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Great Expectations The Book Verses The Movie

Great Expectations: The Book Verses The Movie Essay, Research Paper Diane Boissonneau March 26th 1999 Great Expectations: The Book Verses the Movie Charles Dickens wrote many famous works, including Great Expectations. Recently, a movie loosely based upon this book was directed by Alfonso Cuaron and starred Gweynth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke.

Great Expectations: The Book Verses The Movie Essay, Research Paper

Diane Boissonneau

March 26th 1999

Great Expectations: The Book Verses the Movie

Charles Dickens wrote many famous works, including Great Expectations. Recently, a movie loosely based upon this book was directed by Alfonso Cuaron and starred Gweynth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke.

Great Expectations is a sensual tale of a young man’s unforgettable passage into manhood, and the three individuals who will undeniably change his life forever. Through the surprising interactions of these vivid characters, this timeless story takes a unique and contemporary look at life’s great coincidences. (Movieweb)

In the book Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, a boy named Philip Pirrip (called Pip) was an orphan, raised by his sister who was twenty years older than he was. He was a very kind and sensitive character. His sister, Mrs. Georgiana Maria Gargery (called Mrs. Joe), was ” not a good looking woman” (Dickens) and was very abusive towards Pip and Joe Gargery, the husband of Mrs. Joe. Joe was the Village Blacksmith and was very fond of Pip.

The story begins with Pip at a graveyard visiting the tombstones of the parents he has never met when suddenly a convict, later identified as Abel Magwitch, threatens to kill Pip if he doesn’t bring him a file and wittles (food) the next morning. Pip did steal what the convict wanted, with much fear of his sister, and brought it to the convict the next morning, but found a different convict who ran away, soon after, he found Abel. Subsequently that afternoon, the convicts were captured. Later on, Joe’s uncle Pumblechook introduced the boy to Miss Havisham, an eccentric lady, who would have Pip come over to play cards with her daughter Estella. Estella was later found as the daughter of Abel Magwitch and Molly, a woman who stood trail for a murder she did not commit and was acquitted of. Molly thought it would be in Estella’s best interest to have Mrs. Havisham adopt her when she was born because she didn’t feel she could provide for her as Miss Havisham could. Estella was very beautiful and brought up to break men’s hearts while remaining supercilious. She made Pip feel as if for her to approve of him he had to become a gentleman and try to cover up his ‘common’ background obviously never knowing of her common background of a housekeeper mother and a convict father.

Miss Havisham would have Estella and Pip play cards to entertain her and would often make comments about how pretty Estella was. In Satis House, the name of Miss Havisham’s home, Pip met Mr. Jaggers. He was a pale young lawyer that was a gentleman, unlike Pip, and was one of Miss Havisham’s many connections.

At about the time Pip fought a pale young gentleman, he was at an inn where the bartender stirred Pips drink with the file that he gave the convict and was given a gift of money.

When Pip was old enough, Miss Havisham paid for Pip to be Joe’s apprentice, which Pip did not want to do because he still yearned to be considered Estella’s equal intellectually. During his apprenticeship Mrs. Joe was attacked by Orlick and became paralyzed. Biddy was then hired to take care over all of the duties that Mrs. Joe once took care of. Pip never finished his apprenticeship because one day Mr. Jaggers informed Pip that an unknown benefactor had made arrangements to provide him with the education of a gentleman, of which he desired so badly because of Estella. Pip automatically assumed that the unknown benefactor was Miss Havisham, but it is later found that his benefactor is actually the convict that he helped that unforgettable day in the graveyard.

Pip pursued his education in London with Mr. Matthew Pocket, a relative of Miss Havisham. While there he became a very close friend to Matthew’s son, Herbert, who was the pale young gentleman that he fought back at Satis House and also resided with Pip at Barnard’s Inn. While Pip was in London, Mrs. Joe died and Pip began to neglect Joe and Biddy. Even when he went to Mrs. Joe’s funeral he acted in a condescending manor towards Biddy and Joe.

The entire time Pip was in London, he continued to neglect Biddy and Joe as he began to pick up extravagant habits that were the total opposite of his background, which led him and Herbert to debt. On Pip’s twenty-first birthday he began to receive a regular allowance of five hundred pounds a year. The first thing that he did with this money was buy Herbert a partnership in a shipping firm, without Herbert ever knowing who was responsible.

Pip’s driving force for being a gentleman was Estella all throughout the entire time he was in London, even though Estella favored the attention of Bentley Drummle, an acquaintance of Pips.

When Pip reached the age of twenty-three Abel Magwitch, under the cover name Provis, who identified himself as Pip’s benefactor. Leading up to this point Miss Havisham had led everyone to believe that she was the benefactor, not by stating it but acting as if she was. When Provis came, Pip’s anticipations and dreams of winning the cold hearted but beautiful Estella drained from him. Although Provis had a penalty of death waiting for him in England, he returned anyway to tell Pip the truth about where all the money he received came from.

Pip’s attention became solely to taking care of Provis, who made a fortune in New South Wales and spent it all on making Pip a gentleman in London. Provis tells Pip and Herbert of Compeyson giving evidence against him just to save himself. In Provis’ story Pip learns that Compeyson is the man that left Miss Havisham at the altar many years ago. He also learns that Provis is Estella’s father and that Molly is her mother. Pip and Herbert began to feel sympathetic for Provis and went under the advice Wemmick, a judge, to take Provis and leave England. When Pip tried to help Provis excape, Orlick severely beat Pip, nearly to his death. Provis got brought back to prison where Pip nursed him until his death, which happened before his execution got to take place. Pip told Provis that Estella got brought up like a lady and that he loved her, which comforted him before he passed away.

After Provis’ death Pip had no money and became extremely sick and was brought back to health by Joe. Joe also paid all of Pip’s debts, but then disappears, not wanting to be in Pip’s way.

Pip intended to marry Biddy since Estella was out of the picture, but when he returned to ask forgiveness from her and Joe for neglecting them, he found that Biddy was married to Joe. Pip then went to the East to work in the firm with Herbert that he helped Herbert become a partner in.

The story ends with Pip going back to Miss Havisham’s old mansion in England, which has been pulled down. While there he finds Estella, now a widow, and a sensitive person. As the walk away hand in hand, it leaves the impression that they will finally be together.

Loosely based on the novel, the movie Great Expectations was released on January thirtieth, nineteen ninety-eight and was directed by Alfonso Cuaron. It starred Gwenyth Paltrow and Ethan Hawke.

The theme of both the theatrical version and the written version of Great Expectations is basically the same. “The story exerts a certain amount of pull…” (Pressley) by having the main character?s lifetime hopes be demolished and turned to dust. His feelings are totally overlooked by Nora and Estella and trampled upon like a sidewalk, but in the end he receives what he ultimately wanted; the love and respect of Estella. Although the settings are different, the message is the same.

Minute things, such as names, were changed in the movie to make it more up to date and not unrealistic and distant to its viewers. The main character, Phillip Pirrip (Pip), assumes the name of Finnegan Bell (Fin) and is played by Ethan Hawke. Through out the whole movie he is put across as a very naive individual that isn?t totally oblivious to his surroundings, but is just so ambitious that he does not give up on his quest to win over Estella.

The character Miss Nora Havisham, the eccentric guardian of Estella, takes the name Miss Nora Diggers Dinsmoor and is not just insane, but an alcoholic. In the book, Nora is the adopted guardian of Estella, but in the movie, she is the aunt.

Fin’s Uncle Joe does not have a last name in the movie, although in the book his last name was Gargery. Fin’s older sister, now under the name Maggie, also does not have a last name in the movie. In the movie Maggie left one night and never returned whereas in the book she was beaten and eventually died after being paralyzed for sometime.

As Estella grew older she became engaged. In the written version it was to Bentley Drummle, a man that Estella choose to marry fort he sake of his social status and wealth. In the theatrical version, she married Walter Plane, a seemingly wealth man who is not too sure of why Estella treats men the way she does. He also mentions in the theatrical version that he thinks that Estella is trying to push him away by throwing herself at Fin. This character is a very different in the different versions of Great Expectations. In the book, he was brutal and treated Estella horribly, leaving her a widow at his death, but a more sensitive individual because of his harsh ways with her. In the movie he is insecure about his relationship with Estella and jealous of Fin.

Mr. Jaggers was the lawyer in the written version, but in the theatrical version he takes the name Jerry Ragno and assumes a particularly different role in the story. In the book Mr. Jaggers was Abel?s lawyer in the murder trial and was commissioned to reward Pip for his help at the graveyard and act as his guardian. He also acted as Nora solicitor after the acquittal of Molly. In the film there was no trial, he was just there to make Fin?s dreams come true as an artist. He paid for all Fins expenses, clothing, apartment, any supply he needed to create his artwork, and anything else that Fin wanted.

In the film many character cuts were also made, such as Clara Barley, Old Bill Barley, Mrs. Brandley, Biddy, Clarriker, Compeyson, Georgiana, Mr. Hubble, Mrs. Hubble, Abraham Lazarus, Molly, Dolge Orlick, Pepper (The Avenger), Jane Pocket, Matthew Pocket, Mrs. Belinda Pocket, Sarah Pocket, Uncle Pumblechook, Cousin Raymond, Miss Skiffins, Startop, Trabb?s Boy, John Wemmick, and Mr. Wopsle. Most of these characters had a position in the book that went along with the idea that Pip wanted to be a gentleman and in the film he wanted to be an artist. If these characters were placed in the film, they would be out of place.

The film is contrary to the book in many more ways then simply character cuts and names changes. For example, the setting in the written version is in a quaint village in England and then later in London, England. In the theatrical version Fin resided in the Gulf of Florida in the United States and then moved to New York, New York to pursue his art career.

In the beginning of the film Fin is eight years old, opposed to the seven-year-old Pip, and is drawing fish that are in the water. Suddenly a convict, Lustig shoots up from under the water, covers Fin?s mouth and demands food and bolt cutters. In the book, Abel (Provis) attacks Pip in the graveyard and demand food and a file. The different setting starts to take place here. Instead of a leg-iron, the convict is in shackles and needs a different tool to remove the hindrance. Later in the film Nora calls Joe to come and take care of her garden because it is overgrown and desperately needed tending to. Joe took Fin with him to help out with the work, but Nora mysteriously slips five hundred dollars under the door and states ?It?s for gas.? (Dickens) When Fin went looking through the massive overgrown vegetation, Nora saw him through the window and called his sister Maggaie asking if it would be alright to send Fin to her house on Saturday to play with her niece. Maggie took in account the fact that Nora was the wealthiest person in the Gulf and agreed to let Fin play with Estella. The eccentric woman expected Fin to dance, but he did not know how, so he offered to draw for her. Nora called in Estella and had Fin draw her portrait on the back of a piece of wallpaper with lipstick and eyebrow make-up. Fin was amazed by Estella?s beauty, but told Nora that he thought Estella was a ?snob? (Cuaron) and he also thought that ?she doesn?t like [him]? (Cuaron). From then on, every Saturday, Fin went to Nora?s house to see Estella and Nora, who always had Estella and Fin dance.

One day Estella and Fin were dancing, and Estella stopped dancing because she said she had a party to go to, and Nora said that she had to have an escort, but she did not. Fin then told Estella that he would not mind being her escort to the party. They did not go to the party, instead going back to Fin?s house, where he only lived with Joe, because Maggie had left years before without ever returning. They then had sexual relations, and when the time was ten thirty PM, Estella claimed that she had to go home because she had a lot of stuff to do that night. The next morning Fin went to her house to ask her about the night before, because he was baffled by her actions, but Nora explained to him that she had left to go to school in Switzerland and wouldn?t be returning.

From that point on Fin did not pursue his art anymore, and he thought that the best thing for him to do was to become a ?man? and live in reality, not his own world that revolved around Estella.

As Fin grew older and the years went by he began to earn money by fishing and doing odd jobs with Joe. As Fin is painting a boat, a lawyer by the name of Jerry Ragno tells Fin that he is being paid to make all Fins dreams come true. He brought Fin one thousand dollars and a plane ticket to New York to pursue his painting career. At first he was reluctant, but he made the decision to go and there, just like Jerry promised, his art dreams came true.

While he was in New York painting he went to get a drink from a fountain, and there was Estella. She invited him for a drink and he met her boyfriend. Estella also told everyone there that he was her first love, stunned by this, he asked to paint her portrait again. From then on she led his emotions on a roller coaster ride. Telling him of her engagement, taking off all her clothes in front of him so he could paint her (without him asked her to do so), having sexual relations with him and then on the day of his art show, leaving, without telling him she was doing so. Fin became extremely upset and went to her house in New York, but there he found Nora. Nora told him that Estella had gotten married. Fin then gave Nora the same statement that she had given him in Florida: ?Feel this? [Putting her hand on his chest] this is my heart, and it is broken? (Cuaron). He then left and went back to his apartment, where he came in contact with the convict (Lustig, under the cover name of Arthur). Lustig hinted that he was Fin?s benefactor and commended Fins artistic talent. A group of men outside of the apartment disliked ?Arthur?, and was threatening to kill him. In response to this he showed the convict another way out of the apartment to the subway. At the subway, they boarded the train, but one of the men that did not like Arthur stabbed him. Then Arthur identified himself as Fin?s benefactor and said that Fin was the only person who had ever done something truly nice for him and that giving Fin all of his money was his way of showing his gratitude. He also states that he bought out Fin?s art show. Arthur then passed away.

After these events had passed, Fin decided to go back to Florida and visit Joe. When he went back, he found out that Nora had passed away, Joe was married and had a child, and that the building that Nora resided many years before, was scheduled to be torn down. Fin then went to go visit the building he spent his childhood in and found Estella and her child. Estella was divorced and asked Fin for his forgiveness. The film ended with the two of them holding hands overlooking the water.

Critics have many different opinions about the film. Two negative criticisms are?

?The film is proof that if you repackage the classics? for the youth market in an era of MTV dislocation, what you get, in essence, is postmodern Cliffs Notes with an alt-rock soundtrack.? (Gleiberman)

?If Charles Dickens were alive today, he’d probably demand that his name be removed from this weirdly misconceived update of his work, which will make young viewers think he must have been a writer of campy, overripe romance novels? This [New York] is not what De Niro’s convict [Lustig] means when he expresses the hope that the boy will grow up to become a “gentleman.” The unfortunate irrelevance of that notion to the modern world should have made the filmmakers pause before tampering with Dickens’ masterful tale of a young man’s transcendence of his class origins.? (McBride)

Reviews of the book were different than the reviews of the film in that they were appraisals, and not gashes at the art that these two versions of the basic theme of Great Expectations. One of the reviews of the written masterpiece is?

“Great Expectations” is at once a superbly constructed novel of spellbinding mastery and a profound examination of moral values. Here, some of Dickens’s most memorable characters come to play their part in a story whose title itself reflects the deep irony that shaped Dickens’s searching reappraisal of the Victorian middle class.? (Dickens, pp. IV)

If the film was not based upon the classic by Charles Dickens, and the classic was never written, the reviews would be much better than a majority of them are. The general view of the film is that it destroyed the legacy of the novel and gave many viewers the wrong impression of Dickens works. The film and the book run along the same baseline but are set in two totally different time periods, which left director Alfonso Cuaron with a more modern version of Great Expectations that appeals to younger viewers who have not read the classic by Charles Dickens, and in many cases turns off the many people who have.

Works Cited

Pressley, Nelson. “‘Expectations’ not met in this version of Dickens classic.” The Washington Times. 8/11/98

Cuaron, Alfonso. “Great Expectations.” 1/30/98

Dickens, Charles. “Great Expectations.” 1860-1861

Gleiberman, Owen. ?Great Expectations.? 2/6/98

Entertainment Weekly. 3/13/99

McBride, Joseph. ??Great Expectations? collapses into banality.? Cinemania Online. http://seattle.sidewalk.com/detail/43157. 3/15/99

“Movie Web: Great Expectations.” 1998. 3/10/99

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