'll find a cliff hanger at the end of that chapter. It may help you to look forward to those sections. Dickens was also a fierce observer of others. Some of his scenes, most notably at the Pocket family dinner table, are absolutely hilarious if you take and observers point of view and watch what is going on around the table.
I am also behind the use of cliff notes, as long as they are in conjunction with the text and not in replacement of the text. Much like Shakespeare, once you get a handle on the plot, the language will start to fall into place, and you'll find a beauty in it.


message 27: by Mary (new) - rated it 2 stars

Mary Not every book is going to appeal to every reader. I love all of the books by Dickens that I have read (Oliver Twist, A Tale of Two Cities, David Copperfield, Nicholas Nickelby, etc), but I did NOT like "Great Expectations." I have to feel some kind of empathy with the main character and I just never could connect with Pip. Whining, spineless heroes are not my cup of tea. I prefer an evil character to that. I feel the same way about Holden Caufield in "A Catcher in the Rye" - a more self-indulgent character has yet to be written. Read Great Expectations anyway and if you do not like it, then state WHY you don't care for it. Some things need to be read just for common knowledge and GE is one of those books.


MaryAnne Absolutely worth it! Hard for those of us whose mind wanders, but settle in and immerse yourself in a totally different kind of reading. Remember that Dickens got paid by the word, so its got lots of description but he is quite masterful at it. Hate to hear that people read it and disliked it in high school as it may be the kind of book that needs a bit more maturity to enjoy (or a great teacher)


message 29: by Anna (new) - rated it 5 stars

Anna I've read it in one night- that how interesting it was!


Pippin Michelle, GE is about the power women hold over men/boys. The women in GE relish the position they have and milk it dry. Think of it as a playbook for your future. Think of the tricks you'll learn and the little strategies you'll have in the back of your mind. Is there any motivation to read GE in that?
Not my favorite Dickens story, but an interesting one for these very reasons...


Steve Miller I have to disagree with Pippin in that GE is "the power women hold over men/boys." Pip, for all his fecklessness, wins the girl in the end. To me, the heart of GE is the sensation one gets when you're finally able to let go of all the anger and resentment. The way things turn out for Ms. Havisham and Estella shows this. Definitely stick with this book.


michelle Steve, you are half right. The original ending that Dickens would like to have left described Pip seeing Estella again, but still unable to attain her. That was the ending HE wanted, but was lead in the other direction by his colleagues who claimed that ending would not sell as well.


Steve Miller I did not know that - I could see Dickens preferring that original ending too.


message 34: by Huw (last edited Sep 12, 2011 02:54PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Huw Evans I don't think any of the characters in the book are able to empathise themselves, let alone have us empathise with them. The only person who behaves with any "honour" is Magwich. I am sure there is a moral in that, somewhere.
It is a fabulous story, although Dickens' verbosity is sometimes unpenetrable. It is worth remembering that most of his novels were written as serials to be read aloud and he spent much of his later years on reading tours of England and America, making more money by reading than he did by writing.
Try reading it aloud and I would strongly recommend the David Lean black and white film; it is hugely evocative.


Ilusha's Revenge The poetry in Dickensian prose is enough to keep me reading. The plot and characters could be as dull as an economic lecture(which they are most certainly not) and I would still be enthralled. For me, it's how Dickens says it above all else.


Joanne I love reading Dickens now, but didn't care for him when I was assigned his work in high-school. We grow too soon old, and too late smart.


message 37: by [deleted user] (new)

Great Expectations was required reading in school and I loved it then and love it even more now. Our teacher was tremendous and she instilled in us a love of Dickens and words. He is wordy and I love him for it. :)

Hey, he got paid by the word, so he wrote as many as he could. Love him!


Lobna I hated it, misery and stuff ...
it makes wanna shoot myself


Michelle Geaney Huw wrote: "I don't think any of the characters in the book are able to empathise themselves, let alone have us empathise with them. The only person who behaves with any "honour" is Magwich. I am sure there ..."

Thanks Huw- I finished it a bit back-i dont think i could face it again. I'll definitely look for the film!


Michelle Geaney Ilusha's wrote: "The poetry in Dickensian prose is enough to keep me reading. The plot and characters could be as dull as an economic lecture(which they are most certainly not) and I would still be enthralled. For ..."

I get ya!!! I like the WAY he tells it, I just found it dragged out but on reflection Im glad I read it.


Michelle Geaney I know Joanne - sometimes i think coz we were made read it maybe thats why. @Sonia - it made more sense when someone pointed it out that he got paid by the word so i understand now. @Lopita- think thats how i fely about it before too. Did u ever finish it?


message 42: by Char (new) - rated it 5 stars

Char I never thought I would EVER read this book but I did recently and gave it a 5 star. It dragged durring certain parts but over all it was worth the read.


Lauren Czaja Yes, i read it, i love this book. just try to get the humor, thats what makes it so good.


message 44: by Tim (new) - rated it 1 star

Tim I had to read this book in grammar school (1960s) - hated it. Saw the David Lean movie version (a repeat on tv during the 70s) - still hated it. Saw the Ethan Hawke/Gwyneth Paltrow movie version (in the 90s) - sorry, still not enjoying it. Started reading it again last year - got halfway through and donated my copy to the Oxfam shop. I couldn't even bring myself to get to the bit that I really liked, when that old witch Miss Havisham finally dies. (Have just re-read that and it sounds a bit harsh, but when I first read the book I was a 12 year old boy and reading of her treatment of another boy did not endear her to me.)

This is not quite Dickens at his most tedious, you have to go to Bleak House and Dombey & Son for that, but it comes really close. The only one of his that I have ever come close to liking is 'A Tale of Two Cities'.

As an Englishman I suppose I felt obliged to read Dickens as he is supposed to be a 'great author', but I find that his depressing tomes on the harshness of life in Victorian England make my eyes bleed.


message 45: by Thea (new) - rated it 2 stars

Thea It was okay, but it took too much persistence to get through it for me to enjoy it.


message 46: by HJ (new) - rated it 1 star

HJ It is the only Dickens book I thought was OK. Not saying much as I hated the others I read. (And I like reading classics!)


message 47: by Rene (new) - rated it 4 stars

Rene It is one of my favorite Dickens books. It has mystery, romance and 'Dickens' of course. But if you don't like this one, I guess you don't like Dickens at all.
My absolute favorite by Dickens is David Copperfield. That is so brilliantly written. The style grows up with the character of David.
But Great Expectation certainly is my number two by Dickens.
I fear this will not help you much, but here it is!


Rebecca It is worth it. Well, at least it was when i was younger and it was required in my school. i had a child's version of this book in elementary school and saw an older version of the movie, then read it in junior high and saw the newer version of the movie as a teen, so its kind of engrained as a part of my history. To me, it is worth it because it is a classic, the characters are colorful, the story is interesting and it says a lot about growing up, excepting, holding on, letting go and morals.


Angie I have read it for a month, and I think it is worth it as long as you don't compare it seriously to your life.


Marian I think this book is worth reading. I wanted to reread it not remembering much of the story. I remember we had to read it in school and the only characters I could remember about it were Pip and Mrs Havisham.... why she stuck in my mind, I will never know because she was not in the book all that much. I have to say I enjoyed it so much better the second time around and not having been forced to read it. A great classic.


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