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Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens
490 pages, General Fiction
Reviewed by Aslan's Lamb

A classic with excellent values but some violence.

Plot

Pip is a young boy being brought up by his harsh older sister and her kind husband, Joe. After Pip meets the beautiful and cruel Estella, he dreams of becoming a gentleman so that he might win her. As he grows into a man, it seems as if his dream might become a reality. But after his "great expectations" are crushed, he must face the person he has become and make some difficult choices.

Morality

Dickens gives us characters that range from forgiving and compassionate (such as Joe) to cruel and wicked, with every shade in between. More than one character changes for the better by the end although they go through long difficult journeys to get to that point. Pip's own moral growth is especially interesting to witness.

Spiritual Content

When young Pip confesses to Joe about having lied, Joe tells him that all lies "come from the father of lies" and suggests that he tell God about it during meditations and "don't ever do it no more." Pip obeys. As an adult, Pip occasionally prays and seems to have a sincere faith in Gd.

The narrator comments on religion but never criticizes Christianity itself, just the way some people practice it.

Violence

The violence ranges from mild (Pip fights another boy, Joe knocks down the man who insulted his wife) to more serious. A woman is hit on the back of the head, causing her to become mute and paralyzed. A man kills another underwater. A convict threatens a child, saying that he will come to him in the middle of the night and kill him. A woman is seriously burned in a fire. A story is told about a woman who strangled another woman.

Drug and Alcohol Content

A group of young men drink a bit too much.

Sexual Content

A woman is referred to as a man's supposed "mistress."

Crude or Profane Language or Content

None.

Conclusion

Few writers deal with the themes of forgiveness and compassion as expertly as Dickens does here.

Fun Score: 5
Values Score: 4.5
Written for Age: adult

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