Week 5: Meeting Miss Havisham

What an exciting, compelling, dark instalment this week! After last week’s cliffhanger, we find ourselves at Mr. Pumblechook’s premises, wonderfully described as “of a peppercorny and farinaceous [floury] character”; a reflection of his trade. The opening paragraphs establish the connection between personal appearance and occupation (particularly through Mr. Pumblechook and his shopman’s corduroys), as well as the Gothic notion that buildings reflect something about the character or lives of those who inhabit them. As we move to Miss Havisham’s house, the tone is set for us to associate the barren brewery and shut-up house with the character of its occupants. The close connection between a person’s appearance and their inner life also lays the foundations for the striking description of Miss Havisham herself, as well as Estella’s final judgement of Pip. Pip has never before thought about his hands or his boots, but begins to see himself through the eyes of Estella in ways that echo the narrator’s judgement of other characters so far. Continue reading “Week 5: Meeting Miss Havisham”

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Week 4: What did you expect?

Appropriately enough, given the novel’s title, this week’s instalment begins and ends with expectations. Pip opens with the pilfering from which he was ‘unexpectedly exonerated’, and ends on his way to Miss Havisham’s with no clue as to ‘what on earth I was expected to play at.’ In both the beginning and end, Dickens throws Pip into bewilderment and uncertainty over his expectations, great or otherwise. Continue reading “Week 4: What did you expect?”

Week 3 — Marsh-alling the Troops

After last week’s cliffhanger we’re straight back into the thick of things this week, with Pip in the arms of the military and Mrs Joe just upon the point of discovering that missing pie. ‘The apparition of a file of soldiers ringing down the butt-ends of their loaded muskets on our door-step’ has to be one of the more eye-catching sentences to open a front page of All the Year Round, and it’s pleasing to imagine contemporary readers being enticed into the story through those means, having initially expected something a little more festive. Continue reading “Week 3 — Marsh-alling the Troops”

Week 2  Christmas with a Difference

As is appropriate for an episode set on Christmas day there is much in this week’s instalment about food and its consumption.  There are two contrasting Christmas dinners.  The first is the convict’s, eaten on the marshes and provided by Pip.  His hasty selection of provisions in the last instalment was astute.  A meat bone, a rind of cheese, bread, some mincemeat, brandy, and then his one mistake, as he sees it the next morning, the specially baked pork pie.  The convict ‘hands’ the mincemeat down his throat ‘more like a man who was putting it away somewhere in a violent hurry, than a man who was eating it’, Pip observes.  He consumes the pie like the dog at the forge, swallowing up ‘every mouthful too soon and too fast’. . . . as if he thought there was a danger in every direction,  of somebody’s coming to take the pie away’.  In the midst of this solitary feast   Pip interjects, ‘I’m glad you enjoy it’ and the convict responds with genuine feeling: ‘Thankee, my boy, I do’.    Continue reading “Week 2  Christmas with a Difference”

Episode 1 — ‘a little piece I have been writing’

Welcome one and all to our Great Expectations Readalong (with an ‘a’)!  Excuse me, I typed ‘Readlong’ before the spellcheck picked it up — not inappropriate, as this is going to be a lovely Long Read, taking us the best part of nine months/thirty six weeks, until 3rd August next year, to complete… Continue reading “Episode 1 — ‘a little piece I have been writing’”