I first encountered Great Expectations by Charles Dickens as a kid – a birthday gift. I read the children’s version that had the plot covered, but the rich language that belonged to Dickens was missing. And that was just what I fell in love with when I read the book for the second time, not the children’s version, of course.
Great Expectations follows the story of Pip, an orphan boy, who rises through the lower social strata to the high society after receiving a surprise fortune bestowed by an unknown benefactor. We see him fall for Estella, a beautiful but haughty young girl, and how he struggles both externally and internally as he tries to mingle with the values of high society. Dickens’ prose opens doors to Pip’s inner thinking while also portraying the context of 19th century England.
Some lines, described by Pip, the narrator, were so beautiful, I’d stop for hours to ponder upon it and how Dickens might have taken the very same 26 alphabets and spun magic out of them. I now finally understand what made the book classic. It took me a long time to finish the book, not because it was a long or difficult read but because I kept getting distracted. However, pacing the book throughout many months might have deepened my admiration for the wonderfully flowing prose that runs through the pages.
Here are some of my favorite lines, passages, and quotes from the beloved classic.
Description of Nature
Those are just the lines that makes me envision the sky and the marshes. I was right there with Pip.
The marshes were just a long black horizontal line then, as I stopped to look after him; and the river was just another horizontal line, not nearly so broad nor yet so black; and the sky was just a row of long angry red lines and dense black lines intermixed.
The mist was heavier yet when I got out upon the marshes, so that instead of my running at everything, everything seemed to run at me.
Beyond their dark lines there was a ribbon of clear sky, hardly broad enough to hold the red large moon.
Some Life Lessons
How can any novel be complete without some sprinkle of life lessons in it. Great Expectations has tons.
Cleanliness is next to Godliness, and some people do the same by their religion.
Ask no questions, and you’ll be told no lies.
That to think of any person is to make a great claim upon that person, my dear.
What I wanted, who can say? How can I say, when I never knew?
Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlaying our hard hearts.
So, throughout life, our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for the sake of the people whom we most despise.
Now, when suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but I hope – into a better shape. Be as considerate and good to me as you were, and tell me we are friends.
Love – the beauty and the irrationality
Love doesn’t understand logic, or does it?
But I loved Joe – perhaps for no better reason in those early days than because the dear fellow let me love him – and, as to him, my inner self was not so easily composed.
To stand in the dark in a mysterious passage of an unknown house, bawling Estella to a scornful young lady neither visible nor responsive, and feeling it a dreadful liberty so to roar out her name, was almost as bad as playing to order. But, she answered at last, and her light came along the long dark passage like a star.
I got rid of my injured feelings for the time, by kicking them into the brewery wall, and twisting them out of my hair, and then I smoothed my face with my sleeve, and came from behind the gate.
Biddy was never insulting, or capricious, or Biddy today and somebody else tomorrow; she would have derived only pain, and no pleasure, from giving me pain; she would far rather have wounded her own breast than mine. How could it be, then, that I did not like her much the better of the two?
Yet the room was all in all to me, Estella being in it. I thought that with her I could have been happy there for life.
Not being bound to her, can you not detach yourself from her?
Because why not! Yes, Mr. Dickens, we love stationery.
For, there was something very comfortable in having plenty of stationery.
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