Changed Expectations

I don’t usually get this into “the classics”, but I’m on Book 7 of The Mary Russell  series, which I’ve already written a fanatical love post about, and I’m trying to finish Scott Westerfeld’s Behemoth, which is lots of fun, but hasn’t yet yielded anything worthy of a blog post.

So we’re back to Dickens and the recent BBC Great Expectations, because I have a TON to say about it. It was quite different from the original and yet I felt like it was remarkably plausible. If you can see Dickens like Shakespeare–something to keep fresh through experimentation–I highly recommend watching it.

Expectations is one of those books that I hated reading in high school because honestly, it’s depressing. If you don’t like the book, I totally feel your pain. But then I hit college and had my first break up in college, and suddenly the story became relevant!

Warning: Major spoilers of Great Expections (book and miniseries) AND David Copperfield below

Let’s get the most important thing out of the way: The miniseries gave Expectations a happy ending! 

Of course, Dickens originally wrote two endings, but does anyone really buy his awkward attempt at a happy ending? Can you even call it happy when two toxic characters end up together?

Guess what? The BBC actually pulled it off better than Dickens did.

To some extent, I don’t see the point in making Expectations happy because that’s why David Copperfield exists, right? I’ve always seen the two books as flip sides of the same coin. In both, we watch the main character from childhood to adulthood and see him  make his fortune, fall in love with the wrong woman, and lose that woman. The only difference is that David Copperfield learns from his mistakes and is rewarded with a new love, whereas Pip never gets the girl because he fails to overcome his flaws. Copperfield asks whether David is the hero of his own story, whereas I’ve always felt that readers should ask themselves whether Pip is the villain of his own story.

(I didn’t intend this post to be so much about Copperfield, but it’s just impossible for me to talk about one book without mentioning the other). Here’s some Copperfield love:

Someday I want to write a retelling of Expectations from Estella’s point of view. I find her the true victim of the novel because of how Pip objectifies her. I think he refuses to look at her honestly and his self-deception results in him destroying her. He creates the monster that she becomes as much as Miss Havisham and Estella herself did.

I actually believe that Estella cares for Pip, which is the only reason she warns him to stay away, because she loves him enough to not want to hurt him. Not enough to change completely, but compared to her other flirtations it’s a big step in the right direction. Pip’s love for her is not true and they really should not end up together.

BUT BUT BUT in the miniseries, they DO and it works!

That’s because the miniseries allowed Pip a second chance and emphasized Miss Havisham’s tyranny over Estella. In the novel, it’s left unknown how much of Estella’s cruelty is nature vs. nurture. The miniseries decides that Miss Havisham is basically forcing Estella into being a heart breaker and once Miss H. is gone, Estella is free to choose her own destiny. And she chooses Pip because by the time Estella is free, Pip has matured.

The miniseries has Pip see how haughty and obsessed he had become with impressing Estella. He returns home to Joe, having forgiven Miss Havisham and learning humility. And then he meets a changed Estella at Satis House and both characters have reached a point where they won’t hurt each other by being together. The redemption angle works well on screen because you feel more sympathy with Pip during the whole plot because you can see his struggles on his face instead of reading his pathetic thoughts on the page.


1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Fernanda
    Aug 18, 2013 @ 19:58:29

    I really love Pip, but I really like your opinion about him and Great Expectations. I thought it would be nice, very nice to read Estella’s POV.


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