Sunday, March 11, 2018

Great Expectations in Haight-Ashbury

photo © Mark Butkus 2018
Where 21st century hippies quote 19th century Dickens on sidewalks.

On a recent walk through the streets of San Francisco we came upon a quote from Charles Dickens 1861 novel Great Expectations scrawled upon the sidewalk at the intersection of Haight and Ashbury — Ground Zero for the Summer of Love.

The quote as it appears in Haight-Ashbury reads as follows:

By shutting out
The light of day,
You shut out
Infinitely more;
In seclusion you
Seclude herself
From natural
Healing influences;
That, your mind

The snippet of the quote belongs to a longer passage where Pip contemplates his reply to Miss Havisham and what her actions had wrought on Estella. The passage, as it appears in Great Expectations, reads as follows:

I knew not how to answer, or how to comfort her. That she had done a grievous thing in taking an impressionable child to mould into the form that her wild resentment, spurned affection, and wounded pride, found vengeance in, I knew full well. But that, in shutting out the light of day, she had shut out infinitely more; that, in seclusion, she had secluded herself from a thousand natural and healing influences; that, her mind, brooding solitary, had grown diseased, as all minds do and must and will that reverse the appointed order of their Maker; I knew equally well. And could I look upon her without compassion, seeing her punishment in the ruin she was, in her profound unfitness for this earth on which she was placed, in the vanity of sorrow which had become a master mania, like the vanity of penitence, the vanity of remorse, the vanity of unworthiness, and other monstrous vanities that have been curses in this world?

One is left to ponder whether Charles Dickens would be amused to find his words on this small corner of the world in San Francisco or if he would deign to attend that city's Great Dickens Christmas Fair. One thing is certain, the author of American Notes documenting his trip to the United States in 1842 never traveled further west than St. Louis, Missouri.

photo © Mark Butkus 2018
Charles Dickens quote from "Great Expectations" as it appears on sidewalk in San Francisco.