Monday, December 6, 2010

Charles Dickens: Great Expectations

Great Expectations (Bantam Classics)I don't know how I managed to earn two English degrees without reading any Charles Dickens, but thank goodness there is still reading time after college. At the prompting of my younger sisters, I spent yesterday curled up in a blanket with Great Expectations in one hand and my tea in the other. What better way to spend a Sunday than getting caught up in a good yarn?

I loved how Dickens jumps straight into the action and keeps you riveted from the very first chapter. We meet Pip as a young boy who stumbles upon (and out of sheer terror, brings food to) a dangerous escaped convict. It couldn't get much more attention-grabbing than that.

I think what I loved most about the story, though, is that it's largely about those inevitable moments in our lives that change everything. Some are so momentous that they change everything instantly. The moment Pip meets Miss Havisham, for instance, he knows nothing can ever be the same. But so many more are moments that come and go without notice, and it is years, even decades later, before we realize how our lives have changed because of them.

Dickens writes this about Pip's first meeting with Miss Havisham:
"That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day."

I wonder what small thing has happened today that could change, in a small or large way, the course of my life. Or yours?

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