Pet Sounds: A series in which teaching staff and students from the English Department reflect on a piece of music or song. [Read all entries.] [Revisit the “Headspace” series.] [Revisit the “Ongoing” series.] [Revisit the “Interrogative” series.]
What is the Best Ending? The realization of a sweet dream turning out just as expected? Or the bittersweet awakening after a futile lifelong pursuit of an illusion?
In homage to Patrick Doyle’s “Kissing in the Rain”
When I first heard this piece while watching a musical video inspired by the 1998 adaptation of Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, I was immediately enraptured by both the grandeur and the refreshing sweetness and tenderness of the music. I am no music connoisseur, but I think this is an excellent accompanying piece for Great Expectations which encapsulates the theme of the novel perfectly: the loss of innocence and the pain of growing up.
In the film, the music is first heard when little Pip and Estella meet in the decrepit garden of Satis House. When little Pip tries to drink water from the tap, Estella plays a trick upon him by kissing him through the water. This lovely scene, accompanied by the music, suggests playful cruelty, just like what life has in store for Pip. The music cloaks the beginning of Pip’s romance with Estella in such dreaminess that one cannot help wishing for a candy-coloured fairy tale. The gentle but unmistakable feeling of melancholy, however, suggests sadness and disappointment, foreshadowing Pip’s heartbreak and disillusionment. One might wish that moment to be frozen in time to spare Pip his ordeal, but the rising rhythm of the music propels him to his inexorable destiny.
Acting like a string of beads, holding Pip forever at bay from his dream, the piece ties Pip and Estella inextricably to their adulthood. With Estella displaying the charms of mature sexuality, Pip is kept enthralled, the music mischievously implies in turn a hint of romance or a hint of loss, just as Pip chases after the tantalising glimpse of his dream.
The middle passage, with its loud and clear chanting, seems to carry a tacit religious meaning. The ending, however, is sweet and soothing, like a quiet reconciliation with life’s trials, but also a graceful acceptance of life’s fruits. Pip matures from his journey and travails; his life, like this piece of music, is both grand and not untouched by pain and tears. And every time I listen to this song, I just wish, while treading my onward path, to never see my innocence shaded by circumstances and their results. I will never lose the capacity to look back and remember the chains that would never have bound me but for the formation of the first link on one momentous day.
Minnie Chung is a graduate of the Department of English Language and Literature (Class of 2017). [Read all entries by Minnie.]