Written for Verfabula. A Creative Non Fiction contest.
Expectations, whether realistic or unrealistic can lead to dissatisfaction.
This topic reminds me of Charles Dickens’ novel “Great Expectations.”
Throughout the novel there are many examples of when having expectations can bring hope for a better life, but also great disillusionment when those same expectations are unfulfilled.
Dickens’ story begins when Pip, a poor orphan boy, expects his life to improve. He feels he deserves to have what the rich and famous have. Pip has a grandiose perception of society and what he’s missing out on. He dreams of eventually realising his wishes to become a gentleman, a man of position in society.
There are those in life today who are content with their lot. They count their blessings, look at what they have and aren’t always looking at what others have that they haven’t. But others, similar to young Pip, feel as if their destiny was to become wealthy and famous. But somehow, something impeded achieving that status. They expect their dreams will eventuate because that was what life had intended for them.
When Pip’s fortunes made a turn for the better by the actions of a mysterious benefactor, he turned his back on the home his sister and her husband had generously provided for him and joined London’s society.
That is a common occurrence when people who have high expectations achieve their goal, they leave behind those who have always been there for them in times of need.
Dickens’ premise throughout the novel was that a man who expects to be given is a parasite or a fool.
Let’s examine that statement. There is certainly much truth in those words. What makes a person think or expect he’s entitled to something without having to work for it? Perhaps it was the fault of his parents instilling a belief that he is worth more than the next man.
Is someone who gets handed wealth and fame without striving for it themselves any happier than anyone else?
The second part of this novel is when the reader is introduced to a woman, Miss Haversham, who is crazed when she gets left at the altar. The rest of her life is dedicated to getting revenge on all men. She even goes so far to adopt a beautiful young girl, Estella, and trains her to be heartless.
Miss Haversham’s expectations are that Estella will carry out her wishes and break men’s hearts, including Pip’s, when he falls in love with her. However, she was shocked to discover her expectations are exceeded by Estella’s inability to even show her benefactor any love, such was her upbringing.
So this shows that sometimes even when expectations are realised, they don’t always bring any joy or happiness.
At the end of the novel Pip realises he isn’t happy. His thoughts go back to home where he was loved. He returns there, rather than live out the great expectations he had to be part the rich social class.
What is the moral to this story? That it’s fine to have expectations, but to realise them by one’s own diligence and hard work. To keep one’s feet firmly on the ground and expectations realistic.
Maybe most of all to expect the unexpected.