Monday, April 10, 2006

Chapter Five (part 8)

(continuing the "all nighter" conversation between Cassie and her lovers P. and S.)

"Fine, then let's look at Cassie's example." P. couldn't have been more confident— or more fucking magnificently arrogant and condescending, the same self-confidence which made me fall in love with him, the same self-assuredness which makes winning a point with him so damned difficult— and delicious. "What is the 'meaning' of Great Expectations?"

"Money isn't everything?"

"If you're rich, you'll get the girl?"

"Don't live in the past— especially if you have a big wedding cake in your house?"

"Pride cometh before a fall?"

S. and I looked at each other; we were conspirators again, on the defensive, inadequately-armed.

"It's about the failure of time and desire to coincide." P. paused, and I thought about his meaning. "Every character is looking to someone else for their fulfillment: Magwitch wants a proper gentleman for a son-in-law, so he adopts Pip. Pip despises Magwitch because he's common and coarse. He's in love with the beautiful and seemingly aristocratic Estella, who uses him to sharpen her claws. He doesn't know she's Magwitch's daughter, she's like an arrow on a runaway compass, unable to care about anyone, raised to be the perfect instrument for revenge on the male of the human species by Miss Havesham."

"As perfect an emotional assassin as was ever trained to kill without remorse, in this case killing the hearts of all the men who meet her," I finished P.'s thought.

"All of the characters find disappointment at every step along the way. The novel's an even bleaker assessment of human nature than Bleak House." He paused to let his heavy words sink in.

"And the happy ending?" My voice cracked slightly from dryness after so much talking, I sounded as if I was pleading for Estella's redemption through Pip's love for her. "Doesn't love mean something?" A question we'd all like answered.

"You know, Dickens added the so-called happy ending later."

"Did he? He did! Don't tell me that!" I felt manipulated, devastated.

"The novel originally ended with Pip running into a much-changed Estella on the street— not in Miss Havesham's old house as it does now. Dickens recognized his original ending failed— it doesn't tie together the world he created in the novel. So he brings Pip and Estella together in that dream-like final scene. Yet despite his powers as a writer, he can't make things turn out right. The ending leaves uncertainty and loss. When Pip says he could see no parting, he's not telling the reader they will remain together."

"No, don't say that! Don't say that!"

I felt deflated hearing his verdict. Never parting. The concept has such appeal. Never-ending love is so seductive, yet what if love changes? Or if the people who fell in love change? What then? Does a love have to last? And if it's really love, why would it end? How is it we can fall out of love the same as if we'd grown tired of a dress or the same apartment we've lived in for years?

(to be continued)