Monday, April 18, 2005

Great Expectations

I recently finished reading Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. It is the story of Pip and his quest to find contentment and respect in a society with a rigid class system, in which Pip resides at the bottom.

Pip's search begins after he is called upon to be a companion to Estella, the adopted daughter of Miss Havisham, a wealthy, elderly woman. He begins to develop, almost overnight, a sense of discontent with his life and he begins to view himself through their eyes:

"..And deeply resolving that I was a common labouring boy; that my hands were coarse; that my boots were thick...I was much more ignorant than I had considered myself last night; and generally that I was in a low-lived, bad way."

Pip begins to feel ashamed of himself and his sister's husband, Joe, the man who lovingly raised him.

Pip's course of life takes a sharp turn when he finds that someone has chosen to provide him with the means to become a man of "great expectations" and for the first time in his life Pip has choices and opportunities. In his quest to find satisfaction and respect, he turns his back on the "lower" life and people in is past, but finds that he still lacks the contentment he has been desperately searching for.

The last part of the book brings Pip face-to-face with the mistakes he has made and reveals that the opportunities he thought he had were, in reality, just an illusion and, in fact, he had given up everything, for nothing.

I enjoyed reading Great Expectations for a number of reasons. First of all, Dickens is a wonderful creator of characters. He is able to reveal not only a person's physical appearance through words on a page, but also their motives and innermost thoughts in a very human way. Second of all, this book made me think about numerous ideas including: contentment, human worth, the value of money and family. Ultimately it is a book about the nature of contentment and where it is truly found. I believe it is found right in front of us, in the people and things God has given us. In giving those things up to find peace, value or contentment, we only drive ourselves farther away from what we truly desire. Pip's quest ended not with money, power and respect, but rather by his being surrounded by the family and friends who valued him, not for what he might become, but for who he was.

Happy reading!