When you sit down with a novel the size of a bible you’re expecting something at least as dramatic as the walking on water, rising from the dead, feeding 5,000 adventures of that whacky character called Jesus. Or at least you’re expecting something to happen, that’s a lot of pages to fill with nothing. But the novel isn’t just a big book, it’s written by Charles Dickens. This guy is studied across the globe for his literary contributions to the world. He’s the reason that every now and then the song ‘food glorious food’ and the phrase ‘more boy!’ get stuck in my head (sure he didn’t write that song, but would it have been written if he didn’t write the book?). He’s the reason we have ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. So let’s raise those expectations higher still.
If you’ve not read the novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (or Darles Chickens as Matilda would say), then I have three things to say to you. One, don’t bother. Two, congratulations on not having wasted a good chunk of your life wading through that novel. Three, this blog post may contain spoilers, although as not much really happens you could consider them not to be spoilers at all. May contain nuts.
You see the trouble with Great Expectations is the same as the trouble with great expectations, or expectations of any sort really. Expectations open you up to disappointment.
As a habitual shipper (seriously I root for an unnecessary number of relationships to work out) of course I was disappointed to find that by the end of the story nothing had really happened in Pip’s love life. But more than that he was back where he started, with not much more happening than a guy he didn’t really know dying, and an old lady he helped out for a summer also dying and his older sister/guardian dies too. Which might seem like quite a bit happened, but this is Victorian England, dying is the done thing.
So my expectations for Great Expectations were crushed under the weight of the empty pages. But don’t worry disappointment is a thing I’m accustomed to. Because you see before I sat down to read this “great” novel I’d already lived in the real world for quite some time.
As near as I can tell, there’s no disappointment without first having expectations. And it’s hard not to have expectations. Waking up on Christmas expecting to have your entire wish list fulfilled and sat under the tree even though you’re not sure how you’d get an electric powered kiddy car under there anyway. Opening up your exam results expecting to see the grades you’re capable of rather than the grades you deserve because you did no revision. Waking up every morning to do a job you hate even though you expected to find a job you loved, because you were unlucky enough to be born into the generation that was completely f***ed over by the baby boomer generation. Rocking up at the ice cream parlour and expecting a kinder bueno milkshake but you find they’ve just stopped serving milkshakes. These are all some pretty big examples of how life is just a carbon copy of Great Expectations.You expect greatness from a novel that has the audacity to put the word ‘Great’ in the title and you get mediocrity and blandness. But it’s not all gloomy, a life of disappointment prepares you for them.
The first step is to keep your expectations low to begin with. Personally I prefer to be a pessimist because it’s much harder to disappointment someone that thinks everything is going to suck. I’m just occasionally pleasantly surprised.
The next step is one that some people struggle with, no matter how simple it sounds. Get over it. I’m doing pretty well at getting over life’s disappointments. I am still a little sore about the milkshake but I’m getting there. Ironically the key to getting over the disappointments is positivity. Which would make me a positive pessimist… Sure I never got that car when I was 7 but now I have a real car, she’s called Vera and she goes brum. Sure I didn’t get the grades I wanted but it turns out I didn’t need them anyway. Sure I didn’t get the job I wanted but now I have plenty of free time to do the things I want to and I can pursue my writing.And yeah, I feel like I wasted my time reading that massive novel but now not only can I warn you not to bother, but I can truthfully say that I have read it. Not like when people say ‘oh you like literature? you must of read this’ and I lie through my teeth ‘yeah, sure, I read that. What a classic…’
Look at me go with this positivity.