I thought of writing a comment right there, and then realised that I had never written a post about Great Expectations before (except this comparison and these brief comments). So here goes:
1/ The word "real" appears 4 times in Caroline's comment.
Let me quote Nabokov:
"The world the artist creates for this purpose may be entirely unreal—as for instance the world of Kafka, or that of Gogol— but there is one absolute demand we are entitled to make: this world in itself and as long as it lasts, must be plausible to the reader or to the spectator."
2/ "Biddy and Joe don't seem real enough."
There are different kinds of books, different kinds of writers. Some novelists create well-developed, realistic, complex characters that are like human beings, e.g. Tolstoy, Flaubert, Jane Austen, Turgenev, George Eliot, etc. Some novelists create some other kinds of characters, e.g. Kafka, Gogol, Dostoyevsky, etc. I'm fine with it. Personally speaking I like writers who create characters that are like human beings, full of life and full of contradictions, but that's not what I look for when reading a book, and I don't think it's fair to use the same standard for all novels and criticise some writers for not achieving what they don't set out to achieve.
Having said that, I think Joe is more than a caricature. In some scenes he can be ridiculous, like a big kid, such as when he meets Miss Havisham and insists on talking to Pip when she asks him questions. But some scenes give him a kind of humanity, such as when he sees the gap between Pip and himself and notices Pip's change in attitude, which makes him alter his way of speaking and keep a distance. Joe may act like a silly, childlike person throughout most of the book, but he feels nervous and embarrassed, can perceive Pip's shame, and also has his pride. His refusal to get anything from Jaggers and his cold attitude to Pip are signs of pride. These things give him complexity, make him human. In 1 scene, Pip says to Biddy that Joe is backward, and Biddy asks "And don't you think he knows that?" I think that's 1 of the saddest and greatest lines in Great Expectations.
3/ "I can appreciate the development of Pip's mind, the feeling of having risen and feeling ashamed of your humble origins".
And then feeling ashamed of having felt ashamed. Because what does Pip learn as he's educated to become a gentleman? Hardly anything worthwhile. Manners, some subjects that hardly equip him for a real job, bourgeois life, nothing at all about responsibility, kindness, nothing about how to be a decent human being. As Pip becomes a gentleman, he becomes a despicable person- has fun, gets into debt, feels ashamed of his origins, looks down on poor people, changes his attitude towards Joe, acts selfishly... It's only when everything collapses for him that he learns a lesson and becomes a better person.
4/ "Pip's feelings are the only thing that seems real to me in that novel."
If "real" means "realistic", Miss Havisham perhaps isn't real. I don't know any Miss Havisham in real life, and don't think I ever will. But that doesn't matter, she's real in that world created by Dickens. Deceived, disappointed and disillusioned, she cannot move on but chooses to be frozen in time- always in that house, always in that wedding dress, away from everyone, away from life. Her anger at 1 man extends to all men and she transfers that hatred to Estella, only to repent it later when she realises what she has done. We may not find such a person in life, but I have no doubt in her existence and the plausibility of her actions within the world of the book. I would even say that she's 1 of the greatest creations in literature. Without Miss Havisham, we wouldn't have the masterpiece Sunset Boulevard and the magnificent short story "A Rose for Emily" and perhaps some other great works of art I don't know of or can't remember at the moment.
Estella is also a good character. If Biddy lacks some complexity to seem real (though I don't find it a problem), Estella acts like a seductive, heartless, vain, cruel girl but behind it is her more sensitive and vulnerable side, her self-loathing, and Pip sees through it. She says she has no heart, but that doesn't mean she cannot feel, doesn't mean that she doesn't understand herself. 1 of the best scenes in Great Expectations is where she announces her engagement to the despicable Drummle to punish herself and Miss Havisham, saying that she is what Miss Havisham has made her.
"Great Expectations I think is considered his greatest because of Pip's feelings which seem very real to us."
More than that. As I've written above, Miss Havisham, Estella and Joe are all good characters. And then the plot, the story, the themes, the individual scenes, the language...
5/ "The big reveal about Magwitch seems anticlimactic compared to the opening chapters."
I didn't feel that way.
6/ "Miss Havisham's friends are bores".
They're meant to be.
7/ "though she seems scary".
Miss Havisham is a fascinating character not simply because she's scary. Keywords: grief, despair, revenge, repentance. How I love the 1st scene Pip meets her- all the clocks are stopped at the same time, the waxwork- skeleton woman picks something up only to put it down at exactly the same spot.
8/ "Dickens' other novels do not explore much psychological depth".
"Dickens was a master at atmosphere, caricature, Victorian world-building rather than psychological exploration".
"I think writing emotional complexity was a bit out of Dickens' depth".
Great Expectations is not without psychological depth (note: Pip), but a more important point is that psychological depth is not the only criterion of literary merit.
Let me digress and ask: Do we read Charlotte Bronte for psychological depth? I'm going to choose the easy way- quoting Virginia Woolf:
"... we read Charlotte Brontë not for exquisite observation of character — her characters are vigorous and elementary; not for comedy — hers is grim and crude; not for a philosophic view of life — hers is that of a country parson’s daughter; but for her poetry. Probably that is so with all writers who have, as she has, an overpowering personality, so that, as we say in real life, they have only to open the door to make themselves felt. There is in them some untamed ferocity perpetually at war with the accepted order of things which makes them desire to create instantly rather than to observe patiently. This very ardour, rejecting half shades and other minor impediments, wings its way past the daily conduct of ordinary people and allies itself with their more inarticulate passions..."Readers who approach Charlotte Bronte with the expectation of finding "exquisite observation of character" or "psychological depth", as can be found in the works of Tolstoy, Jane Austen, Lermontov, Turgenev..., would be disappointed. Her heroines are strong, independent women like her who are once in a while her mouthpieces. Her heroes are her fantasies of dominating men. Charlotte Bronte's strengths are in other things- her poetry, her beautiful language, striking images, powerful emotions, her spirit and overpowering personality, her passion and refusal to stay within bounds... That's what matters. There are different kinds of books, different kinds of writers.
9/ "it is clumsily written".
If this refers to the language, the style, I don't feel that way.
If this refers to the plot, I don't feel that way either. If there's anything that slightly bothers me, it's the fact that the girl Pip loves, the adopted daughter of a woman he meets by chance, turns out to be the daughter of the man he previously ran into as a kid and the woman that works for his lawyer. The everyone-turns-out-to-be-connected-to-each-other-and-fits-perfectly-in-the-book thing. Contrived. But Jane Austen also does this, in Sense and Sensibility especially. George Eliot does this, in Daniel Deronda. Charlotte Bronte does this, in Jane Eyre and Shirley and most of all in Villette. Fiction has its conventions, so I'm OK with it, as long as it's not too outrageous, unacceptable. The reveal in Great Expectations doesn't seem so forced.
Now I feel like grabbing a Dickens novel.