Home > divorce, family law general > Great Expectations: A Dickens Classic, a Family Law No-no

Great Expectations: A Dickens Classic, a Family Law No-no

I woke up this morning to NPR as I always do, and through the foggy I-Just-Waking-Up-Haze heard someone say that today would’ve been Charles Dickens’, author of many a classic, 200th birthday.  And I think someone mentioned something about the book “Great Expectations,” and I remember vaguely thinking, “Hey, that’d be a great blog post…zzzzzz.”  And I did that go in and out of concsiousness thing until they started talking about Syria, which always gets me out of bed, if just to get away from misery in Syria.

This afternoon my dad sent me a text:  “200th birthday of Charles Dickens. Born 7 Feb. 1812.”  And I suddenly remembered the whole morning/Great Expectations/Dickens blog post thought.  So, in honor of the man who gave us “A Christmas Carol” and “Oliver Twist,” I post this blog about how the book “Great Expectations” applies to family law. 😀

I remember reading “Great Expectations” in high school.  I really truly did not like it.  At all.  I was fascinated by a couple of the characters, however–Miss Havisham and her adopted daughter, Estella, really made an impression on my high school brain.  If you’re not familiar with the story, Miss Havisham is a spinster who adopts a child, Estella.

Really no need to ruin your own life and that of your child over dashed Great Expectations.

But she’s not just ANY spinster, mind you–oh, no–She’s a super creepy spinster.  See, Miss Havisham was jilted at the altar as a young woman.  After being horribly embarrassed and humiliated in front of the whole world and God, she went home, never changed out of her wedding dress, and never came outside again. (The practical and hygiene issues always creep me out, but I digress….)  Then, when she adopts her daughter, Miss Havisham began seeking her revenge on men as a whole.  Estella, you see, was beautiful, so Miss Havisham raised her to be a man-eater.  She would get men to fall in love with her, then dump them, just as Miss Havisham had been dumped.  (As an aside, this is where that line in Alanis Morissette’s song came from:  “I’m like Estella.  I like to reel ’em in and then spit ’em out…”).

Miss Havisham, and the twisted person that she raises Estella to be, are everything that is wrong with bitterness that results from deep personal relationships gone south.  And that’s all that is involved in family law–deep personal relationships that have broken up.  The lesson here, of course, is that YOU don’t need to turn into a hyper bitter person as a result of your divorce/custody battle/whatever.  DON’T BE LIKE MISS HAVISHAM!  Because not only did she ruin her own life (live for years in a rotting wedding dress, anyone??  GACK), but she ruined Estella’s life.  And for what?  Was the man who hurt her bothered by this?  Absolutely not.  So this is Lesson #1 from a great Dickens classic.

Lesson #2 is a little more obvious for domestic cases:  Do not have Great Expectations for your own case.  No one wins in a divorce without destroying someone else, and destroying the other does not actually make your life any better, and hurts your kids, too.  Have Realistic Expectations.  If you start out expecting to get Great things, you will more than likely be disappointed, and run the risk of turning into Miss Havisham in your own way.  Be Realistic in your Expectations.  You will not be disappointed; you will come through your domestic case with your sanity and spirit intact, and you will not turn your children into little awful beasts.  So many bonuses here!

Happy Birthday, Mr. Dickens!  May we all learn Great things from your Great stories :).

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