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Exceeding Expectations

I know this is kind of late, but I guess better late than never! Though Oscar Wilde felt very differently about that quote! But as usual I digress; this is not a post about Oscar Wilde but about Charles Dickens’s Great Expectation.

Now I know in bits and parts I have moaned about the fact that I did not like this book at all during my middle school and I still do not understand the point of making 13 year olds read Dickens or Bronte or Eilliot! I mean these authors did not write young adult books, they wrote absolutely adult books – you know by adults, of adults and for adults! But why do schools insist on putting young students through such torture is beyond me – I mean I am sure a lot of my contemporaries have developed an absolute horror for literature because of such childhood inflictions. The schools should stick to Ann of Green Gables and at their most ambitious, Little Women. Not more than that! They should seriously consider how many readers they are turning away by forcing them to read “great literature” when the audience concerned can barely spell literature! I mean the estates/publishers of Brontes and Dickens should seriously consider suing the school boards. But again I digress.

great-expectations-by-charles-dickensSo thanks to the July Spin of Classics Club, I was forced to confront my nemesis – I have never been fond of Dickens and the childhood experience kind of left me wary. Add to that my last trial with the Classic Club Spin – I came away disliking Madame Bovary as much as before and was glad when I was done with it. So it was with some perdition that I picked up Great Expectations. But am I glad I did! I l loved the book! Absolutely loved it! Just goes to show that one cannot always go by experience and stereotypes
I am sure most people know the story of Great Expectations – Orphaned Pip is growing up with his harridan of a sister and kind brother in law, until a fruitful encounter with an escaped convict whom he manages to assist, though the former is caught and sent away. The next adventure that comes back in Pip’s life is to “come and play” at Miss Havisham’s house, the most wealthy denizen of the town. There he meets and falls in love with Estella, Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter. As he falls deeper and deeper in love with Estella, he is horrified to know that he cannot be “gentleman” capable of courting Estella and his life was to be confined to the iron forges of his brother in law’s trade. An unexpected turn of event changes his life as he is made aware that an anonymous benefactor whose identity is not be disclosed and who has endorsed Mr Jaggers, the lawyer to act as a guardian to Pip and enable him to receive a gentleman’s education and live in that style. Pip is then moved from Kent and his adventures in London and his coming of age is the main plot line of the book.

Now what I really love about the book is the details – whether it is the description of the Christmas Lunch or the description of the now devastated venue of Miss Havisham‘s wedding or John Wemmick’s “Castle”. I am also extremely enamored of the characters – one cannot help but love the kind hearted Joe or the sensible Biddy, one wants a friend like Herbert and despite the entire idiosyncrasy, there is certain pathos about Miss Havisham which really moved me. I am still unsure about Estella, but I did dislike her as much as I had when I originally read the book. Most importantly what I loved about the book was the “humane” depiction on Pip and his actions. When Joe first comes to visit Pip, Pip’s behavior leaves one much ashamed and yet I am sure that many and that too many honest people would act in a similar fashion in that kind of time and place. But again the true portrayal of the vast range of emotions that a human is capable when the same Pip goes to John Wemmick and requests that he assist him in setting up Herbert without letting him know that Pip is his benefactor and he has not really “earned” the partnership. And finally the end wins your heart for ever – you realize Pip is just like you capable of great things and though the end does not come with a perfect ending, I cannot help but think that in the imperfection of the ending lies the most perfect piece of the tale. Otherwise there were one too many neat packages in the book!

Like I said, I loved it and I would strongly recommend reading it. In fact the book has made me brave enough to attempt Bleak House and David Copperfield again!

The most inspiring them of all…

I know I have to still write about Charles Dicken’s Great Expectation and I promise I will do it this week for sure. But while I drown myself in my other life, aka, the Project Manager, this Meme, I just could not let go! So Classic Club’s 2013 July Meme is –

What classic book has changed your view on life, social mores, political views, or religion?

I was 14 when I read this book – a very impressionable age and this book was way beyond the 14 years old reader – it had rape, violence, racial discrimination and per Wikipedia, destruction of innocence (though I have never felt that; to me it was more of coming of age!). So what book was this when all my peers were reading Ann of Green Gables? It was called – To Kill a Mockingbird. And I am darn glad that I read it and that too when I was 14!

To Kill a Mockingbird is more than an everyday story of fighting for the rights of less privileged. It’s more than a story of black versus white, rich versus poor! It’s a story of moral courage and about being brave when you are most afraid (Yes! I know George R R Martin wrote that in Games of Throne, but I am really talking about the principle of the thing!). The book is filled with acts of honor and valor even when they count for nothing. For instance when Atticus forces Jem to read to Mrs. Dubose because she is dying, though she has done nothing to deserve such kindness.  It’s about winning people over through bravery and honest conduct. It is about winning, when you have lost everything! It’s about compassion, not pity for your fellow beings – my favorite motto in the world is what Atticus says to Scout “you never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view — until you climb around in his skin and walk around in it”. All this while, the book remains warm, humorous and very personal. There are everyday events out of our daily life – again one of the parts that I relate to most is when Scout talks about her reading – she could not recollect when she had not read with Atticus. I know the feeling, like I said before; I never realized when my father’s moving fingers over the words became my own to read.

This book may not have defined my social or political mores when I was 14. But it did go a long way in making me an egalitarian advocating liberalist who believes in equality for all and standing up for what you belive in no matter what the cost. In my small way, I find at times speaking up for what right may cost you something – relationship, money, promotion. But this book made me understand one very important kernel of truth when very young – unless I can look myself in the eye, nothing is worth it!

Viva Ms. Harper Lee. You wrote only one book, but boy! That book challenged our thoughts and forced many to reckon with what they thought was right and what was actually right! It gave impetus to the Civil Rights Movement and continues to inspire generations of lawyers and humanitarians!

P.S. now you know where the “Mockingbirds” in my blog’s name came from!

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