There are people whose past events exist on a linear trail. Each moment is a stamp upon a smooth and unruffled surface. This makes reminiscing a past self easier, more coherent, perhaps even rectifiable. Then there are people like Pip in Dickens’s Great Expectations whose past is an assortment of terrifying and pleasant moments.
Experiences that cannot be redeemed, modified, or upheld. When you look back at such a past, it’s messy, rooted, and anchored into the fabric of one’s being. Time-bound but transcendental and encyclopedic. It serves a serious purpose. Which is to find within its jumbled threads, a glimpse of the person one has become.
Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations is pure and unbridled joy.
The story begins on an amusing note but it soon becomes very solemnly thoughtful. A book like this unravels itself in different moods and languages. And since it draws from many wells as the story is anchored in sociological and psychological roots, the narration is what truly underlines the story.
Charles Dickens lays down the foundation of a complete human being. From childhood, Pip has a shattered and obscure view of money and honor. And mistaking one for the other, he’s often at odds with the characters that Dickens so cleverly poses around him.
When you favor appearances as proofs of character and sensibility, you also befriend hurt, disappointment, and grief in the same breath. And that is exactly where this storytelling leads to. You’ll peel back the layers and find that both the formative and fragile years of Pip are perhaps one and the same. And that they never end.
The same can be said for its readers. The deep concerns of Pip’s life help us identify the loose ends of ours. Great Expectations is messy, amusing, and poignant. It combines the becoming and being of a “gentleman.” And all that presupposes the life of one in the Victorian era. Made even more vividly gratifying because it draws from Charles Dickens’ life.