Tuesday 7th February was Charles Dickens’ 200th birthday. Bolton School, Girls’ Division,celebrated the UK’s most famous novelist’s birthday in style, as all the pupils and the staff, came to school, dressed as a Dickens’ character. The corridors were awash with Ghosts, Miss Havishams, and street urchins. I even had a glimpse of a Barnaby Rudge-not an everyday occcurrence I can tell you!
I was pleased to have the chance to say a few words about my favourite writer and remembered with great love and affection, my old tutor Steve Newman, whose understanding of Dickens was truly inspirational and for me, never bettered.
Great Expectations is a deeply sad book. Sad to the bones because although the first person narrative may relate events that are apparently finished, they are hardly finished with. It is a novel of recurrence and repetition.
When we look back, Orpheus like or otherwise, we are taking a risk. For what or who are we reanimating and once we bring them back, what might they do to us?
The compelling intensity of Great Expectations grows out of this intensely realised relation to the past. Pip’s growth in the novel is ironic, for the novel begins in a place of death and even in the revised ending, seems to end there too.
What are we seeing replicated through the haunting and hallucinatory narrtive? The return of the repressed? Hamlet’s father with just the same intent as that recurring figure of unease and horror?
Even words haunt each other, as if they too, cannot escape the prison house of unfinished, unresolved remembrance.
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