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Great Expectations
by Charles Dickens

Synopsis:
An absorbing mystery as well as a morality tale, the story of Pip, a poor village lad, and his expectations of wealth is Dickens at his most deliciously readable. The cast of characters includes kindly Joe Gargery, the loyal convict Abel Magwitch and the haunting Miss Havisham. If you have heartstrings, count on them being tugged.
 


Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (1 of 27), Read 82 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Thursday, February 17, 2000 09:35 PM This is a reminder that the Classics Corner March discussion book will be Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. The discussion will start on March 1. The Constant Reader book for March will be the contemporary novel Jack Maggs, by Peter Carey. Maggs is a character in Great Expectations, and I think it will be great fun reading the two books back to back. Ann
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (2 of 27), Read 67 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, February 20, 2000 10:06 PM I would like to take back every nasty thing I ever said about Charles Dickens. I am 170 pages into Great Expectations and I am thoroughly enjoying it. I haven't read this book since I was a freshman in high school. Come to think of it, I liked it then, as did my 19 and 17 year olds when they read it in high school. They don't usually like any of the Classics so that says a lot. Ann
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (3 of 27), Read 71 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, February 21, 2000 07:20 AM Amen to that, Ann. I read A Tale of Two Cities years and years ago, but otherwise Dickens has not been part of my life. But this one has me hooked! And where does he come up with those names? Wopsle. Pumblechook. Flopson. And, of course, The Phantom Avenger. David
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (4 of 27), Read 73 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Monday, February 21, 2000 08:01 AM There aren't too many classics where I find myself giggling right out loud. Dickens must have been in a light-hearted mood when he wrote this. I love good ole Joe, but I have a hard time understanding him sometimes. And have you come to the first meal scene between Pip and Herbert? Funny. Visually this is like a movie in my head. Sherry
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (5 of 27), Read 72 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Monday, February 21, 2000 08:39 AM Just want to join the chorus: I, too, am really enjoying this work. I read Tale of Two Cities and Oliver Twist way back during high school, but Great Expectations is fascinating in its first-person narrative and humor. I'm looking forward to the discussion on this one. Dan
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (6 of 27), Read 72 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Monday, February 21, 2000 11:35 AM Dickens' names are always a hoot. I'd decided against a rerereread of GT, but I may weaken. At any rate, I'll be reading everyone's comments. Ruth
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (7 of 27), Read 76 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Pres Lancaster (plancast@slip.net) Date: Monday, February 21, 2000 01:22 PM "During his lifetime Dickens was considered vulgar, but after his death he became a great favorite with the refined and sophisticated classes of society, who felt that by reading him they were flirting with the newly fashionable spirit of democracy." Unreceived Opinions, Michael Holroyd, author of biography of Lytton Strachey. PRES
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (8 of 27), Read 66 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Karen Mikhail (kmbookworm@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, February 22, 2000 08:43 AM Tale of Two Cities is one of my favorite books. But other than that and, of course, a Christmas Carol I've never read any Dickens. So I am looking forward to this one. I am starting it this week -- as soon as I finish Mansfield Park, which I am reading for the in person book group. Karen
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (9 of 27), Read 46 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sandy Langley (cheefwil@aol.com) Date: Thursday, February 24, 2000 03:02 PM I am new here and so excited about the March book. Dickens is a love of mine, and I have read everything he wrote, many more than once. My particular favorites are Great Expectations, Dombey and Son and Bleak House. I am really looking forward to some stimulating discussion.
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (10 of 27), Read 52 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Thursday, February 24, 2000 03:07 PM I just finished Great Expectations Tuesday. I just loved it. I'm looking forward to the discussion too. Sherry
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (11 of 27), Read 48 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Thursday, February 24, 2000 06:07 PM Sandy --or is it San?--welcome to Classics Corner. I'm really glad you'll be joining us for the discussion. I only have a few pages left and I have enjoyed it thoroughly. Ann
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (12 of 27), Read 57 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Bob Markiewicz (bobmarkiewicz@aol.com) Date: Thursday, February 24, 2000 08:04 PM On 2/24/00 6:07:54 PM, Ann Davey wrote: >Sandy --or is it San?-- Actually, she's been Cheefie to all of us for some time after her AOL screenname,CheefWil, which you might have noticed as part of her e-mail address, but in serious moments, I resort to Sandy. Her various names for me are a bit less kind. BOB
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (13 of 27), Read 41 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@juno.com) Date: Friday, February 25, 2000 04:27 PM After reading Great Expectations less than a year ago I started on it again. I loved it as well as most of Dickens that I read in the past. So I will be able to get in on the discussion. Ernie
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (14 of 27), Read 40 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Saturday, February 26, 2000 12:51 PM Ernest: I haven't read Dickens since high school, so in effect I feel as if I never really read his work. I'm enjoying this work, but some of it is beginning to grate my nerves. A reader can be expected to take only so many happy coincidences. . . Dan
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (15 of 27), Read 40 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Saturday, February 26, 2000 01:06 PM Or so much circling around a glittering point. Ruth
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (16 of 27), Read 41 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, February 26, 2000 01:33 PM Dan, I think you have to apply different standards to 19th century literature. Contemporary readers expected amazing coincidences and anticipated that the author would tie up all the loose ends by the final page. I will grant you that Dickens may have gone to extremes. Ann
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (17 of 27), Read 39 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Sunday, February 27, 2000 09:11 AM Sandy and Bob, welcome to Classics Corner! And, Constant Reader too, hopefully. Bob, I'm assuming that you are new here as well...correct me if I'm wrong and missed your name previously. We love adding new voices to the discussions. I just finished listening to 'Tis on tape by Frank McCourt and during his 20's in the U.S., people often tell him that his childhood sounds like a Dickens story. He finds that reaction preposterous because he finds no Dickens happy ending...he hasn't found that he's actually a long-lost prince, etc. I find it ironic that he went on to become a best-selling author...maybe it's a Dickens ending after all. I'm just starting Great Expectations after finishing Crime and Punishment last night so may lag behind you all once again. However, I have a week of vacation next week so I may surprise myself! Barb
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (18 of 27), Read 41 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, February 27, 2000 09:35 AM Barb, I think you'll find that Great Expectations, in spite of the number of pages, is a fairly fast read. I liked it much better than BLEAK HOUSE, which we read here a few years ago. Ann
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (19 of 27), Read 41 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Sunday, February 27, 2000 10:39 AM I'm counting on that, Ann. The first few chapters are certainly fun. Barb
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (20 of 27), Read 45 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, February 27, 2000 11:55 AM Oh, yes, Barb, expect Expectations to move right along. Bleak House is the only Dickens I've ever failed to finish. Ruth
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (21 of 27), Read 32 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@juno.com) Date: Tuesday, February 29, 2000 11:34 PM Ruth, You are right that GE moves right along not like Bleak House. I have been thinking about comments about the many coincident that make the book hang together - in a sense. I believe Ann pointed to the time period this book was written. Perhaps our present writers are more realistic. Or, life todays has become more chaotic and disconnected. Or it was a matter of contemporary style. Also, today, there are many more people around who hardly ever know each other. Well some of what Dickens writes seems far fetched such as the consequences of feeding a convict who never forgot. My second reading gives me a chance at understanding some incident I had glossed over. Remember Miss Havisham encouraging Pip to admire(love) Estella. Then it seems to me that she worked on Estella to break Pip's heart. Once we become familiar with Havisham's catastrophic disappointment we may understand her true motive. Some of you mentioned humor and there is indeed some humor in this book, but very much overshadowed by tragedies and various painful events. Once more I am curious about autobiographical aspects of this book which were mentioned in the introduction of my edition. The punitive sister or substitute mother must have been experienced in one form or another in CD's childhood. This may also be true of father substitute Joe. As I go on reading I can readily understand why this book had become a classic. Ernie
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (22 of 27), Read 26 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@juno.com) Date: Wednesday, March 01, 2000 02:56 PM I wonder if this book, like many published in Dicken's days was first serialized in a paper or magazine. This would explain that there is something interesting happening every 10 or so pages. Ernie
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (23 of 27), Read 25 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Wednesday, March 01, 2000 04:15 PM My edition has an intro by John Irving and he says that it was indeed serialized. This edition also has both the ending as it was originally published and the original ending of the novel which was changed at the urging of a friend(?) before GE was first published. More on these items later. I had completely forgotten this book -- not the overall plot but the fine details had all evaporated long ago and I was reading this like I'd never read it before! It definitely was full of detail and action and drama and trauma -- a real page-turner or what was the Louisa May Alcott term -- pot-boiler or barn-burners or something? I just loved the easy, quiet steadiness of Joe -- and I got so tickled at Wemmick -- that wedding outing was even funnier this time around -- I did remember that bit and a couple of others. But having barely started Jack Maggs, I am already wondering about how it will hold up next to GE. I'll hold off on that until I've read well into it. I found myself relating this to the Bible as I read the final quarter of it. The section where he starts thinking it all through and analysing it all -- the not doing what he would have had himself do or what he should have done -- not valuing the good in his life and taking care to thank those who cared for him or to let them know he loved them. Worth measured in actions or in the recent lingo unconditional love and from there to the love of God -- bad things happening to good people also entered here. So I CAN tell you certainly that this was a deeper reading than my first one -- I know very well I never got this connection from GE in high school! Looking forward to the other comments here! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (24 of 27), Read 20 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, March 01, 2000 08:29 PM Dottie: A recent article in the English Teacher journal had a lesson plan for doing Great Expectations within the high school classroom and it focused entirely on the "serialization" aspect. Had the students doing a kind of, "What will happen to Pip now that he is richer than Joe? Who is this mysterious Mr. Jagger? Will Estella ever mellow out? Join us next time for the continuing story of Great Expectations. As hokey as it sounds to me, the teacher swore this hooked the students into tackling the entire novel with alacrity. Dan
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (25 of 27), Read 17 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, March 01, 2000 08:36 PM Ernie, I think it is true that Dickens had unsatisfactory relationships with both of his parents. His father was sent to a debtor's prison and Dickens was forced to go work in a blacking factory when he was 9 years old. Joe is indeed a wonderful character, but I don't know who he was based on. Dottie, there is certainly a "moral" message in this book, isn't there? Pip constantly berates himself for the way he treated Joe, who is his adoptive father. Dan, the style of JACK MAGGS is very much like Dickens'. There are a lot of sudden twists in the plot similar to the ones Dickens created at the end of one of the serial publications of GE. Ann
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (26 of 27), Read 7 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Karen Mikhail (kmbookworm@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, March 02, 2000 08:29 AM I just started reading Great Expectations this morning on my way to work and have read about 30 pages. This is a first reading for me and even though I've just started, I can see why you have been saying it's a fast read. This is one of those books I've been meaning to get around to reading; it's been on my shelves forever. In fact, it's been on my shelf so long, that the book plate on the first page has a picture of an unicorn on it and I wrote my name as K.I. Slongwhite. My middle name is Eileen. When I was in 8th grade, I tried out all the different spellings of Karen Eileen: Karyn Ilene, Karyn Eileen, Karin Ilene, Karin Eileen, etc. I decided the one I liked best at the time was Karyn Ilene and for all of 8th grade that is how I wrote my name. I have books, piano music, games, and school papers with my name spelled like that. So I must have picked up this copy of GE around 8th grade, or I wouldn't have an I as a middle initial. And this is first reading!! Karen
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (27 of 27), Read 6 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Thursday, March 02, 2000 08:50 AM This is my first reading of Great Expectations too, Karen, though mine is a new copy. I don't think I have more than one or two books that have survived since 8th grade. I'm only on pg. 170, but am thoroughly enjoying this experience. The sole Dickens I'd read previously (I'm ashamed to say) was Bleak House with CC. I had decided that I just wasn't the Dickens type so this is a very pleasant surprise. My family has been subjected to spontaneous readings of my favorite parts. My husband, the attorney, got to listen to Jaggers' contacts with his clients on the street, punctuated with questions about whether they'd paid Wemmick. And, I loved the line about scattered wits taking a long time to pick up. But, I didn't expect Dickens' lyrical scene-setting. Early on, when Pip goes out to meet the convict, I was hooked to the book forever by this language: It was a rimy morning and very damp. I had seen the damp lying on the outside of my little window, as if some goblin had been crying there all night, and using the window for a pocket handkerchief. Now I saw the damp lying on the bare hedges and spare grass, like a coarser sort of spiders' webs; hanging itself from twig to twig and blade to blade. On every rail and gate, wet lay clammy, and the marsh-mist was so thick, that the wooden finger on the post directing people to our village--a direction they never accepted, for they never came there--was invisible to me until I was quite close under it. The, as I looked up at it, while it dripped, it seemed to my oppressed conscience like a phantom devoting me to the Hulks. Barb
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (28 of 30), Read 20 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Thursday, March 02, 2000 10:55 AM Barb, I loved those early settings, too. It seemed like I was following Pip around, seeing through his eyes, feeling the damp in my bones. I just loved Joe, and even though Pip's sister was a harpy, I felt a kind of sympathy for her too, having to "bring up by hand" her baby brother. I'm sure her bossiness and meanness was a reaction to the hardship in her life. She was sure lucky to get Joe, though, wasn't she? Sherry
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (29 of 30), Read 22 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Susan Strahan (tales@1001knights.com) Date: Thursday, March 02, 2000 12:08 PM This was my second reading of Great Expectations. I first read it in 8th grade. Therein hangs a tale... We were given that most wonderful thing--a choice of which of 2 books we would read and then write a paper on. It would be either Great Expectations or The Old Man and The Sea Hands shot up in the air. First question: "Which book is the shortest?" The teacher held up both books, and checked the page count for each. A murmur went through the classroom. Obviously, The Old Man and The Sea was the winner. Any other questions? One lone hand went up. Mine. I asked what the books were about. She gave me a kind of back-cover synopsis of Great Expectations (and of course, the man goes fishing in the other book). For me, Great Expectations was the obvious choice. It just sounded more interesting and exciting, more like all those mysteries I'd been reading. (I was already into Sherlock Holmes and many others.) I loved GE. I had no trouble writing a paper on it. As the only kid in the class who chose the long book I was also the only one who had a easy time of the assignment. The 8th-graders just didn't "get it" about the Old Man and the Sea. They summarized the action in a few sentences and then spent a few weeks panicking, moaning, and begging the teacher for hints as to what to write. The teacher indicated that there was much of great import in this fish story--but darned if they could find it! ;-) I have to admit being rather smug with my long Dickens book and its wonderous plot. :-) ~~Susan~~ An honest book's the noblest work of man. --Henry David Thoreau
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (30 of 30), Read 9 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Thursday, March 02, 2000 03:55 PM Susan: I envy you your 8th grade teacher. I had a senior high teacher who required monthly oral book reports. I picked up a copy of Oliver Twist and read it cover to cover, keeping copious notes because the teacher warned us she had "read all the books there were to read and would grill us to make sure we had read our works 'carefully and thoughtfully.' " So I came in, sat down, handed her Oliver Twist. "Oh, this one," she said. "Who's Oliver's brother?" "Monk," I answered. "A+." She said, making a mark in the grade book. "You're excused." I started pulling books I had read years ago for a quick report every month, always scoring an A+. What a class that was. Dan
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (31 of 37), Read 20 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Janet Mego (vsjego@cs.com) Date: Thursday, March 02, 2000 05:49 PM When I did this book with ninth-graders, it was always kind of fun (for me, anyway). One thing I enjoyed was having them argue in a paper that Pip either became a Bona Fide Snob at some point or that he didn't, not really. Snobbery being the still-dominant social construct that it is in high school, we had some interesting discussions. But I'll never forget one kid, overweight, unpopular, lower class income bracket, usually silent, asking me one day: "Can you buy this book, Ms. Mego? Like in a store?" (We'd been reading it in the designated text). When I said indeed you could, and asked if he'd been enjoying it, his affirmative was heartfelt and moving to me. I just never forgot it as a sign that Dickens was alive and well and doing good stuff that never really gets old or corny, in my humble opinion. Bless him. Janet
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (32 of 37), Read 20 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Thursday, March 02, 2000 06:03 PM Susan, I really had to smile at your story. I read GREAT EXPECTATIONS as a freshman in high school, as did my two boys much more recently. I didn't have a choice. On my own I read THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA, and I absolutely hated it. I have never been a big Hemingway fan, but I am willing to concede that I just wasn't ready for that particular book. My older son (now a freshman in college) read it as a high school junior and had a much more positive reaction to it than I did. Hey, it probably didn't seem nearly as bad as I had led him to expect. I also think it's true that Hemingway is one of those authors who appeals a lot more to men than to women. Barb, I keep asking myself, why do I like Great Expectations ever so much better than BLEAK HOUSE? I think the construction is tighter. There were long passages of BLEAK HOUSE that I simply had to force myself to plow through. I didn't find that with GE. Heck, I might even be ready to try DAVID COPPERFIELD again. I know I loved A TALE OF TWO CITIES in high school. I thought it was quite the most romantic book I had ever read. :) "It is a far, far better thing," etc. etc.). I don't know if anything could convince me to try THE OLD CURIOSITY shop again. I'm afraid I agree with Oscar Wilde on that one. Ann
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (33 of 37), Read 20 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Thursday, March 02, 2000 06:57 PM Jeff (my reading 17 year old) would really like me to read A Tale of Two Cities. He did it this year for school and loved it. It's also one of my husband's favorite books. Maybe I'll nominate it for CC next year. Don't you think that there is more humor in Great Expectations than in Bleak House? I am having great fun getting to know the Pockets, "tumbling up" may be one of my favorite "new" descriptions. Also, the construction of his sentences and the plot in general seems more open. Obviously, I haven't figured this out yet, but will continue to speculate. Barb
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (34 of 37), Read 17 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beatrice Soila (bpsoila@aol.com) Date: Thursday, March 02, 2000 07:25 PM I'm not very far into it but can't resist the pleasure of a little quote. Mrs. Joe is washing Pip in preparation for his first visit to Miss Haversham. Aside from Pip: ...I suppose myself to be better acquainted than any living authority with the ridgy affect of a wedding-ring passing unsympathetically over the human countenance. It's that kind of vivid detail and humor that makes me enjoy Dickens so much. Bea
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (35 of 37), Read 16 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Thursday, March 02, 2000 09:42 PM I find the recurring idea that Pip's mother is named "Also Georgiana Wife of the Above" amusing and sad simultaneously. The opening of this novel was excellent, the scene in the graveyard was vivid and engaging. Now that I am three quarters of the way into this work, I find I have less and less patience to return to Pip's exploits nightly. While Dickens creates some lively descriptions and humorous passages--I love Mrs. Pocket, whose "remedy for children is to put them to bed"--I am fast losing interest in the story proper. It is getting a little tedious and mind numbing. I'll dare to say it: As of this point, I don't care what becomes of Pip. I think the opening of this novel was its strongest feature and it seems now that Dickens was just stretching out a tale which would have worked better in a shorter form. I still prefer Tale of Two Cities to this work. Dan
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (36 of 37), Read 12 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Friday, March 03, 2000 02:39 AM I've always pictured GE as a book deeply concerned with selfishness, and the distortions that emotion causes. Pip, (a name that's the same no matter which way you turn it) is held upside down by the convict and he is so youthfully and amiably self-centered that he sees the world as upside-down instead of himself. No matter which way you turn him he is the same, at least initially. Joe is the polar opposite- he lives only for others, paying penance for the violent sins of his father (the only thing he claims for himself is his name which he finds when he reads looking for a 'J'and an 'O' to make a distorted 'Joe'). Everyone in the adult world of this book seems to have one self-important secret at the heart of them... and if you can find out that secret, you will be their master. Hence the sinister aura of the information-laden Jaggers. But these secrets are only important if they are thought important, and they are only thought important by self-absorbed people who see them through the mist of 'expectations'- once you jettison your selfishness or the crippling wounds of your past you become truly great...
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (37 of 37), Read 4 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Karen Mikhail (kmbookworm@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, March 03, 2000 08:34 AM A Tale of Two Cities is one of my favorite books of all time. I read it for the first time in 5th grade (on my own). I hated it. I figured I must be missing something, so I read it again. I still didn't like it. But I read it a couple more times and it started growing on me. I've read it 13 or 14 times total and am currently long overdue for a reread. Around the same time I started reading ATOTC, I read The Scarlet Pimpernel. I always used to imagine those two books happening on the same night. On one end of the city, a fugitive carrying carriage is escaping through the gate. On the other, a secretive man is being stalked on the cliffs near the ocean. I believe it was around the same time that I first read The Old Man and the Sea, and absolutely loved it. I tried reading some other Hemingway (I think it was For Whom the Bell Tolls) and never could get through it. Karen Post | Reply | Reply/Quote | Email Reply | Delete | Edit Previous | Next | Previous Topic | Next Topic Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (38 of 39), Read 8 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Susan Strahan (tales@1001knights.com) Date: Friday, March 03, 2000 09:40 AM One of the things I find amusing about Great Expectations is how Pip's actions at the beginning of the book (which is what gets the ball rolling) are completely misconstrued. The convict nourishes the thought that Pip helped him and did not give him away because Pip was a sweet, compassionate, kind little boy. The truth of the matter is that he brought the food and the file because he was terrified the convict and his imaginary friend would kill him if he didn't. Likewise he didn't give the convict away because he didn't want to get into trouble for aiding and abetting a felon. I've often read one paragraph synopsises of GE that refer to Pip's "good deed" at the beginning. :-) Let's face it, Pip was acting out of self-interest and terror. :-) He did become a noble, caring person. (I lost count of all the nice things small and large he did for people.) I always found it interesting how the convict had distorted Pip's motivation and how Pip grew up to be the person the convict had thought him to be. ~~Susan~~ An honest book's the noblest work of man. --Henry David Thoreau
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (39 of 40), Read 10 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Friday, March 03, 2000 09:54 AM Dan, I agree with that the first part of the novel being the best written. At times, the middle section slogs on and on, but then it really picks up again towards the end--trust me. Barb, good point about the humor in this book making it a better read than BLEAK HOUSE (so aptly named). Dickens' delicious sense of irony is particularly apparent in the first part of the novel, which is why I think it is the most enjoyable. Dickens has certain stock phrases or actions that he uses with his characters. Sometimes it gets tiring, but at other times the repetition brings an automatic smile to my face. Two of the expressions that entertained me refer to Pip's formidable sister, who made such a point that she had brought Pip up by hand. Naturally, Pip was not so appreciative of this:"I had cherished a profound conviction that her bringing me up by hand, gave her no right to bring me up by jerks". She was also fond of complaining that she was a "willing slave" to her family. I remember my own mother complaining that we kids thought she was some kind of domestic slave. Now that I am a mother I have some inkling of what she meant, but I sure didn't at the time. Other stock characteristics that come to mind are Wemmick's concern with "portable property" and Jaggers obsession with his handkerchief and washing his hands. Sometimes this repetition becomes downright irritating, as with Mr.Pumblechook shaking Pip's hand again and again and again once it becomes clear he had those "great expectations." I have read that this book was published in 36 installments. Maybe some of this repetition was padding to drag out the length of the installment, or perhaps it served the function of imprinting the characteristics of his people on the readers' minds so that they could easily remember them over the course of such a long reading. I do have one question. Joe is one of the most sympathetic characters in the novel and I loved him dearly. Couldn't a reader just as easily dislike him because he was weak and so ineffective at protecting a small child from physical abuse? I didn't have this reaction, but I'm not sure why. Karen, I am impressed that you read TALE OF TWO CITIES so many times. The most I have ever read the same book is three times (JANE EYRE), and aside from the classics I have read here on Classics Corner, I don't know if I have ever read the same book more than once. This is mostly because there are always so many new books I want to read. From my experience here on CC I have learned to appreciate how much more you can get out of a book on a reread. Ann
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (40 of 40), Read 3 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Karen Mikhail (kmbookworm@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, March 03, 2000 10:37 AM I'm only about 50 pages into GE, but I was nearly laughing out loud reading about the Christmas dinner. Pip is being picked on by everyone and every once in a while, Dickens throws in the sentence, "Joe offered me more gravy." I loved it. Karen Post | Reply | Reply/Quote | Email Reply | Delete | Edit Previous | Next | Previous Topic | Next Topic Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (41 of 41), Read 2 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Karen Mikhail (kmbookworm@hotmail.com) Date: Friday, March 03, 2000 10:39 AM Ann -- I think ATOTC is the only book I've read that many times. I did read Gone with the Wind three or four times, which is as impressive due to the length of the book. :)
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (42 of 55), Read 46 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Friday, March 03, 2000 11:40 AM Actually didn't Joe explain his not interfering more between Pip and his sister -- saying that he stopped interfering because when he did the sister would be even harder on Pip and also take it out on Joe -- if he didn't try to come between her and Pip then she just punished Pip to a relatively lesser degree. Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (43 of 55), Read 28 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Elaine Walsh (elainewalsh@usa.net) Date: Friday, March 03, 2000 07:17 PM Oh, I wish you hadn't mentioned that it drags on in the middle, because that is where I am headed. Really, though, I tend to have a high tolerance for long-winded books. I love long novels because I get so involved in the characters that I don't want it to end. That's why it was interesting, Dan, that you mentioned that you were tired of it. I just had a conversation with my husband about that. He said his complaint about Dickens was that he'd "make his point" and then drag it on too long. I began to think that maybe this was just a difference in our reading styles: my husband reads in a more analytical way, and I like to get fully engaged in plot and characterization. His opinion was that graduate school was the culprit; it destroyed his ability to truly enjoy a book without over-analyzing it. Of course these are still sweeping generalizations: I'm certainly skilled at analyzing literature, and he has his favorite "just for fun" reads -- most notably THE HOBBIT.
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (44 of 55), Read 33 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Elaine Walsh (elainewalsh@usa.net) Date: Friday, March 03, 2000 07:26 PM I got so far off-track with that last entry that I felt a need to re-post. Back to the book. I really enjoy Pip's character. I'm still in the beginning section, and I think that Dickens has a very strong empathy for a child's perspective. People get so idealistic about childhood, and I think Dickens effectively reminds adults of all the terrors of being controlled by adults. There is a tremendous amount of stress in childhood, no matter what historical period. The descriptions of Mrs. Haversham were absolutely fabulous -- I love the wedding cake! I gave Joe a whole lot of slack concerning his passive role, because he was so kindhearted, and Pip's only friend. This line really struck me (paraphrasing): "I loved Joe mainly because he let me." That's how starved this boy was for human compassion, and that's why I'm very forgiving of Pip's selfishness initially. I think it's only natural for a child in his circumstance to be concerned with self-preservation (I'm talking about the escaped convict). Also, Pip, was very much aware that his actions were selfish, which made me sympathize. --Elaine
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (45 of 55), Read 20 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Saturday, March 04, 2000 09:09 AM Elaine: There is a middle part that drives one mad, but as Ann said earlier, the ending does make a strong comeback for this novel. But speaking of Miss Habersham's dress and cake: What kind of cake could still be recognized as 'cake' after the time period it has been sitting there being embalmed by spiders and nibbled on by mice? Should be just be a smear on the cloth by the time Pip enters the story. When I told my wife this, she laughed for minutes: "What the hell was that cake made of?" she wondered. "It's a good thing it was never served to wedding guests, it must have more preservatives than a truckload of Twinkies." Dan
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (46 of 55), Read 18 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, March 04, 2000 02:16 PM Yes, my own experience with wedding cake is that it does not keep well, even if you put it in a freezer. We tried eating some on our first, or maybe it was second anniversary--we're kind of forgetful--and it was horrible. I think you're right, Dottie, that Joe found that things only got worse when he tried to help Pip, but deep within there is a part of myself that says he shouldn't have been such a wimp. All and all, however, I found him very endearing. There is so much irony in the book concerning Mrs. Joe that her abusive behavior didn't seem quite as horrible as it could have. Elaine, I liked your observation that Pip loved Joe because he let him. As George remarked earlier, most of the adults in this book are extremely selfish. Pip did indeed have a very lonely childhood. He treats Joe badly once his social position rises, and the book is full of guilty remarks about this. I think we have all experienced being ashamed of something or someone we should have valued more, especially when we were teenagers, so I can relate to this. Ann
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (47 of 55), Read 24 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Beatrice Soila (bpsoila@aol.com) Date: Saturday, March 04, 2000 02:31 PM Re Joe and his "wimpishness," I found the following especially moving, and admire Joe for the same reason as Pip does: "And last of all, Pip -- and this I want to say very serious to you, old chap -- I see so much in my poor mother, of a woman drudging and slaving and breaking her honest hart and never getting no peace in her mortal days, that I'm dead afeerd of going wrong in the way of not doing what's right by a woman, and I'd fur rather of the two go wrong t'other way, and be a little ill-conwenienced myself. ... Young as I was, I believe that I dated a new admiration of Joe from that night. ... Bea
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (48 of 55), Read 24 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Saturday, March 04, 2000 04:05 PM Depends upon the cake -- perhaps? A dense cake would have dried out and solidified and stood the passage of time fairly well. The thing is -- why didn't those mice and beetle and so on EAT the cake away? As for that abusiveness of the sister -- maybe it wasn't so terribly abusive -- in those times they didn't spare the rod in raising children and perhaps she did no more than any parent did in raising their own child? The commonality of feeling shame of someone or something which we should have honored/valued more as teens ( or younger or older) strikes home I think with most people also. It is either a phase that all go through or it is the nature of the person -- but how true it is! In many case it is our own loss and most often by the time we see that it is too late to backtrack! Dottie -- who nearly froze in the bitter windy snow storm after the Genk Carnaval parade today -- Maastricht Carnaval tomorrow! ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (49 of 55), Read 25 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Saturday, March 04, 2000 04:51 PM I saw Joe as a good-hearted man, but totally ineffectual in the face of his sister. Too much emotional baggage there, his mother, the whole situation, he just wasn't able to take charge. But I do think the abuse must have been more than the normal rough upbringing of the times, else Dickens wouldn't have thought it was abuse. And Dottie, I'm with the mice and the beetles. Most wedding cakes are not fit to eat even when they're fresh. Ruth
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (50 of 55), Read 24 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Pres Lancaster (plancast@slip.net) Date: Saturday, March 04, 2000 05:14 PM RUTH said: "And Dottie, I'm with the mice and the beetles. Most wedding cakes are not fit to eat even when they're fresh." Oh, Ruth, Ruth. Cold truths on a cozy website? Pres
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (51 of 55), Read 7 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Sunday, March 05, 2000 08:38 AM In addition to my wondering about how the wedding cake stayed in the shape of anything other than a pile of sawdust, I wondered about Miss Havisham and her wedding clothes. She was always holding one shoe and wearing the other, which gave the impression of her keeping everything just the same as when she heard the dreaded news. So my question is, did this woman ever bathe? I do have stupid questions sometimes, but every time she was described that way, I wondered. It kind of made the whole scene unbelievable, that this woman could control so much from her position of craziness. Sherry
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (52 of 55), Read 4 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Bob Markiewicz (bob markiewicz@aol.com) Date: Sunday, March 05, 2000 08:54 AM If I may digress a bit here, during my 4 AM wake-up today, I happened to be reading an interview with author David Gates, who I have no small affection for, and rather liked his comments on Dickens, which I thought some of you might enjoy. BOB Many of your characters read Dickens as a means of putting off what they're supposed to be doing. Actually, I should be keeping track of what exactly they're reading. Maybe the complete works of Dickens will be read in the complete works of David Gates. What's your attraction to Dickens? Those novels are so inhabitable. You begin to read them and you sink into that world. And he's so good at characters. He's criticized for creating caricatures rather than characters, but I don't buy that at all. I think that he achieves that ideal that I preach to students all the time -- when you're in a scene you have to be able to experience that scene from the point of view of each character and you have to know what each character wants out of the scene, out of the exchange. With Dickens -- Jane Austen, too -- in every scene, it's crystal clear what each character wants, and it's crystal clear what each character's consciousness is like and the way they collide with each other. Sure, he'll give characters little quirks that he trots out every time he trots the character out. But that's all right with me. There's a book by Robert Garis called "The Dickens Theater" which talks about Dickens as an entertainer, his books as plays almost, characters being stagy and theatrical, as if they're enacting themselves. That's really true. Dickens' characters almost do impersonate themselves. It's like Silas Wegg in "Our Mutual Friend" -- he puts on a hell of a Silas Wegg act. Put it in those terms, Dickens has influenced your writing: your inner monologues, the self-criticisms, here I am and I'm going to do myself better. Right. You get figures like Eugene Wrayburn, again, in "Our Mutual Friend," who's a very contemporary-feeling character. He's a guy who finds himself on a sort of half-assed path to seducing Lizzie Hexam and he knows he shouldn't be doing it, and he knows that he doesn't know what he's doing, and he knows that he's not thinking, but he's still continuing to do it, and he doesn't really have any strong sense of himself, and he's conflicted about that, but he's also very funny and charming. He's like one of my characters. Amazing that Dickens could create a character like that and also create a Sarah Gamp or a Mr. Pecksniff or a Mr. Pickwick or a Sam Weller -- what you think of as traditional Dickensian characters. He's truly second only to Shakespeare in terms of characters, in terms of the size of his world, the scope of his world. Compared to Dickens I'm very small potatoes.
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (53 of 55), Read 4 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, March 05, 2000 09:13 AM Bob: I disagree with that guy--Dickens created caricatures mostly. I would not presume to compare Dickens to Shakespeare. Sure Dicken's stories "dramatize" well--you don't have the chaos and seeming unreality of realism involved in his novels. You have instead some old lady who, I agree with Sherry, has never taken a bath or put her other wedding shoe on for two decades or more. And she's still very much "well respected" and the kind of person a lawyer would give a little girl to raise? Do these characters not use their eyes and noses? On the note about Joe, I'll quote a passage from the end where Joe talks about his actions between Pip and his older sister: "Look-ee here, old chap," said Joe. "I done what I could to keep you and Tickler in sunders, but my power were not always fully equal to my inclinations. For when your poor sister had a mind to drop into you, it were not so much," said Joe, in his favourite argumentative way, "that she dropped into me, too, if I put myself in opposition to her, but that she dropped into you always heavier for it. I noticed that. It ain't a grab at a man's whisker, nor yet a shake or two of a man (to which your sister was quite welcome), that 'ud put a man off from getting a little child out of punishment. But when that little child is dropped into heavier for that grab of whisker or shaking, then that man naturally up and says to himself, 'Where is the good as you are a-doing? I grant you I see the 'arm,' says the man, 'but I don't see the good. I call upon you, sir, therefore, to pint out the good.'" Joe's argument is flawed. He was a weakling who could not control his wife regarding the little boy. And the idea conflicts with the situation: Joe loves Pip--Dickens establishes that fact beyond the call of authorship--but Joe allows Mrs. Gargary to beat him because if he does interfere she'll beat him more severely. Joe's kind-hearted to a definite fault. Dan
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (54 of 55), Read 5 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Sunday, March 05, 2000 09:24 AM Dan, I agree with you about the comparison between Shakespeare and Dickens. I have been spot reading a biography of Dickens in which the author calls him the greatest English novelist. What do you all think? I found your comments on Joe very interesting, Dan. I wonder if it would be fair to say that Joe was a good man, but like most of us, limited. He did the best he could within the circumference of his limitations. As I grow older, I have started to view some of my friends, and even relatives, in this way. I no longer think we have unlimited power to be the person we should be, or even want to be. And just how old was the ancient Miss Havisham anyway? Late 40's, 50 at the most? She was certainly decaying at a rapid rate. Ann
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (55 of 55), Read 4 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, March 05, 2000 09:32 AM Ann: I think Dickens was one of the most influential English novelist, but not the best one. To say that would be to say that Dickens is better than Austen? I think not, not by a long shot. Better than George Eliot? Don't think so. And then there is Forster. Need we go on? Dan
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (56 of 64), Read 30 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Janet Mego (vsjego@cs.com) Date: Sunday, March 05, 2000 03:07 PM Dan, I agree--especially that Dickens does not begin to approach the SUBTLETY of Forster or Austen. I wonder if Dickens felt like he was dealing with primarily a child-like sort of audience in the Victorians, people who needed to be hit over the head with their own greed and snobbery to recognize them--hence the caricatures. When we went down to see A CHRISTMAS CAROL at the Alabama Shakespeare Festival over the holidays, I remember reading in the program that Dickens reached a point where he tired of some of the less subtle aspects of his own writing; for example, the symbolic characters of "Ignorance" and "Want" that were hidden from Scrooge in the folds of the robes of the Ghost of Christmas Past--emaciated children, they were. Dickens does work well with kids, as I mentioned earlier, and I can't help but recall that one of my students did comment on the body odor Miss Havisham must've acquired in all those years. On the other hand, some of the most memorable "types" in real life approach the exaggerated quality of some of Dicken's characters, don't they? Janet
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (57 of 64), Read 30 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Barbara Moors (bar647@aol.com) Date: Sunday, March 05, 2000 03:27 PM I just finished Great Expectations this morning (was determined to do so before I go back to work tomorrow). I must say that it made me quite a fan of Dickens. We can quarrel forever over who is the greatest British novelist. However, Dickens is one hell of a storyteller. And, I look forward to my next reading of him. Delightfully, I have a lot to look forward to since I've only read Bleak House prior to this. It's strange...when I read BH, I had that same thought about his characters as caricatures that was mentioned here. However, in GE, I simply find them all very entertaining. And, though I might not use the superlatives that Gates used, I know exactly what he means about Dickens novels being so inhabitable. I, too, "sunk into" Great Expectations. It was a great feeling. Does anybody have any recommendations for a next Dickens novel? David Copperfield? Barb
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (58 of 64), Read 32 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sandy Langley (cheefwil@aol.com) Date: Sunday, March 05, 2000 04:31 PM David Copperfield would be a great choice to follow GE. Although I would agree that SOME of Dickens' characters are caricatures, I think his place in British literature is quite secure. He wrote powerfully of a people and time, just as did Shakespeare.
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (59 of 64), Read 31 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Sunday, March 05, 2000 04:57 PM Barb, I remember loving David Copperfield when I read it in my twenties. I was hoping we would do in on CC one year, so I could do a reread with all of you. Sherry
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (60 of 64), Read 32 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, March 05, 2000 05:35 PM Kurt Vonnegut, of all people, had this to say upon being himself compared to "Shakespeare" for his use of "dramatic devices:" For most writers, well, there's no way of avoiding it, really. These dramatic devices are fundamental ones you could scarcely do without...Shakespeare used absolutely every device for beguiling an audience. This Dickens and Shakespeare comparison is weak, at best. Vonnegut also had this to say on the incidence of "coincidence" within the novel: An author gets to a point where he needs a couple of coincidences to keep the story moving, and he doesn't dare pause for thirty pages to contrive an elaborate sequence of believable events in order to get a few characters together. So, he takes a deep breath and treats himself to a coincidence. Then he worries himself sick about whether he's lost the reader. I realize the irony of using Vonnegut to poke holes at Dickens, but I think they both suffer from these critical areas--glib comparisons and the use of "coincidences." I don't think Dickens ever concerned himself with "coincidence." He put together these novels like puzzles--just wait, Reader, until you see all the tiny connections within this tale, how everyone and everything is related within the scheme of things. I just find it difficult to suspend my belief that much. Oh, and if I had to suggest a "next Dickens," then try A Tale of Two Cities, which is the best of times and the worst of times and a far, far better novel than most of Dicken's work. Dan
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (61 of 64), Read 34 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Sunday, March 05, 2000 05:43 PM I find that a great deal of the charm of Dickens is his over-the-top characters. They are so much of a muchness that you can't help but smile. There's a reason Uriah Heep and Fagin and Macawber are part of the culture. I'm not much of country music listener, but to me, it has some of the same outrageous quality---so much that it goes beyond too much to just-about-right. And OLIVER TWIST is a particular favorite of mine. Ruth
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (62 of 64), Read 33 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Bob Markiewicz (bob markiewicz@aol.com) Date: Sunday, March 05, 2000 05:56 PM Forster? Eliot? You're pulling my leg, right? Why not include Trollope and Fielding while you're at it? BOB
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (63 of 64), Read 27 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@juno.com) Date: Sunday, March 05, 2000 06:16 PM Barb, You are indeed a fast reader. I recall when you just got started. In spite of having read this book less than a year ago, I am only through 2/3rd. The deeper I get into Dickens the more I admire him. Talking about deep, he does have a great understanding of people, their motivations and their vices. I was at first puzzled about Pip's attitude toward Joe and Biddy. Then it struck me that Pip's desire to be a gentleman was behind it and he was actually puzzled about his own actions which were just snobbery. He eventually became fully aware of his shortcomings. Barb, I also was taken by the lyric description of scenery of the same paragraph that you copied. Dickens is just incredible but especially in this particular book. Now I can't wait to read Tale of Two Cities and David Copperfield. The exposition of Pip's suffering caused by unrequited love for Estella is touching as well. It is difficult to understand why Havisham set up Estella for rejection and Pip for loving her. Was this to get even with the man who had abandoned her before the wedding? Did she hate men? Was she irrational? To make things more complicated I felt that Havisham did have positive feelings for Pip. All this adds up to a great book written a fantastic author. I can see why it would be required reading in school. But - would it be wasted on 8th graders? Incidentally there are many school around where 12th graders would either be bored to death or unable to understand much of it. Of course there are kids who would not be able to read it at all. Ernie
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (64 of 64), Read 15 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Monday, March 06, 2000 03:37 AM Just finished reading GE and the thread here and am thoroughly enjoying both. Dickens and Shakespeare. Hmmm... inditing Dickens for lack of subtlety is just wrong. Just his use of perspectives in GE would put that argument down, let alone his ability to show how all of us are strapped with goals and notions that don't stem from the best part of ourselves no matter how furiously we fight for them. Why does Shakespeare stand above all other writers? Is it because he was more subtle than James or Proust or Ibsen? Not necessarily. Is it because he was more inventive and imaginative in terms of creation than them? Absolutely. Inventiveness is the core of every great writer's achievement, and in that faculty Dickens has few equals among novelists and none better.
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (65 of 79), Read 56 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sandy Langley (cheefwil@aol.com) Date: Monday, March 06, 2000 09:29 AM On 3/6/00 3:37:14 AM, George Healy wrote: >Just finished reading GE and >the thread here and am >thoroughly enjoying both. > >Dickens and Shakespeare. >Hmmm... inditing Dickens for >lack of subtlety is just >wrong. Just his use of >perspectives in GE would put >that argument down, let alone >his ability to show how all of >us are strapped with goals and >notions that don't stem from >the best part of ourselves no >matter how furiously we fight >for them. Why does Shakespeare >stand above all other writers? >Is it because he was more >subtle than James or Proust or >Ibsen? Not necessarily. Is it >because he was more inventive >and imaginative in terms of >creation than them? >Absolutely. Inventiveness is >the core of every great >writer's achievement, and in >that faculty Dickens has few >equals among novelists and >none better. > George, Thank you. You said just what I have been feeling, though you said it much better. Dickens is one of the great novelists. Period. As I have mentioned, I have read all his works, some repeatedly. I would put A Tale of Two Cities among the weakest of his novels, but none of them are bad. Sandy
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (66 of 79), Read 54 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Susan Strahan (tales@1001knights.com) Date: Monday, March 06, 2000 11:17 AM On the subject of caricatures and repetitions...Pumblechook was a caricature with all him repetitions of the hand-shaking routine and the "founder of his fortunes" nonsense. To be honest, he was over-the-top annoying to me by the end of the book. I really wished that Pip would have turned to him and said loudly enough for everyone to hear, "The founder of my fortune is a convict awaiting execution at Her Majesty's pleasure. Have they arrested the wrong man? (Will you take his place?) If you really are the founder of my fortune I shall have to call the authorities immediately!" There are a number of conversations that I made up in my head at various points---my mind racing ahead of Dickens. For instance, I would've loved Pip to have told Miss Haversham that Estella's father killed the man who jilted her. I mean, there is a certain symmetry in that since she raised Estella to be her revenge. There was just so much terrific stuff going on in this book that I often found myself daydreaming about scenes that weren't in the book---scenes that could've happened and scenes that took place "off stage". Anyone else do this? :-) ~~Susan~~ An honest book's the noblest work of man. --Henry David Thoreau
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (67 of 79), Read 50 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sara Brennan (se_brennan@hotmail.com) Date: Monday, March 06, 2000 02:47 PM We needn't get into a dialogue about this, but I can't allow a slight of Anthony Trollope to go unchallenged. In my opinion, he is one of the true greats of English lit. He may not be to everyone's taste but his position is secure and, thankfully, not dependent on me to defend it.
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (68 of 79), Read 49 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Monday, March 06, 2000 03:03 PM I'm a major Dicken's fan and would have to put him up there with (but not above, for God's sake) such as Shakespeare, et al. In general, I don't find discussions about 'Who's number one' very enlightening, either in literature or sports, but mileage varies greatly on these questions. The urge to make rank-ordered lists is apparently some kind of genetically linked thing for us humans; kind of the opposable thumb of the cereberal cortex. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (69 of 79), Read 36 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Pres Lancaster (plancast@slip.net) Date: Monday, March 06, 2000 07:07 PM And, boy, does my cerebral cortex need an opposable thumb ! Pres
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (70 of 79), Read 37 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, March 07, 2000 07:36 AM Susan-- What a great gift that is, when an author makes the characters so lively that we can dream up different directions and words for them. Oscar Wilde once said that the only real people are the ones found in great literature (he also said the greatest tragedy of his time was the death of a character in a book by Balzac!) I find myself doing exactly what you said with Dickens much of the time (also with Shakespeare and Cervantes) and that is a mark to me of great literature.
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (71 of 79), Read 38 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Tuesday, March 07, 2000 09:40 AM For the record, I wasn't attempting to "rank" the great authors. As Dick noted, such "ranking" is always subjective and pointless. What bothers me with Dickens is the lack of any sort of 'realism.' It's the exaggeration of the characters actions and a dearth of real motivation behind them. It's "comic book psychology." If you ever read any comic books such as Batman or Superman you are familiar with the typical scenario: A brilliant scientist has a flask of dangerous acid or substance accidently spilled on him. In response to his disfigurement, he vows he will reduce the world to cinders in revenge. For Lex Luthor, he becomes an "evil genius" basically because Superman, in putting out a fire at his lab, caused Lex to lose his hair. Yes, because Superman made him bald, he dedicates his life to crime and evil. Now I ask you: What's the difference between Lex Luthor and Miss Habersham? She's jilted at the altar, and in response she dedicates herself bringing up a woman to do the same to a man. And true to any comic book villain, she even has a signature dress: the ratty wedding dress, the mouldy cake. In comic books, as in most of Dickens, the realities of humanity and of motivations are stripped so that the author can put his puzzle plot together flawlessly. Think of other characters within this work: Orlick, Compeyson--it's all comic book psychology and caricature. I find humanity--real emotions, real motivations--lacking within this novel. Dan
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (72 of 79), Read 38 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Tuesday, March 07, 2000 10:21 AM I think you're partially correct here, Dan'l, in that Dicken's characters typically display only a single, grand emotion or at least only a narrow range of closely related emotions: regret, greed, anger, compassion, etc. as he uses them to construct a typically Dickensian didactic argument against mistreating children, evicting poor people or horse-whipping the elderly. Put another way, Dicken's people are emotional mono-maniacs. However, after conceding that, I still find these characters to be fascinating -- and usually hilariously funny -- individuals. Because, despite the one-dimensionality of their emotional focus, these characters speak, act and inter-act in ways that strike me as inherently 'true', and in ways that are invariably entertaining to me. No one can argue that Dickens typically dealt with complex moral themes (although Tale of Two Cities is probably an exception); what impresses me is, while he was dealing with the simplest and most accessible of themes, he managed to create a social web of such interest and vitality within his stories. As George noted, in the end, it comes back to 'the story'. And, for me at least, despite the limitations of his form of publication (serial pulps) or of his characters or of his audience, Dickens endures as a true master of literature precisely because he could tell such a gripping, ripping, good story. But, then, I thought the cartoon-movie Oliver was good, too. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (73 of 79), Read 37 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Pres Lancaster (plancast@slip.net) Date: Tuesday, March 07, 2000 11:16 AM Dan, Richard, Great posts. Pres
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (74 of 79), Read 38 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Susan Pardue (ezrabird@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, March 07, 2000 11:19 AM Dan, I thought Estella was positively robotic. . . I wouldn't have been surprised at any point if she'd suddenly come out with "That does not compute. I have not been programmed to feel emotions. That does not compute. . ." Susan
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (75 of 79), Read 36 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Susan Strahan (tales@1001knights.com) Date: Tuesday, March 07, 2000 12:41 PM Well, there is one character who doesn't show one-dimensionality and only a single over-riding emotion. Wimmick! :-) Here is a man who had an alter-ego. There was the country Wimmick and the city Wimmick. I found this type of partitioning charming and in a way very modern. More and more today people do not define themselves by their job; many people lead the sort of double life Wimmick did. Wimmick was one of my favorite characters. Him and his Aged P. :-) ~~Susan~~ An honest book's the noblest work of man. --Henry David Thoreau
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (76 of 79), Read 40 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Tuesday, March 07, 2000 12:59 PM I loved Aged P and his quintessentially English house and garden; and Wimmick was a wonderful person; precursor of the modern cube farm inhabitant. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (77 of 79), Read 37 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, March 07, 2000 04:41 PM Here's my problem--- The same charge of 'cartoonishness' could be made against Ahab or Iago or Quixote or countless other of literature's great characters. The trick is in the execution, not the one-note motivation (Havisham abandoned, Ahab wounded, Quixote reading, etc.,) The psychology of Dickens is harder to see but it is definitely there and absolutely as profound as anything in Joyce or Proust. GE is essentially a pre-stream-of-consciousness narrative, since we see everything through the eyes of a very imaginative adolescent nearly to the end. Pip's psychology doesn't exclude atmospherics or extreme metaphors... it embraces them. That fact shouldn't make us sell him or the book short, however, since we aren't likely to get a profounder study of human guilt and its effect on our imaginations. If you don't look for the subtleties in this book you won't find them, of course, but there are more things in heaven and earth than are dreamt of in your psychology...
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (78 of 79), Read 15 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000 08:41 AM I disagree, George. There is depth to Iago's character, depth Shakespeare created by leaving the "injuries" Iago supposedly suffered a mystery. When staged properly, Iago's obsession with tearing apart Othello is engaging and realistic. What drives him is part of this character's appeal--what could drive Iago to such degrees of hatred? What drives Miss Habersham? She was jilted at the altar. What drives Joe? He's a friendly blacksmith. Captain Ahab is a character study of obsession again. He suffers from a madness Ishmael begins to understand only after seafaring with the man for a while. Ahab is not after the white whale simply because he lost his leg but because he cannot help but make the whale a physical manifestation of all that is wrong in his life and his world. Ahab exhibits complex emotions and mental states that Dickens skirts around in order to keep the story simple. And Don Quioxte? Again: There is a complexity to his character, a study in romantic delusion. I'm afraid that Dickens' creations have the potential to be more complex but that Dickens does not do so. It's as a reader posted earlier: She "recreates" scenes that do not occur to fill in the nuances of character and events. Of course--you have to when Dickens places his characters on such narrow tracks that must pass certain intersections at certain times to create a seamless tapestry. What I enjoyed most about this novel was Pip's point of view. If there is one area Dickens excels in it is narrative flow (not to mention brilliant descriptions). But when it comes to character development, he is falling short within this novel. These characters never flesh out, never seem to become "real." Their motivations, their loves and hates, are trite and one-dimensional. And this weakness in character, for me at least, flaws the work. Dan
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (79 of 79), Read 14 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000 09:26 AM Dan'l: Interesting that you find the missing sources of maniacal obsession in Iago, Ahab and Quixote to be evidence of the depth of their characterizations, yet similarly missing information (why the heck is Joe such a happy guy all the time, anyway?) in Dickens characters is a flaw. Personally, I find fictional characters with unfathomable motivations (from Iago to Hannibal Lecter) to be annoying, precisely for that reason. If you (the author that is) tell me enough about the character so that I can judge him as a whole entity, I can decide if this fiction moves me and is deserving of life; contrarily, if you leave out important things about the character, so that motivations and inner lives are an endless puzzlement to me, then I go away suspecting that you (the author, again) have given me, not a character, but a mere plot device. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (80 of 86), Read 27 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000 04:46 PM I am enjoying this discussion of the shallowness(?) of Dickens' characters. Dan, as far as Joe is concerned, I think that Dickens does provide motivation. He is not just a "happy blacksmith". Here's one possible analysis of Joe's character. Dickens tell us that his father was a drunk and a bully who beat his family. He was used to being controlled, so he married a very controlling woman. Joe learned to avoid conflict early in life in order to order to avoid pain, so he finds it extremely difficult to challenge Mrs. Joe. He learned kindness from his mother and he is very sympathetic to Pip because he experienced even worse treatment as a child. I am not a huge Dickens fans. His characters are drawn larger than life, and I prefer more subtlety. Still some of them have stuck with me for a long time. Uriah Heep from David Copperfield still makes my skin crawl. Ann
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (81 of 86), Read 33 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Janet Mego (vsjego@cs.com) Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000 06:36 PM Fascinating posts, guys. Dan, I agree with you up to a point, but I also think Dickens intended characters like Miss Havisham and Pumblechook to be satirical. After all, look at those wonderful names. The former virtually turns to Estella and says, in so many words:"Let's have-a-sham on Pip: 'you can break his heart!'" Perhaps in the satire, i. e., the casting of a TYPE, there's also within that type enough individuality at the same time to render some subtlety within each as well. Maybe that's the genius of Dickens: the subtlety WITHIN the satire. So does his characterization fall somewhere between the flat cartoonish folk mentioned earlier and the depth of an Iago or a Lady Macbeth? It's apples and oranges, maybe, but fun to discuss. And by the way, someone earlier suggested GE might be "wasted" on adolescents. Unless you've taught them, you can't know how much subtlety and nuance they're capable of detecting and learning from. Age is relative, and sometimes adolescents are remarkably and ironically perceptive, in ways that older kids and adults have (unfortunately) "matured" out of their systems. Janet
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (82 of 86), Read 23 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: George Healy (malword@aol.com) Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000 06:40 PM Dan-- The 'injuries' given Iago are clearly stated: he was passed over for promotion, and he's jealous of his wife's possible attraction to Othello. Now take Cordelia in 'Lear'- she is simply a good child and pure at heart. She is not 'fleshed out'. Yet 'Lear' is possibly the single greatest work of literature ever...period. Cordelia's complexities fall in what she makes others feel, precisely as Havisham's complexities only surface in comparison to the other lives in GE. A writer need not invest their talent in making every character intensely complicated... as I'm sure you know. We see GE through Pip's eyes, so the book must stand or fall by him. We can't talk about 'Havisham' herself, we can only talk about Pip's Havisham because that is what is presented to us. Pip has a tendency to reduce things to their romantic and memorable features (beginning with his name itself) and his reduction-in-advance of his own future (his expectations) turns completely around by the book's end. To mistake Pip's view as Dickens' own would make one underrate the novel... but it's not reflective of the book's achievement and greatness.
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (83 of 86), Read 21 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Wednesday, March 08, 2000 07:22 PM Dick: I did not mean to imply that "missing sources" create complexity and mystery and hence engender fabulous characterization. I noted the similarity between Ahab and Iago in that both are obsessed, and for readers this obsession is enthralling. There is nothing enthralling, or interesting, in Habersham or Joe--be we look through Dickens' or Pip's eyes. For me, there's nothing to dig for, no substance for a reader to grapple with. They are, quite simply, one-dimensional plot devices meant to move the plot along. I have skirted the issue of Pip, as George brings to the fore in his latest posting. I cannot make the same claim that Pip is "one-dimensional," but I'm afraid the universe--be it from his point of view or Dickens' POV--is populated with one-dimensional characters solely designed to move him along like a ball bearing in a pinball machine. The work was written to be a serial, and as a serial it is fabulously well-written. But this work seems as if written in a hurry and without a great deal of care given to its characters. We can point fingers at the "characterizations" of Cordelia, Iago, Ahab, and Don Quixote--and why not Odysseus, Raskolnikov, Benjamin Compson, and Leopold Bloom, while we're at it--but it doesn't change my opinion of the characterization of this novel. A characterization, in my opinion, which is one-dimensional and flawed. Oh, and Janet--I love your pun on Habersham. Smashing. Dan
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (84 of 86), Read 8 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sherry Keller (shkell@earthlink.net) Date: Thursday, March 09, 2000 07:21 AM I mentioned earlier how I questioned the physical manifestations of Miss Havishamís obsession, but even so, I agree with Dick on the believability of Dickensís characters. I think they are not cartoonish, but a distillation of some aspect of humanity. And even though Dickens portrays that particular characteristic overlarge for effect, the core of that character is very human. Pipís journey from boyhood to manhood is a kind of Pilgrimís Progress and how he develops in the face of abuse, kindness, and absurdity is wonderful to observe. I donít think Magwitch was one-dimensional. He was a little strange to give his fortune to a boy who he thought did him a kindness, but once he told his story, the reader could understand both his imprisonment, his ability to make a fortune, and his bravery in returning to see "his boy." Wemmick and his Aged P were a joy to be around, and I loved the wedding scene. I also thought that the production of Hamlet was a hoot. What do you all think about the death-masks in Jaggersís office? They were like little characters all by themselves. Pip saw something different in them each time he entered. Sherry
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (85 of 86), Read 6 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Susan Strahan (tales@1001knights.com) Date: Thursday, March 09, 2000 08:30 AM On the subject of Miss Havisham's obsession...my perception of her and the whole rotting cake, never see the sunlight set-up changed over the course of the book. I can't point to a specific passage that changed my perception, but very gradually I began to perceive her as not so much mad (crazy) as willful. On first meeting her I think she's completely unhinged, but by the end of the book I have the feeling that the whole cake-wedding dress--never go out thing is more of a habit, an accustomed way of life and that she maintains it in a sort of stubborn, childish way of throwing in everyone's face how hurt she was. She's not devastated any more, but she darn well won't "get over it" either. (You might say: "I don't have to conform to the rules of society and behave nicely because I'm jilted and hurt." It's less madness than a willful affectation she uses to manipulate and intimidate people. I just couldn't maintain throughout the novel the idea that she was continuing in the whole jilted lover role due to being crazy. It seemed like a childish, sometimes malicious, charade. ~~Susan~~ An honest book's the noblest work of man. --Henry David Thoreau
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (86 of 86), Read 5 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: David Moody (davidmoody@prodigy.net) Date: Thursday, March 09, 2000 08:40 AM I was considering the mystery of the miraculously preserved wedding cake this morning (OK, OK, I'm a bit behind the rest of you guys). Outside of the fact it may have been a fruitcake, I got to thinking about Sam Loyd. Loyd was a chess problemist of the 19th century (almost wrote last century!). There is a convention in constructing these problems that the position must be one reachable through the normal moves of chess. Loyd came up with one position that had a bishop situated where it could not possibly have gone in a game. He was asked, "How did that bishop get there?", and replied, "I put it there!" I imagine Dickens knew that wedding cake would not literally survive for twenty years; he's just using the idea to reinforce and emphasize the character and obsession of Miss Havisham. (Which may take us back to caricature vs. character development...) David
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (87 of 89), Read 30 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Sara Brennan (se_brennan@hotmail.com) Date: Thursday, March 09, 2000 09:44 AM Susan -- it's been years since I read GE, but you have expressed very well the impression of Mrs. Havisham I've been carrying around ever since -- which is not really that of a madwoman but, vaguely, that of a manipulative narcissist.
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (88 of 89), Read 28 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Thursday, March 09, 2000 09:56 AM David: Very excellent point on the wedding cake. The "suspension of disbelief" must be achieved if any novel is to continue. Getting off my character horse for a moment, I have been thinking about Magwitch and his generous self. When does Pip's perception of Magwitch change? When he first meets him, he is fearful of Magwitch's wrath. Then, he is protective of his benefactor. I realize it isn't the money that changes Pip's disposition, but I cannot recall any specific reason for the shift. Is it because Magwitch shows he has "soft" feelings? Dan
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (89 of 89), Read 26 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Thursday, March 09, 2000 10:14 AM I never thought of Miss Havisham as being truly crazy even though that seems to b e the consensus of the thinking about her. I think they all looked upon her as crazy because she was willfully sitting there all those years just to say 'Here -- I am -- I am here because I was jilted.' I also think Pip's feeling change when he sees Magwitch as having had good intentions toward him despite the ill feelings Pip had had over the years as to his intents in the opposite direction. I even like that stupid cake just being there because Dickens SAYS it is!!! Dottie ID is an oxymoron! Post | Reply | Reply/Quote | Email Reply | Delete | Edit Previous | Next | Previous Topic | Next Topic Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (90 of 90), Read 16 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@juno.com) Date: Thursday, March 16, 2000 10:02 PM I finished GE several days ago and did not write any comments as I wanted to gain a bit of perspective. I wanted to mull things over to see what I would come up with. Why not let my unconscious go to work. I think this book can be read for entertainment, for gaining wisdom which includes obtaining insight into the characters Dickens presents in this novel. We learn a good deal about human nature but also about the social circumstances and the culture that prevailed in England at the time. I keep coming back to comparing this book with some of Dostoyevsky's writings. I have the feeling that few of the D's characters are trustworthy or worth while. Their action are strange, bizarre and sometimes anti-social. But, I can understand and identify with the characters created by Dickens. Joe, for instance, with all his limitations is a fine person. His limitations blend with the time period he lived in and what was expected of a husband and provider. Pip is wrestling with his ambitions and his attempt to be a decent and dependable human being. Jagger is not someone I would personally like, but he too wants to do the right thing and has correct and strict legal standards. His assistant W. a most decent and fine person and so we can go on and on. I thought a good deal about the fact (and I hope I got it right) that Pip or anyone else did not confront Havisham with some facts about the man who had jilted her. Someone could have said: Hey you sure lucked out you did not get him. Perhaps this is the only loose end in the book. Dickens has this remarkable ability to find closure, to tie loose ends together. This, to me, takes remarkable skill. I may have mentioned that I read this book close to a year ago and found that I remembered most - but not all of it. I was amazed that I forgot or repressed a few episodes that were of special significance to me as a person. Well, yes, the unconscious protective mechanisms are still around even though we have become pretty skeptical about them. Well, I probably could go on and on. I would be most interested in some of the other people in our group's impression on this book some time after they finished reading it. Ernie Post | Reply | Reply/Quote | Email Reply | Delete | Edit Previous | Next | Previous Topic | Next Topic Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (91 of 91), Read 2 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, March 17, 2000 09:08 AM Ernie: Excellent post as to your dealings with Dickens. I, too, notice a definite comparison between Doestoevsky and Dickens beyond the fact that they both start with he letter "D." But I was thinking recently of Pip's story in Victorian England as compared to the tale of another young hero, Huck Finn in the states. The beginning of both novels are somewhat similar and both novels are in the genre of "coming of age" novels. Both use a first-person narration from a young person and both stress dialect to illustrate the class and status of various characters. Both are orphans within their worlds and both come to terms with their worlds in different ways. The more I think of this, the more I want to delve into Huck Finn and compare it to Great Expectations. I think such a comparison would yield some astonishing similarities and telling differences. Dan
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (92 of 92), Read 5 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Friday, March 17, 2000 09:26 AM Ernie, I enjoyed reading your note, especially your comments on Dostoevsky and Dickens. Perhaps because I had just read CRIME AND PUNISHMENT, I couldn't help noticing a few similarities between the two writers when I was reading GE. The characters of both are so often overdrawn and exaggerated. Dostoevsky referred to his own style as "fantastic realism" and there are parts of GE that fit this category, especially the description of Miss Havisham with her twenty year old wedding cake. Another similarity I noticed was the very strong sympathy both authors showed towards the poor, an attitude which was really not that common in their day. They also made liberal use of literary conventions that 19th century readers seemed to expect, such as coincidence and tying up all the loose ends of the plot. Overall, however, you are absolutely correct about the contrast between Dickens and Dostoevsky. The latter's world is so much darker and irrational. Perhaps you had enough of this in your practice as a psychologist {G}. His writings would never be categorized as "comfort books," while I can understand someone wanting to reread Dickens for that purpose. Some might say Dostoevsky is deeper, although I agree with you that Dickens does show some very sharp insight into human nature. So what do the rest of you think? Are some of you big fans of both authors? Or do those of you who love one strongly dislike the other? I think we could safely put Dick in Alaska in the second category, right Dick? Dan, I am embarrassed to admit that I have never read HUCK FINN. It would be a good nominee for next year's reading list. Ann
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (93 of 94), Read 13 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Friday, March 17, 2000 04:55 PM Huck Finn and Pip? That's interesting,Dan. Something I'll do some cogitating on. Ann, Huck Finn is my favorite Mark Twain. Ruth
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (94 of 94), Read 6 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Friday, March 17, 2000 09:33 PM Though it really isn't necessary, I'll answer Ann's question: I prefer Dostoevsky to Dickens anyday. I prefer the dark realism, the heightened sense of the irrational creeping up on the rational. Are you serious that Huck Finn has not already been discussed? What's amiss here? Dan
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (95 of 103), Read 25 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Saturday, March 18, 2000 02:54 AM Daniel -- it is BECAUSE so many of us -- who though being destined to be Constant Readers -- managed to escape reading so many of the Classics that Classics Corner exists here. And fortunately so -- for those who have read the classics usually did so in a classroom -- CC is much, much better! I am not at all sure I have read Huck Finn either and have only a vague sense of having read Tom Sawyer. Last time I even tried to figure this out was in a discussion including our Irrepressible Rasmussen. Maybe by next list he will bring his expertise on Twain back for the HF reading! Perhaps, his Twain cohort Barbara S. will also join in! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (96 of 103), Read 24 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Katie Kleczka (pkleczka@uwm.edu) Date: Saturday, March 18, 2000 08:36 AM The reference to Pip and Huck was personally relevant as it reminded me of the circumstances under which I read both Great Expectations and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. I had picked up and started reading This Boy's Life by Tobias Wolff and glanced at the back of the book jacket. The interviewer for the Philadelphia Inquirer had compared the main character (which was the author as this book was autobiographical) to Huck, Pip, and the boy in Jerzy Kozinski's The Painted Bird. Although when I mentioned the experience many were skeptical of the possibilities for comparison between the characters, there were definitely some similarities and common themes. A year later, it is interesting to hear that Pip reminded someone else of Huck. And finally, I didn't have a chance to participate in the Great Expectations discussion (or any other, lately, for that matter) due to the demands of work and a recent return to school, I must say that this was one of my favourite reads of 1999. It made such an impression on me that I think about Pip, Joe, Miss Haversham and others often both in a isolation and in reference to something other book or story. Great Expectations is one of the VERY few books that I have not nor will give away. Katie "Everything in moderation, EXCEPT for reading."
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (97 of 103), Read 26 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ann Davey (davey@tconl.com) Date: Saturday, March 18, 2000 10:53 AM Dan, Huck Finn has never been nominated for the CC book list. We did read A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, and Twain's Life on the Mississippi was nominated for the 2000 list and came close to making it. Like you, Dottie, I am one of the people who participates in CC because of all the classics I didn't read when I was younger. I was always a constant reader, but I took a measly 6 credit hours of English in college. Consequently, my approach to literature is decidedly unacademic. I think we have a good mix here between the literature majors/minors and the folks who don't have this background but just love to read. Katie, I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Great Expectations because I have never been a Dickens fan. This is definitely one of his best. Ann Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (98 of 103), Read 28 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Saturday, March 18, 2000 11:35 AM I've said it many times before, but will say it again: Dickens is wasted on kids. I couldn't stand him as a teenager and now think he's truly one of the greats. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (99 of 103), Read 32 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: R Bavetta (rbavetta@prodigy.net) Date: Saturday, March 18, 2000 12:05 PM Dick, were you shoved into Dickens as a teenager, when you'd rather have been standing on a street corner in Anchorage ogling the girls? I read Dickens aloud to my kids when they were, oh, maybe 8-12. They loved both Great Expectations and Oliver Twist. Ruth
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (100 of 103), Read 26 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Saturday, March 18, 2000 01:14 PM You know, Ruth, I think Dickens works DO most definitely benefit from being read -- spoken -- and don't know why I never thought of this until you said it! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (101 of 103), Read 26 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Saturday, March 18, 2000 01:22 PM Ruth: That was exactly what happened. I still bear the scars. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (102 of 103), Read 21 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Janet Mego (vsjego@cs.com) Date: Saturday, March 18, 2000 02:40 PM Dick, Truly a shame--but do be careful about projecting the results of your own miserable experience onto others. I read David Copperfield at thirteen (that year in Europe that I was lonely and did so much reading of anything and everything--including Lolita) and loved it. Also, I firmly maintain, as I stated before, that in my experience of teaching Great Expectations to teens for about 7 years, I experienced time and again, as expressed by my students, the following: Empathy for Pip and an earnest, heart-felt appreciation for his plight as the victim of snobbery and later, disapproval for his becoming one. Delight at the eccentricity of characters such as Miss Havisham and Mr. Jaggers. That familiar and reassuring sense of relief one has when one realizes others--characters and the authors who create them--have experienced emotions and turmoil and even a sense of justice similar to that which one has experienced one's self. As difficult as the teen years often are, who better to grasp this lifeline than a kid? It tends to help to lead one through life, often. Janet, hoping she doesn't sound too defensive, but finding it difficult not to react to the phrase "wasted on teens."
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (103 of 103), Read 15 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dick Haggart (law@haggart.com) Date: Saturday, March 18, 2000 03:20 PM Janet: It certainly sounds like you have a superior grade of teen down there in Alabama, or at least superior to those of my experience. However, my use of the word 'waste' was undoubtedly hyperbolic. Undoubtedly many teen readers of Dickens (if there are indeed 'many') carry away much that is of value from the experience. I'd still assert, however, that there is a substantial gulf between the level of understanding teenagers can bring to complex literature and that which can be experienced by older readers, which was my point, however poorly expressed. So keep on draggin' the little devils through Dickens. Maybe I'll run into one of them one of these days and be heartened and encouraged in my cynical old age. The Chilblained Lawyer Is...
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (103 of 103), Read 10 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Daniel LeBoeuf (dan1066@yahoo.com) Date: Sunday, March 19, 2000 03:30 PM Ann and Dottie: I was just surprised that Huck Finn has never been nominated for Classics Corner, not aghast at you're not having read it. I read Huck Finn when I was a bored teen. I never had to read the work for "university credit." I hope to remember this next year when we start nominating books again. This is the ideal forum for such a novel. Dick and Janet: I'll say that when I was a teen I read Oliver Twist as well as Tale of Two Cities and loved them both. Now, as an adult, I have found Great Expectations alright but not Earth-shattering. As the Ink Spots croon: "To each his own..." Dan
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (103 of 105), Read 34 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Karen Mikhail (kmbookworm@hotmail.com) Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2000 01:59 PM I finished GE a couple of days ago. Last night I started watching the movie with Ethan Hawke & Gwenyth Paltrow. The narrator of the movie is, of course, Pip (they changed the name to Finn in the movie). One of the first lines in the movie is Finn saying, "I'm not going to tell the story the way it really happened, I'm going to tell it the way I remember it." I loved the line when I heard it. I definitely thought GE was written by Pip when he was an old man looking back on his life. In several places, the descriptions of places say that the place is not there any more or it is more congested now or things of that nature which imply a great passage of time. I do think that many of the characters could be called one dimensional or caricatures. But when you look back on your own life and remember things that happened when you were a kid, how do you remember the people? Full blown complex characters??? Do you remember how you felt or exactly what happened or how everything looked? One of the reasons I like to read so much is that I picture one of the tasks of life to be the creation of meaning through the process of telling stories. I've never actually sat down and written a story of my life. But sometimes as I'm going along in life I do write the scene in my head. Not necessarily exactly how it's happening in this moment, but rather in a way that captures why that moment is important. I did feel totally involved in the world of GE. I loved Pumblechook's "May I?" I loved Mr. Jaggers blowing his nose and washing his hands all the time. I loved this because these are exactly the kinds of things that would strike me about people I didn't often see or that I didn't know very well. They are also exactly the kinds of things I would remember years later. My family if probably just very odd (actually, I should just take out the word 'probably'), but all you have to say sometimes is a simple line like 'that lady who falls asleep in church' and it's enough to send us into hysterics. And if you don't know why that's a funny line, we are more than happy to regale you with an hour long story of why it's so funny. I have no memory of what that woman's name is or anything else about her and it's only about 10 years ago that the story occurred. All I remember is a little caricature of her. Karen
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (104 of 105), Read 36 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Bob Markiewicz (bob markiewicz@aol.com) Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2000 02:11 PM {One of the reasons I like to read so much is that I picture one of the tasks of life to be the creation of meaning through the process of telling stories. } I can't begin to tell you how much I agree with you, Karen, how much value I place on the art of storytelling. Many of my favorite authors come from cultures with great traditions of it, Maxine Hong Kingston and the Chinese being a prime example. My best friends are superb storytellers and I hope I am their equal. I also love adult fairy tales and reading the various versions of classics that emerge from different countries and cultures. There are some wonderful storytellers' meetings throughout the USA and I've read a hilarious piece of one in Australia held in a bar where the tellers are brutalized by the audience, all in good fun. I could go on with this topic for days..... BOB
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (105 of 105), Read 21 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Dottie Randall (randallj@ix.netcom.com) Date: Tuesday, March 21, 2000 07:18 PM We will be privileged to attend the International Vertelfeest this weekend at the Land Commanderij Alden Biesen -- storytellers from six countries will be telling stories in their native languages -- to adults and to family groups. We attended last year and very much enjoyed it -- especially the Dutch family session where the children were gathered up front to hear the story of the princess who bounces her precious gift into the pond and in return for the frog rescuing it promises he can sleep on her pillow and eat at her table etc. We had barely begun our Dutch lessons but I happened to catch enough words to recognize that this was a story which I already knew and so I began to understand more and more of it -- great fun. Will post afterwards on what we find this year! Dottie ID is an oxymoron!
Topic: March 2000 Book -- Great Expectations (100 of 100), Read 4 times Conf: CLASSICS CORNER From: Ernest Belden (drernest@juno.com) Date: Sunday, March 26, 2000 12:00 AM Just now had a chance to catch up with reading some very meaningful comments summing up GE. You people expressed so many interesting ideas that I am unable to take them one by one which I would have liked to do. There is the discourse of Dickens being lost on teen agers and the opposite position (which incidentally applies to myself) that some of his works can turn out to be a lifeline to be grasped by troubled youngsters. I can well imagine some inner City kids being bored by the whole thing as well and that may go for kids who feel uncomfortable reading. Hey, the idea of reading Huck Finn and Tom Sawyer on CC is a fantastic idea. I also plead ignorance as to these two books. There was one comment about the Dark Realism of Dost. that appeals to people. Excellent point there is a true life quality to all that misery that he tells us about. On the other hand Dickens does not display the same dark realism or should I say rarely. I do remember some episodes in Bleak House which are pretty grim. Dickens is not a cop out when it comes to misery. There is a book that I can highly recommend: The Portable Victorian Reader ed. Gorden S. Haight. In there you will among other writers Dickens discussion of the most horrible conditions that prevailed in England at the time. I do remember his visit to a Workhouse for the poor. Now reading Dickens to kids is a truly fantastic idea. They would love it and sorry to say I have not done so but may try it on grand kids. Well GE was not only a great book but the CC discussion was great as well. Ernie, who is now deeply into Ulysses and trying to make sense of it.

 

 
Charles Dickens
Charles Dickens

 
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