GREAT EXPECTATIONS is my latest reading among Charles Dickens's novels and it has become my favourite so far. Dickens has the power of making me smile, laugh, reflect on serious matters, be astonished at his skillfullness as a story-teller, be moved to tears and all in one story . I read it three years ago in summer and it got me so involved I went on reading at night to know what was going to happen to poor Pip.
Though not considered as autobiographical as David Copperfield, which he had published some ten years earlier, the character of Pip represented a Dickens who had learned some hard lessons in his later life. Especially strong throughout the novel are the concepts of fraternal and romantic love, how society thwarts them, how a man should find them. Dickens had left his wife at that time and there were rumours of an affair with a young actress, Ellen Ternan.
For financial reasons, Dickens had to shorten the novel, making it one of his tighter and better written stories. It was published in serial form, as were all of his novels, and the reader can still see the rhythm of suspense and resolution every couple of chapters that kept all of England waiting for the next issue, and me , as I told you, awake at night.
All in all, Great Expectations is considered the best balanced of all of Dickens' novels, though a controversy still persists over the ending. Dickens had originally written an ending where Pip and Estella never get back together. Many critics, including George Bernard Shaw, believe that this rather depressing ending was more consistent with the overall theme and tone of the novel, which began, continued, and perhaps should have finished with a serious, unhappy note (this is the ending chosen for my Italian edition of the novel).
Nevertheless, Dickens published the ending where all is forgiven and Estella and Pip walk out of the Satis House garden together.
I haven't been able to find and see the BBC adaptation of this novel dating back to 1999 but I'd like to do it as soon as possible. I've only seen an American movie (1998) , loosely based on the novel, with Ethan Hawke, Gwyneth Paltrow, Anne Bancroft and Robert De Niro, which transferred the story to nowadays and to the USA.