I read Great Expectations with great pleasure in junior high school, and in high school, I watched the David Lean adaptation of it – only the first part stayed with me. I just finished the novel for the second or third time, and started to watch the film again, but lost interest after Pip goes to London. The early part of the film does a wonderful job at representing the weirdness of Miss Havisham, the marsh country, the terror of the escaped convicts, the tortured soul of a simple boy.
Should we like Pip? He berates himself for his ingratitude to Joe, his adopted father, and Biddy, the simple girl he could love. He kicks himself for longing for the ice-queen, Estella. He excoriates himself for his desire to climb socially, and for being ashamed of his humble origins. I can’t fault him too much – he is too aware of his failings, and they are all portrayed in retrospect. What can we say but that he was a young boy, immature, and sometimes thoughtless. Would that we were all so wise about our limitations.
The book is called dark, and so it is. Even the happier ending that was substituted for the original one is not all that happy: there is a hope of emotional fulfillment for Pip and Estella, but it is melancholy too. And the thunderbolt that falls on Pip when he returns home, his great expectations in ruins, hoping to turn over a new leaf and propose marriage to Biddy, completely destroys any prideful self-delusions he has left.
Lets say, at least, that Pip learns from his mistakes.