Great Expectations – reviewed by Stanislava Dobreva

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

Reviewed by Stanislava Dobreva


To hope means to believe in something—to want it to happen. Sometimes people lose their faith because other people make mistakes. I like the maxim that hope dies last: so, whatever happens, I never lose hope. To have faith and confidence in something’s existence makes me happy and causes me to believe that the thing will indeed happen. I think that everybody who has love and hope in his heart is not poor. Everything you will read in my review is connected with hope and love. Great Expectations is a story about a boy called Pip who has great hopes for his life; these hopes are connected with a girl named Estella.

Ever since he first saw Estella, Pip feels like something has been born in his heart. He quickly falls in love, although he is still too young and does not yet know what it means to love and be loved—or the hurt that can come with love. Estella is the same age as Pip, but she treats him with the haughty contempt of a superior. She views Pip as a common boy and in treating him as such hurts him with her harsh words. Estella wants more than Pip can give—refinement and education—and cannot see his tender soul, his sensitive feelings or his heart. Estella’s actions sadden Pip and he turns to self-pity.

The root of Estella’s pride and arrogance can be found in her upbringing by Miss Havisham. When she was young, Miss Havisham was engaged to be married. On her wedding day her fiancé abandoned her leading Miss Havisham into a reclusive, spiteful life. She wanted revenge; she trained herself to hate all men and passed this loathing onto her adopted daughter Estella.

Pip often visits Miss Havisham and Estella and during one of these visits he learns that Estella has gone abroad to study. This makes Pip sad because in his heart he is in love with Estella.

Pip has only one true friend, Joe, his sister’s husband. Pip’s sister is rude to both Joe and Pip and it is the kindness of Joe that saves Pip from the wrath of his sister. Joe is the only anchor in Pip’s life and he tries to help Pip in whatever way he can.

When Pip grows up his hope for receiving an education and social refinement is fulfilled. Pip is told he has a benefactor who will pay for his schooling on the condition that the sponsor’s identity remains undisclosed until a time of his choosing. With this support Pip sets out for London with the aim of becoming an English gentleman. He hopes this will cause Estella to no longer view him as a common boy.

Some time later, Pip’s sister dies. On hearing this news Pip decides to return to Joe. While he is with Joe word reaches him that Estella is in town and wishes to see Pip. This news makes Pip very happy. When Pip meets Estella, he sees that she is even more beautiful and realizes that he was not just attracted to her, but truly loved her. He now knows what love means: to suffer and sacrifice for someone while finding meaning in the process. His love for Estella is true and so deeply rooted in his heart that he could not rid himself of it even if he wanted to. He doesn’t dare give up on his love for Estella even though it will cost blind devotion, selflessness, obedience and trust.

Great Expectations shows us that if you do someone a kindness, it will come back to you. In Pip’s childhood he helped an escaped convict by bringing him food and a file for his chains. This kind act proves of later use to Pip.

Pip returns to London to finish out his hope of becoming a gentleman. The time has come at last for him to find out who his benefactor is; it is the very convict that Pip helped when he was a little boy. This news greatly surprises Pip because all along he thought he was being sponsored by Miss Havisham. There is an even greater surprise awaiting Pip; he learns that Estella’s father is the same convict. For Pip these are a series of surprises that life presents him out of nowhere. As if all this were not enough, Pip suffers the loss of both Miss Havisham and his benefactor and learns that Estella is married.

After the death of his benefactor, Pip becomes poor again. Trying not to think about what life has thrown at him, Pip begins to work. He has to go abroad to earn money to pay off his debts. After several years of hard work he returns to England rich. He is not just returning home, but is returning to the best friend he has ever had! Joe and his new wife are happy with their little son who they named after Pip. That his dearest friend has found happiness is great news for Pip.

Pip decides that he needs to revisit the house of Miss Havisham, a place that holds many memories for him: humiliation, hurt, deep love, and of course Miss Havisham and Estella. While walking around the ruins of the house, Pip suddenly sees a female figure. The figure turns out to be Estella—the very woman who hurt him, the very woman Pip loved. Estella is changed; she is not proud any more. Pip and Estella are able to remain good friends despite everything that has happened to them. After all, satisfaction is found where friends are.

Although I told you a lot of moving things from the book, there is much left untold. I did this deliberately – I want you, the reader, to discover the timeless tale by reading the book for yourself. Reading a book is always a greater pleasure than reading about a book; this pleasure is enhanced when the author is Charles Dickens.