Books into Films, Movies

Great Expectations

Dear Children, if you were expecting an essay on the novel, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, that would make a suitable — template, yes, let’s say template — for your school essays, prepare to be disappointed.

That use that I shall call “template” is why I don’t review classic books.

Let’s face it; if you want to read a review of the classics, there’s Wikipedia. There’s 8th grade English class, Spark Notes, Cliff Notes, and a whole bunch of websites devoted to authors and their tomes.

But where else will you read reviews of The Grumpy Cat book?

But let’s take a moment to talk about Great Expectations…but from the movie perspective.

There have been many versions of Great Expectations released in film, and my favorite is the 1946 version, although I dislike the changed ending. Part of what makes the original story so heart-wrenching is the ending in which Pip finds Estelle, newly remarried after being widowed from Drummle and realizes he will never get his heart’s desire. It’s an uncharacteristically sad ending for Dickens, who normally wraps up everything tidily with a big satin bow, so uncharacteristic that he bowed to public pressure in 1863 and actually tweaked the ending to make it a bit more optimistic. The 1946 movie pushes it further, with Pip helping Estella emerge from her self imprisonment in Miss Havisham’s house, symbolically letting in the sunlight by ripping away the moldy drapes, taking her hand and dashing off into the fresh air.  It may not be accurate to the novel, but it does feel good, and as movie endings go, it is satisfying.

The movie versions of most novels, especially classic novels, often fail because so much of the action takes place in the minds and hearts of the characters that it is difficult for the actors and director to capture it on screen. Dickens makes for some of the best adaptations because his serial novels, originally published as chapters in magazines, were written to be cliff-hangers, with daring and exciting plots, memorable and outlandish characters that must be a lot of fun for actors to portray, and great dialogue.

But remember, kids. As summer draws to a close, and that reading list stares at you from where Mom left it to nag you into finishing your summer assignments, do not turn to the internet or to movies to find out what you need to know to pass your assignment on your summer reading.  Internet sources can be inaccurate. Movies can change the books to shorten them, close plot gaps, or change the ending so it’s happily ever after.

Go home.

Read the book!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *