Great Expectations by Charles Dickens.
Stacks of buttered toast.
It was no nominal meal that we were going to make, but a vigorous reality. The Aged prepared such a haystack of buttered toast, that I could scarcely see him over it as it simmered on an iron stand hooked on to the top-bar; while Miss Skiffins brewed such a jorum of tea, that the pig in the back premises became strongly excited, and repeatedly expressed his desire to participate in the entertainment.

About a year ago, I encountered one extraordinarily inspirational website, by the name of:


the girl who ate books


I cannot remember at which point I read the article, but I do remember that it affected me greatly. This article I speak of, written by the website's author Jessica, turned my own work on its head.

In the article, Jessica outlines her misgivings on the subject of literary criticism...

I really struggle against what I find to be the popular practice of reducing art down to simply whether or not you enjoyed it - the notion that things have only the value that we attribute to them - they have no value of their own.

Now, given that a human brain will try to link new ideas with older knowledge, in order to better understand the new facts being learnt, it was not unusual for me to relate this line of thinking to my own work. It also didn't help that I had been feeling a similar malaise, having had the creeping notion that my work was too self-centered and had no real purpose. The idea began to bug me, and would not let up. So, after much pondering, philosophising, and planning, this new website was born...

Born from a wish to move away from simple descriptions of 'what I did, ate, read,' and instead to explore the unknown quality of my work; that is, the part that ascertains to life itself. In many ways, I wanted to expand my own being into the wider world by looking closely at it, in awe and appreciation.

And that is putting my thoughts on the subject in simple terms.

I neither loved, nor hated, Charles Dicken's Great Expectations. But that is beside the point.

The singularly most important thing to say about Great Expectations is that it is a funny tale. The funny parts seem all the more hilarious for being juxtaposed with the grimmest of details: a musty room, where a wedding cake decomposes, a frightening encounter with a prison escapee, and perhaps the worst of all, an unrequited love. 

This is just the kind of picture of dark humor that Dicken's was so adept at painting...

My sister, Mrs Joe Gargery, was more than twenty years older than I, and had established a great reputation with herself and the neighbours because she had brought me up ‘by hand.’ Having at that time to find out what the expression meant, and knowing her to have a hard and heavy hand, and to be much in the habit of laying it upon her husband as well as upon me, I supposed that Joe Gargery and I were both brought up by hand.
She was not a good-looking woman, my sister; and I had a general impression that she must have made Joe Gargery marry her by hand.

Aside from offering a chuckle or a guffaw here and there, the story also offers the reader an insight into their own mind. Dickens always was a good one to describe life and our variously collected experiences of it. Love, confusion, pain, suffering, overwhelming joy, pride, willful hate. All of these are shown perfectly so that one may empathise with the characters. Perhaps that is what makes the psychotic Miss Havisham so scary; is that we may recognise part of our own mind in hers. 

At any rate, there are some brilliant descriptions of tea and toast...

Piles of buttered toast and tea - Great Expectations feast.