I read this in high school and remember liking it (though I wonder now if it might have been the abridged version, because the full length is pretty long). Yet despite its length, Great Expectations is pretty action-packed, and reads like a modern novel.
Pip is raised by his abusive sister and her husband Joe, who is simple but has a heart of gold. One night as a child, he helps out an escaped convict, in an apparently stand-alone episode of his life. Then he finds himself thrust among the sometime company of two caricatures: the withered Miss Havisham, bitter against all men because she was jilted on her wedding day decades earlier, and her beautiful yet haughty adopted daughter Estella. Miss Havisham relishes the idea of wielding her revenge upon the male sex through Estella, and encourages Pip to fall in love with her, and her to break his heart. Neither of them need much encouraging, and the thing is soon accomplished.
Then, out of nowhere, Pip receives word from an attorney–Miss Havisham’s attorney, in fact–that he has come into “expectations.” By this we understand that he is provided for financially and is to be raised above his station to become a gentleman. But there is one catch: he cannot inquire into the identity of his benefactor, and his benefactor will make him or herself known to him at some indefinite time in the future. Pip of course believes that Miss Havisham is his benefactress, and believes himself to be intended for Estella. He more or less abandons Joe and the “honest forge,” ashamed of him because he is neither learned nor a gentleman. But of course, Pip’s beliefs about his destiny and his benefactress are thwarted, and his life does not at all turn out the way he expects. In some ways it’s a morality tale: Pip comes to learn what really matters in life, almost too late.
It’s the “almost” that makes me still enjoy the story though. He still has time to repent at the end, and there is a happily ever after, although a bittersweet one. Overall, a compelling read!
My rating: **** 1/2
Sexual content: none
Violence: very minor
Political content: none