Sunday, January 20, 2013

Great Expectations

This novel of Dickens should be well known to most people, as it usually is assigned in high school, until recently perhaps, when more "socially relevant" literature has been substituted for that old imperialist trash.  The 2011 BBC production is quite good, although it has become foolish to expect even the BBC to create a faithful version of a venerable British work of art.  But they try.  David Suchet as Jaggers the imperturbable lawyer, Douglas Booth as Pip.  It occurred to me that Pip could have avoided a lot of verbal abuse if he just used his real name Philip instead of the ridiculous Pip. 

For some reason I keep thinking Pip is kind of a nonentity, as a character he seems to lack any identity of his own, he seems to need other people to define himself,  I don't know if that is a fair assessment as I have not read the book in quite some time.  Of course the character of Miss Havisham is over the top, and hardly realistic, but merely an exaggeration of how some people may have behaved in the face of disappointment for a while.  And it is hard to believe Pip would have continued to yearn after cold-hearted Estella for so many years, yet love can be quite absurd.  It is also hard to believe it so difficult a task to arrange for Magwitch to leave an England teeming with millions of people, with many available ports and thousands of ships going hither and thither all the time.  But I guess it has to be made difficult since the plot demands his capture and termination from the proceedings.  

I suppose one of the lessons Dickens wishes to convey here is the fruitlessness of pursuing the career of a gentleman if not backed up by an actual occupation.  That is to say, hey, get a job you snobs, like myself, your inherited money won't last long.  That may seem obvious to us today, but perhaps in 19th century England it was not.

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