Sunday, April 27, 2008

Great Expectations

I'm reading "Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens at the moment. In short, Great Expectation is a bildungsroman about the story's protagonist, Pip. Pip is a simple orphan from the country who has Great Expectations of making something of himself. One day, he is given an opportunity to do just that, because of a mysterious benefactor unknown to him, who will financially support his social betterment. The second part of the story deals with his sudden climb up the social ladder from poor rural lad without connections, to socialite.

I'm currently about half way through the novel and the way in which Pip seemlessly makes the transition into high society grates upon me somewhat, but not as much as the fact that he quickly becomes embarrassed by the humble circumstances of his upcoming. Of course, there also truth in the fact that it is good I feel outraged, because this is precisely what Dickens is trying to evoke in his audience. Of particular interest in Pip's desire to improve Joe, a kindly but rather dull blacksmith who raises him. Biddy, who helps out in the home insightfully points out that Joe feels self-sufficient in his humble calling and he would merely be embarrassed by the inadequacy he would feel in high society. I found this to be a particularly clever challenge to the elitism and smugness that high society often takes towards those who move in other circles.

Upon reflecting I tend to think that this part of the story is cutting a bit too close, considering my own life circumstances. While I'm certainly not embarrassed upon my upbringing, I seem to be fighting strongly against my change in circumstances at times, while not at all at other times. While I'm certainly not rich by any estimation, I realise that I am becoming one of those people on the inside of the system I used to rail against. Sometimes it is quite easy to stop fighting and simply take my newly found social status for granted, becoming complacent to the causes that I once eagerly fought for. I must confess that it is a fine balancing act sometimes, and even harder when you struggle to feel empathy for those things that you know should be important.

Of course, I haven't read the second half of the novel yet, by which stage I will probably come to quite a different impression. I guess it is the same thing with respect to my life. I know all too well in my head that life is by no means a constant journey and that there will be times of waxing and waning enthusiasm for those things that were once important to me. What's more, you can be in the forrest and not see where you are because all the trees get in your way. It is all too cliched to say that things will be more understandable with the benefit of hindsight, because this doesn't help me much now. Whether one plods along aimlessly or carefully charts a path, one doesn't always know whether they are choosing the wisest course. I guess it is during those times that we are to "walk by faith", whatever that means ...

1 comment:

Ebe said...

I will be interested to see what your interpretation of the ending is.... Oh, but i guess it depends on which version you are reading as there are a few different endings. Dickens wrote one ending, then changed it later.... One is more popular than the other, but both are available to buy.