This wasn’t my first read-through of Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations. It was one of those classics that found itself in the line-up of required reading in high school. That’s where I was first introduced to Pip, Miss Havisham and Abel Magwitch. But to be honest, I really didn’t appreciate the book at the time. I’ve begun to wonder if I truly enjoyed any of the classics during those four years. Perhaps it was because I “had” to read them, not because I chose to. Or maybe it was because I hadn’t yet lived long enough to be able to connect with the deep and intricate themes of life that make classics what they are. Either way, I’ve now begun to revisit the old works – this time at middle age and this time, because I want to. But now the goal isn’t to blast through them as quickly as I can to complete an assignment, but for the same reason that I keep coming back to in every aspect of life – to seek out God and His wisdom. To wade through stories of life looking for His themes, His ways, His lessons and what I can learn from them. And Great Expectations fits the bill.
The tale is about pride and revenge and regret and sacrifice. It’s the story of a young man with great expectations who discovers that all he really wanted was what he once had. Of a convict whose heart is softened by sacrifice and love. Of an old woman who comes to the heart-wrenching conclusion that bitterness and hatred will destroy you. Of a man who’s lacking in the ways of the world but overflowing with the ways of heaven.
I’ve heard it said that Dickens’ books are so long and descriptive because he was paid by the word. Reading Great Expectations, I can believe it. I found myself at times thinking, “OK, get on with it!” But all the sudden, about 2/3 of the way through the book, the pace changes and you best hold onto your seat as all the different pieces of story lines begin converging and connecting to complete the puzzle. Dickens’ wit and way with words, his rich characters developed layer by layer, and his intricate plot make Great Expectations a grand lesson for life.