Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is the perfect example of why we should all revisit the classics as adults. This novel is incredible, filled with some of the most fascinating literary characters I have ever had the pleasure of reading: Pip, Miss Havisham, Estella, Joe, Herbert, Wemmick, Jaggers, and Magwitch.

From the Publishers

Pip doesn’t expect much from life…

His sister makes it clear that her orphaned little brother is nothing but a burden on her. But suddenly things begin to change. Read more . . .

Pip’s narrow existence is blown apart when he finds an escaped criminal, is summoned to visit a mysterious old woman and meets the icy beauty Estella. Most astoundingly of all, an anonymous person gives him money to begin a new life in London.

Are these events as random as they seem? Or does Pip’s fate hang on a series of coincidences he could never have expected?

Penguin Classics

Book Club Party Ideas for Great Expectations

Decorations

Print out a couple of Charles Green’s 1877 illustrations of Miss Havisham (she MUST be included), a photo of Charles Dickens, a map of Dickens’ London, and a file.

Charles Green, ‘Miss Havisham’, c. 1877

“In an arm-chair, with an elbow resting on the table and her head leaning on that hand, sat the strangest lady I have ever seen, or shall ever see.”

Charles Green, ‘Miss Havishams Wedding Table’, c. 1877

“Miss Havisham laid a hand upon my shoulder. In her other hand she had a crutch-headed stick on which she leaned, and she looked like the Witch of the place.
‘This,” said she pointing to the long table with her stick, “is where I shall be laid when I am dead. They shall come and look at me here.'”

“What have I done! What have I done!”

And be sure to stop the clocks at twenty minutes to nine!

Twenty to Nine

Great Expectations Book Club Party

What to Wear

Dress up as a Victorian lady or gentleman, or in a creepy bride costume! (A creepy bride costume would be my choice!)

Music

Herbert bestows a nickname on Pip based on Pip’s past apprenticeship: “Would you mind Handel for a familiar name? There’s a charming piece of music by Handel, called the The Harmonious Blacksmith.”
Handel’s The Harmonious Blacksmith can be found on The Essential Masters Collection.


Book Club Menu for Great Expectations

“Dine like Dickens with a hearty winter meal topped off with a decadent dessert.” oprah.com

Meal

“Hearty and savory” are words that nicely describes this English Pork Pie recipe … much like the “beautiful round compact pork pie” Pip stole from Mrs. Joe’s pantry for the convict.

Dessert

A decadent dessert: British Berry Pudding

Beverages

Uncle Pumblechook provides the spirits on Christmas Day: “I have brought you as the compliments of the season – I have brought you, Mum, a bottle of sherry wine – and I have brought you, Mum, a bottle of port wine.”

And Pip thinks to himself: “Every Christmas Day he presented himself, as a profound novelty, with exactly the same words, and carrying the two bottles like dumb-bells. “


Book Club Resources for Great Expectations

Ratings at the time this post was published

Goodreads: 3.73 stars (448,262 ratings)
Amazon: 4.2 stars (1,254 ratings)
LibraryThing: 3.91 stars (5,308 ratings)
My rating: 4.5 stars  The characters in this novel are memorable. Especially the spurned bride-to-be, Miss Havisham.

Reviews

Discussion Questions

  1. Discuss the title Great Expectations and the theme of “expectations” of the major characters in this book.
  2. Mrs. Havisham used and manipulated both Pip and Estella. What was her motivation? Did she receive the outcome she had hoped for?
  3. Pip’s benefactor insisted that Pip maintain his nickname “Pip” in order to receive his funds. Why do you think his benefactor did this?
  4. Pip is attracted to Estella, as he says, “against reason, against promise, against peace.” Do you understand Pip’s devotion to Estella? Why or why not?
  5. Discuss the theme of suffering – specifically how Pip, Miss Havisham and Estella are affected by their own sufferings.
  6. The character of Biddy acts as Pip’s conscience. In what ways?

Purchase Great Expectations at your favorite bookseller

Charles Dickens and Great Expectations

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Other Works by Charles Dickens can be found here.


My favorite quote from Great Expectations

“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”