Great Expectations

I first read the abridged version of this book as a non – detailed study in my 8th standard. The characters in the book -Pip, Estella, Havisham -left a lasting impression on me at that time. I always wanted to read the whole book one day, but I didn’t come across it until after my graduation. When I found the book as a free download in Project Gutenberg last year, I was excited as I was going to meet the characters once again. The size of the book shocked me because the abridged version I read in my childhood was just a hundred pages, while the original book is too long. Yet it was once again a wonderful journey with Pip, Estella, Joe,Biddy Havisham and ofcourse the prisoner Magwitch.

The length of the novel, I learnt later, was due to the fact that the author Charles Dickens was paid in terms of number of words. The avid description of the marshes at the starting of the book lets us paint the whole scene in our mind. The transition of a common village boy to a successful person is a story we hear often, but here the author presents a deep insight into the struggle the boy faces to become successful, and in the journey the valuable lessons he learnt are also shown.

When Pip first meets Estella, she calls him a common village boy, and mocks that his hands are coarse and dirty. This fires a strong ambition in Pip to become great, and to prove that he’s not ‘common’. At that time, an offer to become gentleman by an unknown benefactor comes like a gift. Pip lives in the wrong impression that it is Miss Havisham who is doing everything to make him eligible for Estella, and so he ignores Joe, Biddy and his sister. But it is later revealed it was a prisoner who made him a gentleman. This and several other incidents open his eyes.  He comes to realise the greatness of Joe, who loved him truly without any expectations. He apologises to Joe and Biddy for his rudeness, and later he becomes a successful business man along with his friend Herbert.

Every character in this story is unique, and that is what made this a novel Classic. Though it’s long, don’t hesitate to invest time on this novel as it teaches valuable lessons of friendship, love, and greatness.

Remembering 'Rebecca'

I’ll never forget my first visit to Manderley, the beautiful English country estate. As I trudged along with the narrator, in her dream, through the narrow, overgrown path leading to the estate, and when I saw the ivy growing through the forlorn windows, I was filled with a vague despair. It was then the story started with an intriguing note that the estate was no more.

Plot

The book immediately pulled me into the story since the narrator was unnamed, and I found myself in the place of the young girl who works as companion to a rich lady. She becomes acquainted with a wealthy Englishman ‘Maxim’ at French Riviera, who is the owner of a mansion called Manderley. Though he’s nearly as old as her father, she couldn’t help falling in love with the gentleman who shows affection, and who respects her though she’s poor. She’s sometimes intrigued by the lost look on his face, but she later learns that he had lost his wife Rebecca recently, and he’s unable to move on.  She’s surprised, and relieved, when he asks her hand for marriage. She gladly accepts, and accompanies him to Manderly after the wedding.

She’s welcomed into the new home by Mrs.Danvers, the housekeeper of Manderley. Profoundly devoted to Rebecca, she starts treating the narrator with contempt, reminding her that she’s always inferior to seemingly perfect Rebecca. Lacking self confidence and overwhelmed by her life, she allows Mrs.Danvers to manipulate her into believing that Maxim married her by mistake, and that a poor girl like her is not good enough to manage a big household like Mandarley. Maxim avoids the places which may remind him of his first wife, and wears a strange mask of lost look on his face, which further confirms her view. She imagines the ghost of Rebecca haunting her everywhere inside the huge mansion, and she finds herself always imagining things like, “This is where she used to sit. This is where she used to give orders.”  Cracking up under the pressure of Mrs. Danvers, she comes close to committing suicide by jumping out of an upstairs window, but she’s distracted by the disturbance created by a shipwreck. The ship carrying Rebecca on the night she died is discovered. What happened to Rebecca? Will the marriage of Maxim and the narrator sustain with Mrs. Danvers around? What happened to Mandarley? You’ve got to find it yourself.

Style

Author Daphne du maurier wrote this book in a unique poetic style. The words flow effortlessly, making Mandarley and its surroundings come alive in the imagination of the readers. You find yourself smelling red camellias, walking through the dense canopy in the forest, and listening to the sound of sea through the window in west wing, as you follow the timid narrator walking through the estate. You can feel the prickle of hawk like eyes of Mrs. Danver, and you can sympathise with the narrator as she finds herself unable to compete with Rebecca. This book is a sensory, emotional treat, and I promise you’ll not be disappointed by this classic.