As the title of this post suggests, yes this is the third time we are slogging through Great Expectations. Actually, the other two times didn’t feel like a slog, but this year…it feels like hard work everyday.
The past two years have inspired me. I’ve gained insight into characters, and grown to appreciate Dickens’s craft. But this year, I have had it with Pip. His inability to do anything right astounds me. He’s ashamed of Joe, the one person that loved him. He loves Estella, who most emphatically doesn’t love him. He can’t bring himself to love Biddy, who is far too good for him anyways. Spending money incessantly, he wastes the opportunity to devote himself to any kind of education. Every chapter I read out loud (yes, I read the whole thing out loud), I grow more and more irritated. Other than losing his parents at a young age and being “brought up by hand,” Pip’s life is much much better than Biddy’s, Estella’s, or Miss Havisham’s. Truly, he has no excuse. But he does feel deep shame. Shame is such an ugly thing, isn’t it. So perhaps “Poor Pip” after all.
Anyways, we’re well into Part III now, and the action has started to pick up.
I watched the 2012 film version of Great Expectations tonight. Helena Bonham Carter is Miss Havisham. And Liam Neeson is Magwitch. Don’t bother watching it. Dickens cannot be confined to a two hour film. Even though GE is relatively short, it begs for at least four hours. And this movie just seemed so flat. If I were queen of the world/employed by the BBC miniseries division (is that a thing?), I would start with a truly young Pip. Pip is supposed to be 6 or 7 (math was not Dickens’s strong suit, and it is wonky throughout the novel). That is very young. And a little 6 year old in the graveyard, tracing out the letters on his parents’ tombstone could be heart-wrenching. And then terrifying when Magwitch appears. The whole thing needs to be scarier at the beginning. And Estella… no one seems to get Estella right. The name Estella of course means star (Dickens often uses the image of a star when describing Estella), and the actress that plays her should have beauty, brilliance, but also distance. She should be the least readable character. This last Estella was too coquettish, eyes always welling with tears, bosom heaving. I want my Estella ice cold, not caring whether Pip lives or dies. Not caring whether she herself lives or dies (truly a terrifying state of mind). Can Rebecca Hall play her?
Does anyone else ever get fed up with favorite novels? Perhaps this is a sign that GE and I need a break. Or maybe this is a process and I’ll come through it loving Pip more than ever? Well, no matter what, we’ve come too far not to finish it this year.