My Expectations

I’ve been busy reading Great Expectations. Possibly the least important but most satisfying thing about this novel is that “expectations” is used as a noun that means, not what one hopes to get in the future, but what one fully expects will occur pretty soon. So, Pip refers to his “expectations” all the time, almost as though they were standing, maybe a little overdressed and stuffy, right next to him. Like this: “The People in the town were made aware of my expectations and began to behave as though they had always liked me.” But we know, just because it is that kind of book, that his expectations are going to surprise him and probably really throw him for a loop. You could just substitute the word “relations” for “expectations” to see what’s in store for him.

Other things I like about this book: A lawyer who bites his thumb at people, looks at them as though they must surely be guilty and does it with so much certainty that even innocent people behave as though they’ve sinned somehow. A clerk who calls his father “The Ancient.” A cannon that goes off on the hour. Mysterious convicts. Mists on the marshes. A woman whose disappointment is lavish, monumental, artistic and insane. Very old wedding cake. A fine portrait of how stupidly we can love.

There is a wine distributor in Emeryville called “Grape Expectations.” I think Dickens would find that amusing.


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