Alanah Winters

Alanah Winters: Compelling fiction

A Review on Charles Dickens', "Great Expectations"

Another new year is upon us and I decided to bring it in with finishing a read of a classic, Great Expectations. This book is one of Charles Dickens’s most famous works. Did you know it was published as a three volume novel in 1861?  I know you must be thinking that this sounds like a lengthy drawn out book to read. However the book is only 59 Chapters and 493 pages long. Yes, the book’s vernacular is “wordy-er” than modern novels, but all in all it’s a pretty easy read with a great flow. I’m also a sucker for books written in first person. The only downside to reading of this novel is the fact I didn’t decide to read it sooner.

Here’s a little summary to whet your appetite for this great book.  The novel chronicles Pip’s (the novel’s main character) experiences from childhood to adulthood. Pip is a young orphan boy who lives on the countryside with his elder sister and her husband who at first seems content enough with his station in life. His future is determined before he’s a man that he will follow his brother-in-law’s footsteps and become a blacksmith. However an anonymous benefactor settles a lavish allowance on him. This allows Pip to move to London and start life in a society that is completely alien to him. His new-found prosperity and his eternal love for his childhood friend Estella changes what he deems suitable for a person’s life.  Which in turn, makes him feel more and more humiliated of his humble origins. The trials and tribulations of that shame open up into a compelling story that teaches him what really matters in life. Another wonderful addition to Charles Dickens’ novel is that it doesn’t conform to any one genre. Just in life, his writing contains a plethora of delicious content.  Great Expectations is a tale of love and desire; mystery and intrigue with several twists that no one could see coming. The narrative also functions as a serious social commentary of Charles’ era.

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    *A drawing of Pip* Great Expectations is generally termed a bildungsroman. Bildungsroman is a German word used for novels that portray the psychological development of the central character.

*A drawing of Pip* Great Expectations is generally termed a bildungsroman. Bildungsroman is a German word used for novels that portray the psychological development of the central character.


One of the most important themes throughout the novel is Pip’s uneasiness about social class. Overnight he becomes a rich young man and his growing ambition firmly grasps onto his new persona, in spite of his so-called “low birth”. He tries to make up for this "folly" by only interacting with people from the high and/or middle classes. This setup gives Dickens room to navigate through and comment on the socio-economic issues of Georgian and Victorian England and how the different classes were affected. Even though the novel is rooted in the social realities of Dickens’s times, it still holds relatability. The universal appeal of the questions this novel raises has helped it to withstand the test of time.

I have a confession to make… I started the book with a reluctant heart.  I really did think I was going to be bored to tears and this book would serve as a sleep aid more than an enriching experience. However instead of the boredom I expected, Great Expectations exceeded my own expectations. The experience turned out to be both notable and inspirational. The irresponsible and immature Pip is one of Dickens’s most endearing characters.  

With the holidays ending, I wish everyone a happy new year! Happy 2016 everyone!