Warning: This post includes potential spoilers. The review of Volume One should whet your appetite – but please don’t read any further if you plan to read the book.
The novel opens with a sweet and endearingly artless introduction to our juvenile narrator, Philip ‘Pip’ Pirrip. Following the trials and tribulations which accompany him through his rustic upbringing, my heart swelled with compassion for the charmingly frank little boy. Volume One covers his lively childhood and the beginnings of his emotional development but, concluding on a cliff-hanger, leaves us with much to anticipate from Pip’s promising future.
The second volume is an altogether gloomier, more frustrating affair. From the moment we arrive with Pip in the hustle, bustle, noise and corruption of 19th Century London, Dickens slowly builds tension as we witness the course of actions and decisions which accompany his maturation and independence, until, at the conclusion of the section, Pip’s mysterious benefactor is revealed and we are left, once again, in anxious anticipation of coming events.
If we began to question our high opinion of Pip in Volume Two, then it is clear Dickens’ intention in Volume Three is to make a fool of us. As events build to a climax of turbulence and surprising relations emerge linking the various characters which are important to Pip and his fortunes, our protagonist perseveres and proves himself to be just as deserving of our affection and admiration as the innocent little boy who first won them. Certainly his eventual fate is not what we envisioned for that young child of great expectations; but Dickens succeeds in warming our hearts and consolidating our attachment to Pip to the very end.