Having just read G E for the first time, what strikes me is its infinite sadness and sense of melancholia. While there is much of Dickens`s customary wit and punning humour in the writing, the
impression is of a man in the grip of an atypical desire to express some deep pain, a sadness inconsolable, exemplified in the self-torturing central figure of Pip, growing up in a household dominated by a much elder sister/mother who is forever `on the Rampage` and a long-suffering, seemingly ineffectual uncle/father, Joe, who is nevertheless virtually the one constant source of hope in the novel - a thoroughly good, unlettered yet deeply human man (an almost Hardyesque figure; and it is in G E that Dickens perhaps foreshadows such works as Tess and The Mayor of Casterbridge) who is nevertheless far more dignified and, in his way, proud than he at first appears. He, Joe, refuses to outstay his welcome both times he visits Pip in London, not only from a sense of incongruity, but also a strong feeling of self-preservation,a gentle pride in his own realness - something Pip himself nearly loses.
Dickens`s final, tentatively hopeful chapter, Pip and Estella in the ruins of Miss Havisham`s garden, is suitably downbeat, refusing to allow the saddened reader too much sunlight, even as we are gladdened by the catharsis of self-knowledge so hard-won by Pip over the course of the previous 500 pages.
This is, like Wuthering Heights, The Mayor of Casterbridge or Jane Eyre, one of the timeless, lightning-struck landmarks of 19th century literature, if anything the most regretfully sombre of all of them.
A mature, autumnally beautiful book.