Sunday, November 7, 2010

Great Expectations

I don't remember if it was 9th or 10th grade.  I don't remember much beyond Miss Havisham, Pip, a "conwict" and something about a scary staircase that turns out to be either the memory of an illustration or a scene from a movie version with Robert De Niro.  One thing I do remember is that I didn't like it.

Forty years later I listen to Great Expectations in my car --and the reasons why I didn't like it back then are obvious.  Its frank and relentless expose of adolescent insensitivity, embarrassment, cluelessness and ingratitude is not something an insensitive, embarrassed, clueless and ungrateful adolescent is ready to countenance.  Too much like looking in the kind of mirror that shows your soul instead of your face.  Too much like confession.  That Pip becomes a sympathetic character by the end of the novel was no consolation: the prospect of a future helping others reach their goals wasn't much fun at 15 either.

Forty years later I think I get it.

There's a lesson there for high school teachers.  Or maybe just for me.