Customer Review

114 of 129 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dark, brooding, profound, April 22, 2005
This review is from: Great Expectations (Penguin Classics) (Paperback)
Great Expectations is one of Dickens's later novels, a work of his artistic maturity. The narrative is symbolic rather than realistic. Although, as in most of Dickens and in Victorian literature in general, the plot relies heavily on coincidence, it is acceptable here because the events are true to the internal, psychological, logic of the story.

After writing A Tale of Two Cities, which was unique among his novels in that it had none of his trademark humor, Dickens set out to make Great Expectations rich in comic elements. This despite, or perhaps because of, being in a depressed state of mind himself at the time. The conventional critical view is that he largely failed in this attempt, but I strongly disagree. The book is hilariously funny in parts and the main character, Pip, exhibits a characteristically British humour-in-adversity throughout his adventures. There is also the host of minor comic characters that we expect from Dickens. And he for once manages pathos without spilling over into bathos, so there are tears as well as laughter here, sometimes both at once.

If you have not yet read any Dickens, this is not a bad book with which to start, although for younger readers (teens) I would recommend Hard Times or A Tale of Two Cities as their first. Great Expectations demands a mature sensibility to appreciate its symbolism and psychological depth. Perhaps because it chiefly concerns the childhood and youth of the protagonist, it is often given to young people to read and is a set text in some High School classes. This is a pity because, in its dark complexity, it is more likely to turn youngsters off, rather than onto, Dickens.
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Showing 1-1 of 1 posts in this discussion
Initial post: Jul 4, 2009 11:31:25 PM PDT
I read this in school at age 12, and I found some of the comic parts --- notably Wemmick's "Aged P" --- a bit tiresome; but the Aged P stuck with me over the years, as many other details faded from memory. I'm not sure if he contributes anything to the plot, although Wemmick's home life fleshes out his character and is a contrast with his life at the law office. In fact Dickens may have added this to humanize the law profession, after his savage attack on it in "Bleak House."
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