Actually, upon receiving this much acclaimed classic, I had no initial expectations of finding anything that might capture my imagination. A few years previously I had taken a copy of Bleak House with me on my travels but was not impressed by what I thought was a tendency to unnecessary verbiage. I considered that there was far too much superfluous dialogue for it added little to any deeper appreciation of a character. The result was, as I saw it, an inevitable accumulation of pages and an almost unreadable dense tome.
This did not inspire further reading of Charles Dickens. I learnt of Dickens first-hand so to speak in that I thrice played the part of Bob Cratchet the long-suffering Clerk from A Christmas Carol. This novella reveals the Dickens of popular acclaim at least this was my view but it did nothing to engage me beyond the part I once played in a college production on stage. In my reading of Bleak House, however, I did find the character of Howard Skimpole highly amusing and thought one particular sketch exceptionally funny. But all in all Bleak House was far too long and the pages were turned grudgingly. The appeal of Dickens remained a mystery.
That is until I set my eyes on the page-turner, Great Expectations. This story hinges on the narrated fortunes of the protagonist. The reader is invited into this tale of early 1800s England by learning about the name of the lead character, Pip. Dickens thereafter paints each scene anew by not only providing a vivid description of people and nature but by insightfully animating each character with striking graphic descriptions. For illustration, in the account of lifelong criminal, Able Magwitch, he is initially pictured as resembling an old hungry dog with his head turned to one side while sitting in a graveyard chewing some meat. Pip’s first encounter with the reclusive spinster, Miss Havisham, is similarly memorable.
Great Expectations confounded my expectations. The ever changing landscape and fortune of the characters is aptly captured in the lines:
It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold: when it is summer in the light and winter in the shade.