It’s been a long time I’ve gushed about Dickens. I’m sure he’s been missed.
We are wrapping up Great Expectations. I told students that there are actually two endings to the novel, and that I will read both and they can decide which one they prefer. Since that announcement, they have been guessing endings non-stop. Usually they create elaborate escapes for Magwitch and Pip. I tell them repeatedly that the ending is about Pip and Estella, but they’re not buying it.
This is the third time I’ve read through the novel in as many years. And I love it more each time. Last year was perhaps more exciting because, Holy Cow, sixth graders got it! Now I’m less surprised by their ability to understand Dickensian English. Although, I will say that my two students who struggle most with paying attention and with reading comprehension love read-aloud time.
This third time around I’ve become unabashed about proclaiming my love for Estella. In a novel of broken and tragic characters it’s easy enough to pity them all, but I’ve become convinced that Estella the most tragic character in GE. Generally, I tend to love the villains in stories, but I think there’s a strong case to be made for pitying Estella. She comes from violence. Who knows what her first few years were like? And then from all that she was taken into what should have felt like a fairytale, yet becomes the stuff of nightmares. She is never given love, but rather is used solely as a tool for revenge. Pip always had Joe; Estella was alone. I’m convinced that teaching children how to give and receive love is perhaps the greatest thing a parent can do for her child. Estella reaches adulthood without a heart. What hell to be unable to love! So yes, I’ve been pushing Estella pretty hard, and aside from a few truly stubborn kids, we’re all Team Estella.
The real reason I’m writing this is because my dear cousin Rachel sent me the most amazing card. It is Charles Dickens the finger puppet. I brought him out after the spelling test right before they had to go to their blocks. He was met with utter delight and joy. The students love him, but they also agreed with Rachel that it looks like he’s pantsless which is a probably a bad thing. They promptly began crafting washi tape pants for my fingers. Now Dickens (and his fancy red pants) sit enthroned next to Jane Austen, Queen Elizabeth, and the hot pink Rhino. It’s an odd little company of classroom gods, but they never fail to provoke conversation.
And I’m curious family and friends…what books do you find yourself perennially rereading?