I first read Great Expectations by Charles Dickens when I was about 15 or 16 years old. It was one of the first novels, I had read up to that time in my life, that drew me into the story and held me spellbound and wanting more. I presume that is why Dickens is regarded as one of the greatest writers of all time… he made his characters come alive.
I thought about the characters in this book quite often, even after having read the book. Also, I wondered if I would ever find my “Estella” and secure my fortune in life, like Pip… I did!
In addition to reading the book for the second time, I just finished watching the 2012 version of the movie directed by Mike Newell and starring Toby Irvine, Ralph Fiennes, and Jason Flemyng.
My ten favorite quotes from Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, (1867) are as follows:
Quotes cited from “Great Expectations” follow this format: (Page Number)
1. My sister’s bringing up had made me sensitive. In the little world in which children have their existence whosoever brings them up, there’s nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice. It may be only small injustice that the child can be exposed to; but the child is small, and its world is small, and its rocking-horse stands as many hands high, according to scale, as a big-boned Irish hunter. (38)
Comment: I recall perceived injustices as a child from several adults. At that time, I remember how deep those observed inequalities cut into my sensitivities. Now, I would just brush them off. I wonder how many of my students’ views of me are conversely affected as I try to teach them that life is indeed unfair and to learn to live with it?
Questions and Lies
2. Ask no questions, and you’ll be told no lies. (9)
Comment: When I hear this quote I always think of politicians and lawyers… I wonder why?
3. Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle. (95)
Comment: Ingratitude, in my humble opinion, is probably one of the worst characteristics one could have as a character trait. Living in a constant state of gratitude is one of the key components to residing in the present moment and experiencing a state of perpetual bliss.
4. … no man who was not a true gentleman at heart, ever was, since the world began, a true gentleman in manner… no varnish can hide the grain of the wood; and that the more varnish you put on, the more the grain will express itself. (106)
Comment: There is a saying that goes like this. A leopard can’t change its spots. This idiom basically means that a person’s traits and characteristics seldom change, particularly if that person has an evil disposition.
5. We were equals afterwards, as we had been before; but, afterwards at quiet times when I sat looking at Joe and thinking about him, I had a new sensation of feeling conscious that I was looking up to Joe in my heart. (30)
Comment: I have experienced this sentiment. I experience it most often when I think of my parents and grandparents. My thoughts are in essence, is that no matter what I do, I will never measure up to their duty and devotion to their families, to their moral goodness, or to the sacrifices they have made for their beliefs and way of life.
6. I knew not how to answer, or how to comfort her. That she had done a grievous thing in taking an impressionable child to mould into the form that her wild resentment, spurned affection, and wounded pride, found vengeance in, I knew full well. But that, in shutting out the light of day, she had shut out infinitely more; that, in seclusion, she had secluded herself from a thousand natural and healing influences; that, her mind, brooding solitary, had grown diseased, as all minds do and must and will that reverse the appointed order of their Maker; I knew equally well. (233)
Comment: I wonder how many opportunities in life have been stolen from children as parents have lived out their lives through their children?
A Better Man
7. For now my repugnance to him had all melted away, and in the hunted, wounded, shackled creature who held my hand in his, I only saw a man who had meant to be my benefactor, and who had felt affectionately, gratefully, and generously, towards me with great constancy through a series of years. I only saw in him a much better man than I had been to Joe. (261)
Comment: Judgment is a love killer that twists our mind and justifies our bloody deeds!
8. Suffering has been stronger than all other teachings, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but–I hope–into a better shape (284)
Comment: I believe that suffering is such a great teacher because it humbles us and subdues our egos to the point that we are actually able to see our reality for what it truly is.
9. Out of my thoughts! You are part of my existence, part of myself. You have been in every line I have ever read, since I first came here, the rough common boy whose poor heart you wounded even then. You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since–on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the light, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea, in the streets. You have been the embodiment of every graceful fancy that my mind has ever become acquainted with.
The stones of which the strongest London buildings are made, are not more real, or more impossible to displace with your hands, than your presence and influence have been to me, there and everywhere, and will be. Estella, to the last hour of my life, you cannot choose but remain part of my character, part of the little good in me, part of the evil. But, in this separation I associate you only with the good, and I will faithfully hold you to that always, for you must have done me far more good than harm, let me feel now what sharp distress I may. O God bless you, God forgive you! (213)
Comment: If you are going to blame someone for their ill-treatment of you, also blame them for the better person you hopefully have become because of their injustices towards you. Also, blame them for making you stronger, blame them for the lessons they have taught you which have made you wiser. How we treat others, who have mistreated us, defines us not only in this life but for eternity.
Being mistreated is the most important condition of mortality, for eternity itself depends on how we view those who mistreat us. ∼ Grandpa (33)
10. Love her, love her, love her! If she favours you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces—and as it gets older and stronger, it will tear deeper–love her, love her, love her! (141)
Comment: I have learned through experience that “true love” by its very nature carries with it a lot of pain. However, it also provides treasured moments of extreme joy and at times, even bliss.