I'm not exactly sure but I think Great Expectations was the first Charles Dickens book I read and the first time was at least twelve or thirteen years ago. I'd forgotten most of it; I actually don't remember how it ends, whether or not Pip ends up with Estella. I bet if I really thought about it I could remember but I've decided to try and keep that bit of my brain foggy.
It occurs to me that many of Dickens' works might have been called Great Expectations. Bleak House is largely about characters who are expecting an inheritance and are gambling their lives away in that expectation. In both books, the desire for a higher, comfortable station is portrayed as hazardous and childish. I like that Pip is unhappy with his own desire.
I began to consider whether I was not more naturally and wholesomely situated, after all, in these circumstances, than playing beggar my neighbour by candle-light in the room with the stopped clocks, and being despised by Estella. I thought it would be very good for me if I could get her out of my head, with all the rest of those remembrances and fancies, and could go to work determined to relish what I had to do, and stick to it, and make the best of it. I asked myself the question whether I did not surely know that if Estella were beside me at that moment instead of Biddy, she would make me miserable? I was obliged to admit that I did know it for a certainty, and I said to myself, "Pip, what a fool you are!"
He wants to be a gentleman because a girl he's attracted to despises him. Well, on the surface she does. She does ask him to kiss her at one point after she's forced him and another boy to brawl. I guess that makes her a tsundere. There's an S&M quality to it, and generally avarice seems to have a masochistic quality in Dickens, with characters like Mr. Pocket having a kind of serenity in their meaningless toil and discomfort knowing the riches that capitalism as promised them, not unlike a religious zealot enduring pain in the hopes of reaching heaven. Which for Pip would be Estella except, as noted above, he has no reason to expect happiness in the unlikely event he wins Estella's heart or even just unabashed respect.
Guess what I was reminded of? Yep, Vertigo, as usual. It's not hard to see Estella as Madeleine/Judy and Biddy as Midge. Midge is certainly a bit weirder than Biddy who is little more than a leftist Victorian ideal of the humble working class woman. But both are mother figures, Biddy being Pip's tutor before the possible object of his affections and Midge self-consciously putting herself into the motherly role for Scottie. One could say Hitchcock's film is superior for supposing this needing to identify as a mother for her peers is not necessarily healthy, at least not for a relationship.
I also found myself thinking of Robinson Crusoe, an audiobook of which I listened to half of yesterday while drawing. My professor for the Literary Criticism class I'm taking mentioned she was reading Daniel Dafoe lately and I remembered I hadn't read Robinson Crusoe since I was in third or fourth grade. One of the many things I don't remember noticing the first time is the Protestant work ethic. Robinson has great expectations, too, which his good parents don't approve of, wanting to go to sea and seek his fortune rather than being content with the middle sort of life his father praises, being neither too rich or too poor. It's not until he finds himself on a deserted island and has to work for all his basic necessities that he finds religion and gets his head right. You could almost say his is an Anabaptist paradise.