Great Expectations: A Book of Brokenness

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{Photo by Jenny Rollo}
There are times when you read a book, and it grabs you and won’t let go.  Great Expectations has been that book for me. Maybe it is the unforgettable characters like Miss Havisham still dressed in her gown from her wedding day (which was years ago) and shut up in her home with all the clocks stopped at twenty minutes to nine. Maybe it is the journey of Pip as he becomes a man and realizes that all he sought after may not be the ultimate goal. Maybe it is the cautionary tales interspersed in the novel of unforgiveness, selfishness, and revenge. Whatever the reason, the plot line has fascinated me since I was a teen. I have read the book three times and more than likely will read it again in the future.

“Take the pencil and write under my name, I forgive her!” -Miss Havisham
Great Expectations remains timeless even though it was written by Dickens in 1860. For me, the biggest value of the book is the concept of how bitterness and revenge only backfires on us when we hold onto the anger from what has been done to us. A cold heart only destroys itself. Bitterness has a bite that if indulged can poison us. In the end, the only way to win over the anger is to forgive.
“Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but — I hope — into a better shape.” -Estella
Brokenness is also a major theme. Every character in the novel is broken in some way. Pip grows up abused by his older sister. Joe can’t stand up to his wife’s tirades. Mr. Jaggers is constantly hand washing. What is he trying to wash off?  Wemmick almost has two different polar opposite personalities: one for work and one for home. Estella has a heart of ice. Miss Havisham lives more in the past than in the present.  They are all broken. Dickens seems to be saying, “Aren’t we all?” The real goal though is to allow the brokenness to make us better.
“Life is made of ever so many partings welded together.” -Joe
Great Expectations is a book of good-byes. Every character will in some form or fashion have to say good-bye to a life circumstance or another beloved character. We move on in life. We grow. We change. A life that stays the same (like what Miss Havisham tries to create) is stagnant and in the end deadly. We do ourselves a favor when we come to accept that life will be in a constant state of flux.
I highly encourage you to read Dickens’ novel of crazy characters at least once! Your perspective on life will change.  I homeschool both my teen boys, and Great Expectations is one of the novels I require them to read. Here are some links for further study of the book:
A couple of photos thought to be the inspiration for a few places in the novel
Debbie lives in central Alaska with her husband and two teen boys. She loves to read, write, and spend time with loved ones. She homeschools her two boys and runs an in-home business offering Spanish lessons to other homeschoolers. She blogs about faith at The Architect and the Artist and about teaching Spanish at Debbie’s Spanish Learning.


Great Expectations: A Book of Brokenness — 2 Comments

    • I have never read the book, but I have watched the movie, well, it was a movie of the play, not a movie, movie…..I understood the story line better. LOL I’ve never been a huge Dickens fan, but after this post I was more open to at least considering the movies! I read David Copperfield in middleschool and it was not a good experience. LOL

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