“The Shadow of no parting”

So goes the last phrase of Great Expectations. Yes. We finished it on Wednesday.  I feel pretty excited about it. It took sooooooo long. But we did it. Twenty -two six graders sat quietly everyday to hear the next installment of Pip’s life (granted I require them to be quiet so they really had no choice in the matter).  Now I just feel kind of like Wednesday should have been the last day of school.

Finishing the book wasn’t anticlimactic. I tend to build things up in my mind, and then when they actually happen I’m a little disappointed. The strength of their reactions to the last chapter did not disappoint.

After I’d read the first ending, they were all convinced that the ambiguous ending portended only love and marriage for Pip and Estella. A few students were unsatisfied. It was too neat and too happy for them. Then I read the original ending that Dickens had written (it was the ending that he felt had more artistic integrity). I expected the grimmer ending to make them appreciate the published, “happy” ending more. This had the opposite effect. My fantasy-loving kiddoes (they don’t read books unless they are one of a series of twenty and involve magic and monsters), all felt that Dickens should have stuck to his guns and kept his original ending. They told me that Pip and Estella shouldn’t get married because there was too much hard stuff between them. What a bunch of realists! I prefer the happier ending because I believe that the good ending happily and the bad ending badly is what fiction means. At least Victorian fiction.

Also, my friend Audree is coming this weekend. My favorite memories with Audree include making waffles on Sundays for brunch, drinking whiskey on Hallowe’en while reading T.S. Eliot by the light of a bonfire, staying in glamorous hotels and watching half-ton teen and ordering room service, and swimming in the Pacific at the crack of dawn in June. I’m always pleased as punch to see her.



3 thoughts on ““The Shadow of no parting”

  1. Bethany and Audree together – my cup of tea. Wish I could join you all.

    And you’ve inspired me to pick up Great Expectations, too. Lark Rise to Candleford in book from isn’t really hitting the spot for me yet. But if your 6th graders can handle GE, I will give it a shot, too.

  2. I love GE and I love that your kids are falling in love with depressing endings. It’s a good thing too, because it is all down hill from here.

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