Book Review: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens


There is a reason Charles Dickens’s book stood the test of time. The story of the protagonist, Pipp, will resonate with people for generations to come. Dickens takes us on journey of the life of Pipp, from the time he was young, to his adolescence, and into the years of his early adulthood. Throughout those years, however, Dickens weaves a tangled web of events. Every word, every action, and every incident makes sense in the end.

The title “Great Expectations” was given since Pipp, a poor boy, finds himself on the verge of becoming a nobleman. An anonymous benefactor, whom he assumes to be the adoptive mother of his beloved Estella, financially adopts Pipp and opens wide doors of opportunities which he never knew existed. Pipp moves to London, leaving his sister and her husband, Joe, behind – the people who raised him after his parents died.

As his fortune and love for Estella grow, Pipp finds himself moving further away from Joe. Great Expectations explains how money changes individuals, and makes them forget the people who were closest to them. There was a sentence, which I particularly loved. At the beginning of Pipp’s new journey he leaves alone without letting Joe walk him. He admits to himself the reason of walking alone, which was his shame of being seen with the humble-looking Joe. As he walks alone toward the carriage that would take him to London, Dickens writes, “…feeling it very sorrowful and strange that the first night of my bright fortunes should be the loneliest I had ever known.”

Another thing I adored about this book was the characterization of Estella and her adoptive mother, Ms. Havisham. Perhaps this sentence I wrote in italic will explain more than my words would.

“What have I done! What have I done!” She wrung her hands, and crushed her white hair, and returned to this cry over and over again. “What have I done!”

I knew not how to answer, or how to comfort her. That she had done a grievous thing in taking an impressionable child to mold into the form her wild resentment, spurned affection, and wounded pride found vengeance in, I knew full well. But that, in shutting out the light of day, she had shut out infinitely more; that, in seclusion, she had secluded herself from a thousand natural and healing influences; that her mind, brooding solitary, had grown diseased, as all minds do and must and will that reserve the appointed order of their Maker; I knew equally well. And could I look upon her without compassion, seeing her punishment in the ruin she was, in her profound unfitness for this earth on which she was placed, in the vanity of sorrow which had become a master mania, like the vanity of penitence, the vanity of unworthiness, and other monstrous vanities that have been curses in this world?

Showing here how vengeance, grief, and holding on to pain and anger can be destructive, Dickens had yet again given us an important lesson in life.

The book I bought had another ending which was written by the editors, followed by the original ending written by Dickens. Dickens did it better. He tied the knots beautifully and left me with a beautiful afterglow.

All in all, I believe this book is worth a read. It certainly is one of the best classics I have read so far.

16 thoughts on “Book Review: Great Expectations by Charles Dickens”

  1. Charles Dickens was a man of great writing prowess. Great Expectations, A Tale of Two Cities, Oliver Twist, and A Christmas Carol are all greats.

    If you haven’t already, sit down and read “Of Mice and Men” by John Steinbeck. I think you will greatly enjoy it.

  2. I read this for English class years ago and enjoyed it. Then when I packed my bags and moved to Switzerland it got lost. Then I found Amazon…

    Great post and wondeful summary.

  3. Very good review. I’ve always liked Dickens. My introduction was Tale of Two Cities and I’ve never forgotten it.

  4. I have never heard that anyone had the audacity to re-write Dickens but I’m sure some might attempt to deny the truth of the passage you have put in italics. Thank you for reminding us of how far ahead of his time and how observant of human frailty Dickens was. Who needs Freud?

  5. One of my very favorites… it is monstrously long, of course – well, it IS Dickens – but worth every syllable! A lovely review, by the way. I never tire of revisiting this tale.

  6. Great post. Some people have compared Donna Tartt with Dickens. Have you read any of her work? I recently read The Goldfinch, which I thought was a masterpiece. Then again, some people hate it.

  7. In what may be Dickens’s best novel, humble, orphaned Pip is apprenticed to the dirty work of the forge but dares to dream of becoming a gentleman — and one day, under sudden and enigmatic circumstances, he finds himself in possession of “great expectations.” In this gripping tale of crime and guilt, revenge and reward, the compelling characters include Magwitch, the fearful and fearsome convict; Estella, whose beauty is excelled only by her haughtiness; and the embittered Miss Havisham, an eccentric jilted bride

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