Week 9: Another January placeholder?

Two months in to the serialisation. We started on Christmas eve in murky weather on the marshes, with guns firing for escaped convicts. 9 weeks have passed. It’s now late January … and the weather is still murky, and guns are firing for escaped convicts. Is it just me, or are we all enjoying and just a little bit surprised by, how SLOWLY Great Expectations is building? Continue reading “Week 9: Another January placeholder?”

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Week 8: Myrmidons and mercenaries and pistols, oh my!

(Pumblechook)__Leave_this_lad_to_me,_Ma'am;_leave_this_lad_to_me__

We start this week as we left off, with the pale young gentleman, and the thought that kept coming back to me as Pip’s imagination takes flight as to the awful fate that awaits him was not so much Pip as storyteller, as Ben pondered a couple of instalments ago, but Pip as reader. The pale young gentleman in Pip’s mind is a figure of romance, and a Gothic romance at that, in which Pip is the ravager who has ‘blood on his head’ and the pale young gentleman his helpless ‘incrimsoned’ victim. The ‘thousand tangles’ that Pip twists himself into that night as he imagines his doom all sound rather like the plot of a cheap penny blood, whether it be a corpse-like Miss Havisham shooting him with a pistol or a band of mercenaries being hired to murder him. His ‘deed of violence’ however results in no greater doom than pushing Miss Havisham around the garden in a wheelchair: a prosaic domestic scene that juxtaposes sharply with Pip’s imaginings. Here Pip reminds me of Austen’s Catherine Morland, whose voracious appetite for Gothic literature causes her to recast ordinary mundane events in the trappings of Anne Radcliffe and Matthew Lewis. Continue reading “Week 8: Myrmidons and mercenaries and pistols, oh my!”

Week 7: Full of appearance

Havisham
‘Pip and Miss Havisham’ by Charles Green (1898)

The previous instalment ends with poor Pip screaming himself awake. He is haunted by the stolen file ‘coming at me out of a door, without seeing who held it’, after its unexpected reappearance in the scene at the Three Jolly Bargeman. Ben noted the oddity of the stranger using the file to stir his drink last week. This is the sort of thing that makes more sense in a dream and parts of this episode have a similarly dreamlike quality. The instalment lacks the grounding influence of Joe and the forge, consisting of a single chapter set entirely within the rooms and grounds of Satis House. There is nothing quite as fantastic as Pip’s invention of the velvet coach, veal cutlets, immense dogs, and flag games, but nonetheless the second visit to Miss Havisham’s is full of bizarre incidents and surreal details. Continue reading “Week 7: Full of appearance”

Week 6: Tall Tales

One of the unifying themes or ideas that I found myself pondering this week is the power of the storyteller; to fashion and command a narrative is quite a powerful thing in Great Expectations. We open with a double narrative, with the elder Pip telling the story of the younger Pip telling the story of his visit to Miss Havisham. Like Pumblechook, the serial reader is driven by a ‘devouring curiosity’ to ingest Pip’s story and this humorous image of oral rapacity – with Pumblechook and Mrs Joe voraciously guzzling Pip’s fabulous embellishments – perhaps connects reading and storytelling with other images of ravenous ingestion in the novel. Whether it’s with a stolen pie, his fantastical lies or his mature narrative, Pip sates the figurative and literal hunger of others. His hilariously fantastical account also displays the embryonic descriptive powers of the burgeoning author.

Continue reading “Week 6: Tall Tales”