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Great Expectations

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

For other uses, see Great Expectations (disambiguation).

Great Expectations is a Bildungsroman (a novel tracing the life of the protagonist) by Charles Dickens and first serialized in All the Year Round from December 1860 to August 1861. The action of the story takes place from Christmas Eve, 1812, when the protagonist is about seven years old, to the winter of 1840.[1]

Great Expectations is the story of the orphan Pip told by the protagonist in semi-autobiographical style as a remembrance of his life from the early days of his childhood until years after the main conflicts of the story have been resolved in adulthood. The story is also semi-autobiographical to the author Dickens, as are some other of his stories, drawing on his experiences of life and people.

Plot introduction & overview

The story is divided into three phases of Pip's life expectations. The first "expectation" is allotted 19 chapters, and the other two 20 chapters each in the 59-chapter work. In some editions, the chapter numbering reverts to Chapter One in each expectation, but the original publication and most modern editions number the chapters consecutively from one to 59. At the end of chapters 19 and 39, readers are formally notified that they have reached the conclusion of a phase of Pip's expectations.

In the first expectation, Pip lives a humble existence with his ill-tempered older sister and her strong but gentle husband, Joe. Pip is satisfied with this life and his warm friends until he is hired by an embittered wealthy woman, Miss Havisham, as an occasional companion to her and her beautiful but haughty adopted daughter, Estella. From that time on, Pip aspires to leave behind his simple life and be a gentleman. After years as companion to Miss Havisham and Estella, he spends more years as an apprentice to Joe, so that he may grow up to have a livelihood working as a blacksmith. This life is suddenly turned upside down when he is visited by a London attorney, Mr. Jaggers, who informs Pip that he is to come into the "Great Expectation" of a handsome property and be trained to be a gentleman at the behest of an anonymous benefactor.

The second stage of Pip's expectations has Pip in London, learning the details of being a gentlemen, having tutors, fine clothing, and joining cultured society. Whereas he always engaged in honest labour when he was younger, he now is supported by a generous allowance, which he frequently lives beyond. He learns to fit in this new milieu, and experiences not only friendship but rivalry as he finds himself in the same circles as Estella, who is also pursued by many other men, especially Bentley Drummle, whom she favours. As he adopts the physical and cultural norms of his new status, he also adopts the class attitudes that go with it, and when Joe comes to visit Pip and his friend and roommate Herbert to deliver an important message, Pip is embarrassed to the point of hostility by Joe's unlearned ways, despite his protestations of love and friendship for Joe. At the end of this stage, Pip is introduced to his benefactor, again changing his world.

The third and last stage of Pip's expectations alters Pip's life from the artificially supported world of his upper class strivings and introduces him to realities that he realises he must deal with, facing moral, physical and financial challenges. He learns startling truths that cast into doubt the values that he once embraced so eagerly, and finds that he cannot regain many of the important things that he had cast aside so carelessly. The current ending of the story is different from Dickens's original intent, in which the ending matched the gloomy reverses to Pip's fortunes that typify the last expectation. Dickens was prevailed upon to change the ending to one more acceptable to his readers' tastes in that era, and this "new" ending was the published one and currently accepted as definitive.

Dickens has Pip as the writer and first person narrator of this account of his life's experiences, and the entire story is understood to have been written as a retrospective, rather than as a present tense narrative or a diary or journal. Still, though Pip "knows" how all the events in the story will turn out, he uses only very subtle foreshadowing so that we learn of events only when the Pip in the story does. Pip does, however, use the perspective of the bitter lessons he's learned to comment acidly on various actions and attitudes in his earlier life.

Plot summary


The first stage of Pip's expectations

Pip is a young orphan who is being brought up by his adult sister, Mrs. Joe, a sharp-tongued woman who is married to the simple but kind village blacksmith, Joe Gargery, who treats Pip warmly to make up for his sister's harshness.

On a Christmas Eve, Pip visits his parents' graves in the churchyard in the marshes, and is suddenly confronted with an escaped convict. The convict orders Pip, with threats, to bring him food and a file to remove his shackles. Pip complies the next day, even bringing him more food than he asked for. Later on in the day, there is a commotion, which turns out to be the same convict Pip had helped, fighting with another convict. The two are captured, but not before the convict repays Pip in his own way by covering up for him when it is revealed that Pip had stolen a pork pie Mrs. Joe had baked for guests.

Pip's perspective on his simple but honest life is altered when Miss Havisham, a wealthy and eccentric spinster, requests Pip to visit her at Satis House to entertain her "sick fancy" to see children play. Pip fulfills this by playing cards with Estella, a beautiful but haughty girl adopted by Havisham. Pip's visits to Satis House continue for several years, and he develops an unrequited love for Estella, whose wealth and grace also makes him ashamed of his humble life and friends.

Miss Havisham's payment for Pip ultimately comes in the form of monetary compensation for his years of service as Joe's apprentice. Pip appears to be destined to become a blacksmith, but he cannot forget about Estella, even with the advice of his female friend, Biddy.

The pivotal turning point in Pip's life comes in his fourth year of apprenticeship when a well-known London attorney named Mr. Jaggers informs them that Pip has been endowed with "great expectations" -- he will be provided with the necessary fortune and upbringing to make himself a gentleman. While Mr. Jaggers specifically states that Pip's benefactor will not be revealed to him yet, Pip believes that Havisham is behind this, which is further strengthened by the discovery that Jaggers is Havisham's lawyer.

The first part of the novel ends with Pip departing his family and friends as he is transported by coach to London and another life.

The second stage of Pip's expectations

When he arrives in London, Pip's initial impression is that London is an unattractive and dirty town. Nonetheless, his great expectations lie before him, and he is informed by Jaggers and his clerk, Wemmick, of his new living quarters. Miss Havisham detests the Pockets as she believes that they only pay tribute to her because they expect to inherit her money when she dies, even though Herbert's father is one of the few uninterested in flattering her for this. When Pip reaches his house, he meets his roommate, Herbert Pocket, a member of Havisham's extended family. Herbert was also one of many acquaintances Miss Havisham chose to be in the company of Estella, although she did not favor him.

Pip and Herbert quickly become close friends, with Herbert teaching him the ways of polite company, including dining etiquette. Pip confides in Herbert of his love for Estella, and Herbert warns him that Estella was adopted and raised by Havisham to "wreak revenge on all the male sex," after Havisham's fiance jilted her on their wedding day, causing her to "lock" Satis House in time by stopping all the clocks and keeping everything intact since that fateful day. Pip, however, does not heed Herbert's warning against Estella.

During Pip's training to be a gentleman, he becomes more deeply involved with his acquaintances, gaining a perspective on their personal lives. He dines with Herbert's large and disorganized family, including Matthew Pocket, Pip's tutor and the person who warned Miss Havisham about her lover; he was disowned by her as a result. Pocket's other students include Startop whose mother's pampering led to him being physically frail, and Bently Drummle, a contentious and thuggish "blockhead," who is dubbed "the Spider" by Jaggers.

Pip also spends time with Wemmick, Jaggers' clerk, and learns that Wemmick has an entirely different personal life from his strict business life. Outside of work, he lives in a cottage with many whimsical features. In the cottage resides Wemmick's deaf and elderly father, referred to as the "Aged Parent," or simply "the Aged," who he treats compassionately and amusingly. Pip next has dinner with Jaggers who, in contrast to Wemmick, deals with his personal life as seriously and tightly as his public life.

On a Monday, Pip receives a letter from Joe, written by Biddy who has acted as the nurse of Mrs. Joe ever since she was seriously injured by an unknown assailant. The letter informs Pip that Joe wishes to visit him in London tomorrow, and Biddy says that she hopes that Pip will accept Joe as an important visitor, even though he is now a gentleman. Despite this reminder, Pip reacts to this news not with pleasure, but with dread that the common and unrefined Joe will be seen and associated with him.

The social disparity between the two former companions is further emphasized when Joe, uncomfortable in the luxury of Pip's place, frequently addresses to him as "Sir," not "Pip." Joe informs Pip that Miss Havisham asked him to tell Pip that "Estella has come home and would be glad to see him." His first instinct in his realization that he had humiliated Joe is that he must stay at Joe's home, but as he goes he makes excuses to himself why he must stay at the Blue Boar instead.

When Pip reaches Satis House, he finds to his surprise that Orlick, Joe's former journeyman, is now Miss Havisham's porter for protection. Pip locates Havisham in the same dilapidated room, and sees Estella for the first time in many years, who has grown up into a beautiful and elegant lady. Her beauty and self-possession cause him to feel inadequate in her presence again. Estella shows little memory of Pip as a child, cautioning him that she has no heart that can be touched by emotions, which Pip refuses to believe.

Once alone with Miss Havisham, she asks Pip if he admires Estella. After Pip remarks that all who see her must admire her, Miss Havisham fiercely admonishes him: "Love her, love her, love her! If she favours you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces --; and as it gets older and stronger, it will tear deeper --; love her, love her, love her!" In the passion of this outburst, Miss Havisham declares she raised Estella to be loved, and reiterates in such a vehement fashion that Pip must love her, that Pip observes that if words of hatred had been substituted for "love" it could not have sounded more like a curse.

After Pip returns to London, he tells Jaggers of his suspicions of Orlick, who he believes to have been his sister's assailant. Jaggers resolves immediately to fire Orlick, which alarms Pip who does not want Orlick to know of his hostility towards him, but Jaggers brushes aside his objections.

Sometime later, Pip receives a letter from Estella bearing the news that she will arrive in two days in London, and that it has been settled that Pip will meet her there. On the appointed day, Pip meets Estella's coach and finds her even more delicately beautiful than ever. She tells Pip that she is to go to Richmond Surrey by carriage, and that Pip is to escort her and pay for all expenses out of her purse. She aso states that "We have no choice, you and I, but to obey our instructions. We are not free to follow our own devices, you and I." On hearing this, Pip hopes that there was an inner meaning to those words.

Estella is to live with a lady at Richmond, who is to introduce her to society. She speaks of Miss Havisham's relatives, the Pockets, and her amusement that they have been stoked into hatred of Pip, whom they see as their rival. She assures Pip that no harm can come to him from this animosity but that she is delighted that such mean people are made unhappy and that she is beholden to Pip for causing this displeasure. She offers Pip her hand upon it, and when Pip kisses it, she scorns this romantic gesture. Pip asks her if he might kiss her again if he affirms that he did this in only a friendly way; Estella complies, but glides away as soon as he touches her cheek. When he and Estella part, Pip ponders on how happy he believes he would be if he lived with her, but on how she always made him miserable in his company.

Later on, Pip unexpectedly receives word that his sister has died, which leads him to realize that he had thought little of his previous home lately, and further fuels his anger against Orlick, who he suspects as the cause of her suffering and now death.

Pip returns home to attend the funeral and comfort Joe. He has a walk with Biddy in which he promises to visit Joe more often. Buddy expresses doubt at this, which Pip replies with righteous indignation, but he avoids her for the rest of the day, subconsciously realizing that she is correct that he will not adhere to his promise.

When Pip turns 21 years old, he visits Jaggers for further information on his expected fortune and hopefully the identity of his benefactor. Jaggers tells him that he will have an annual allowance of 500 pounds until his benefactor is made known to him, but refuses to tell him when his benefactor will be revealed to him. He also gives Pip an ambiguous piece of information: that when his benefactor is revealed, "you and that person will settle your own affairs. When that person discloses, my part in this business will cease [...] it will not be necessary for me to know anything about it. And that's all I have got to say."

With extra money in his pocket, Pip decides to secretly help Herbert secure a job who had come of age earlier but had nothing to show for it and is still unsure of his future. Pip discusses this with Wemmick, who arranges for Pip to influence a firm in hiring Herbert. Herbert's elation at discovering this is so profound that Pip is moved to tears of happiness that his expectations had finally done good for someone else.

Meanwhile, Pip continues to pursue Estella who continually places him "on terms of familiarity without placing me on terms of favour." Estella uses Pip's presence to tease her admirers to jealousy and their attentions in turn inspire Pip to jealousy and constant misery. Despite this, and Estella's indirect warnings for him to give up on her, Pip continues to imagine himself as married to her, and writes off her warnings as bitterness against Miss Havisham's intent for them to be paired together. He further convinces himself that Havisham will only use Estella to torment her other suitors until she officially becomes his.

On a visit with Estella to see Miss Havisham, Pip witnesses the first time that he has ever seen Estella in opposition to Havisham. While Estella is sitting beside her with Miss Havisham clutching her hand, she gradually disengages herself from her grip, and moving away. Miss Havisham reacts angrily: "What! are you tired of me?" Estella's mild response only enrages Miss Havisham more, and her adopted daughter's cool composure induces Havisham to accuse her of having no heart. Estella replies that she is only what Miss Havisham made her; when Havisham says that she wants love from her, she says that she cannot return what she has never gotten, leading Havisham to cry out to Pip, "Did I not give her love?" After that confrontation, Estella and Miss Havisham show no further hint of the argument, although Pip notes that from then on, Havisham seemed to regard her with a little fear too.

Pip discovers that Bentley Drummle, the same student of Matthew Pocket he had met some years earlier, is also courting Estella when he proposes a toast to her at a meeting of "The Finches of the Grove," an organization that Pip and Herbert joined. When Pip confronts Drummle, accusing him of associating himself with a lady he barely knows about, the other Finches agree that if Drummle can provide evidence of his acquaintance with Estella, Pip must apologize to him. When Drummle shows up the next day with a letter from Estella confirming that she had the honor of dancing with him many times, Pip is forced to make the proposed apology.

Pained that Estella would choose a boorish suitor over him, Pip admonishes Estella at a dance for giving special attention to Drummle. When Estella replies that she cannot help if so many men are attracted to her, Pip complains that she treats him with an affection that she never shows to him. Estella's unexpected response is an angry look and the retribual, "Do you want me then [...] to deceive and entrap you?" She then states that Pip is the only person who she has been completely honest with.

Having devoted his chapter to Estella, Pip now turns to focus on the event that would destroy all his assumptions and planning of his future. He compares this occurrence with "the Eastern Story," a then well-known fantasy in the tradition of the Arabian Nights stories, in which a great pavillion has been raised and taken over by usurpers. The occupiers are unaware that a heavy rock slab was raised into the ceiling of the structure when it was built, supported by a secret rope rigged deep into the earth. In the dead of night, the rope is severed with an axe, and the pavillion's occupants, believing themselves to be victorious, are crushed.

The critical event takes place on a day of heavy rain and storms, when a grey-haired stranger comes into his house late in the night, who greets him cordially with both arms outstretched. When Pip questions him, the stranger reveals that he is none other than the convict that he had helped when he was a child. The convict had never forgot Pip's generosity that day, and was the benefactor behind his plan to make him into a gentleman.

This relevation shocks Pip, who feels not gratitude, but disgust and repulsion at the fact that all his wealth had come from a criminal. Even as a stunned Pip tries to collect his thoughts, the convict further informs him that he must be hidden in his home because he violated his terms of exile to Australia to see his "London Gentleman," and would be hanged if caught in England.

Pip allows the convict to stay for the night, but stays up to ponder on this sudden turn of events. As he thinks, the enormity of wrecked fantasies come home for him: Miss Havisham, not his benefactor as he had assumed, had no purpose for him, other than another object for Estella to toy with and make the people around her miserable. The thing that sticks in his mind the most is on how his great expectations led him to desert Joe.

The third stage of Pip’s expectations: Dealing with reality and its consequences

Having absorbed the first shock of the convict's coming, Pip considers what he must do to deal with the convict's presence, considering the dangers they both are facing. He and Herbert no longer have a servant, but they have a nosy cleaning lady and her niece, so Pip resolves to tell whoever visits that his "uncle" had arrived unexpectedly from the country.

Since the storm caused a blackout, Pip feels his way down the stairs to find the night watchman and have him get a lantern. In doing so, he stumbles over someone crouching in a corner, who silently steals away. Pip runs for the watchman, but they find no-one there on their return. Pip asks the watchman who came through the gate during the night, and the watchman mentions the visitor who asked for Pip; i.e., the convict, who Pip says is his uncle. Then the watchman asks whether Pip also saw "the person with him," who stayed close by the convict, stopping when he did, and following when he moved on; this discovery makes Pip even more fearful.

Back in his apartment, Pip and the convict have a conversation, where he learns that the convict's alias in London is Provis, but that his real name is Abel Magwitch, who was brought up to be a "warmint." Magwitch tells Pip that he was tried in London and it was Jaggers who was his attorney. He is not especially afraid of discovery, even though being caught would mean death, because many years had passed since he was last seen in England. Because of this, he tells Pip that he has come back for good; he has already evaded many traps before, and will only concern himself when faced with immediate danger.

Despite the fact that Magwitch put his life in great peril to reach Pip and that he greatly admires him, Pip can only feel loathing towards him. After five days, Herbert returns, and is informed of the situation by Pip. Herbert appears to share the same repugnance against their visitor, and while talking alone, Pip declares that he cannot accept any more of Magwitch's riches, even though he is deeply in debt. Herbert, however, warns him that simply disowning his great expectations would likely drive Magwitch to great desperation after devoting his entire life and safety to his welfare. They finally agree that the only possible course of action is for Pip to get Magwitch out of England by going with him too.

When Magwitch wakes up, Pip says to him that he wants to know about his life story and also about the other convict that he had fought with before capture. After reminding Herbert that he is under oath not to repeat any of it, Magwitch complies. He says that all that happened to him for a while was "in jail and out of jail, in jail and out of jail, in jail and out of jail." Just about every punishment was inflicted upon him, save for hanging; being locked up, pushed around, put in stocks, and whipped.

He knows that his name is Abel Magwitch, but can't recall how he knows, any more than he recalls how he learned the names of birds. He has no idea where he was born, and his first memories were of stealing turnips for a living, and being abandoned by a tinker. He also cannot recall anyone in his youth who wasn't frightened of him as a declared hardened criminal, and either avoided or fought him. He begged and stole and sometimes worked, when someone would give him some work.

More than 20 years earlier, he fell in with a con man named Compeyson, the other convict he was fighting on the marshes in Pip's childhood. Unlike him, Compeyson was a smooth talker who could pass off as a gentleman.

At the time Magwitch met Compeyson, Compeyson had another confederate named Arthur who was deathly ill. Arthur and Compeyson "had been in a bad thing with a rich lady some years afore, and they'd made a pot of money by it." Now, Arthur was dying and going insane too, although Compeyson showed little concern. Arthur dies after hallucinating his late wife taking him to the aferlife.

Magwitch realizes that he should have taken warning from the example of Arthur about Compeyson's perfidy, but did not and was betrayed as a result. The two had several misdemeanour brushes with the law, but after four or five years were brought up on a felony charge of passing stolen notes. Compeyson set up Magwitch to take the greater part of blame by telling him that they would put up separate defences. As a result, at trial, Compeyson passed off as the dignified gentleman, while Magwitch had to sell his belongings to hire Jaggers. Magwitch received a fourteen-year sentence while Compeyson was given half of the time.

They were put in the same prison-ship, but Magwitch could not get at him. At one point he did get ahold of Compeyson, but was immediately seen and placed in the "black-hole" of the ship, from which he promptly escaped and made his way to shore, where he was hiding among the graves when he encountered the then-seven-year-old Pip. Young Pip's mention to Magwitch of the other person he encountered on the marshes made Magwitch realize that Compeyson was there, too, apparently driven to escape by his terror of Magwitch. Magwitch attacked and beat Compeyson until he was stopped by the arrival of the soldiers. Compeyson was again given a light punishment for his escape, but Magwitch was retried and sent for life imprisonment, though he later was released on condition of never returning to England.

After a pause, Pip asks if Compeyson is dead. Magwitch replies that he has never heard from him since. When Magwitch's story is finished, Herbert, who has been writing in the cover of a book, softly pushes the book over to Pip, who reads Herbert's words: "Young Havisham’s name was Arthur. Compeyson is the man who professed to be Miss Havisham's lover".

Pondering on this, Pip's mind turns to Estella. He decides not to tell Magwitch about Estella, but that he must see both her and Miss Havisham the next day before going abroad with Magwitch. Upon reaching Richmond, however, he learns that Estella has already gone to Satis House. This disturbs him, as Estella has never returned to Satis House without Pip as her companion.

Arriving at Satis House, Pip finds Miss Havisham with Estella, who is quietly knitting. Pip tells Havisham that he has found out who his benefactor was, but that he can reveal no more, since it is not his secret, but another’s. He says that he now understands that he was brought to Satis House as a child on Miss Havisham’s whim, as no more than a kind of paid servant. Miss Havisham nods her assent; then Pip brings up Jaggers, his benefactor, and Havisham's mutual attorney, but Havisham cuts him off, saying that the coincidence has no greater meaning.

Miss Havisham also agrees that she took advantage of the fact that the Pocket family thought Pip was their rival for Miss Havisham’s money, and that she took pleasure in letting them think so. Pip hastens to let Havisham know that he had become close to one part of the Pocket family, Herbert and his father Matthew, and that she has wronged them, as they are "generous, upright, open, and incapable of anything designing or mean." Pip contrasts them with the other Pockets, a point that Havisham seems to appreciate. Havisham then asks Pip twice what he wants for that part of the family. Pip first states that he only wants her to treat them differently than the others, then goes on to request further monetary compensation for Herbert's welfare.

After settling these matters, Pip turns to Estella, confessing his love for her ever since he met her as a child. Estella shakes her head at this, to which Pip states that Miss Havisham would have realized the cruelty of her encouragement of his futile hopes for her if she had not been so fixated on her own troubles.

Miss Havisham reacts to this by placing her hand on her heart, but Estella is unmoved, saying that he can stir no emotions in her heart. She asks him if he has not, to which Pip miserably replies, "Yes." He explains that he pursued her against her warnings because he could not believe that such a beautiful and young person could be so irrevocably cold.

The conversation then turns to Bentley Drummle, and Estella acknowledges that he is to dine with her today. Pip protests that Estella could never love him, much less marry him. Estella then devastates him with the declaration that she will in fact be married to him. An anguished Pip buries his face into his hands; when he looks up again, he notices that the color has drained out of Havisham's face.

Pip vainly tries to persuade Estella to choose a more worthy man than Drummle, but Estella, only amazed at his earnestness, restates her decision to marry Drummle. She offers her hand in friendship to Pip, saying that he will move on with this, but a heartbroken Pip declares that he could never forget her, as he has never got her out of his thoughts since childhood.

In his despair and defeat, Pip decides that he cannot go back to the inn to see a triumphant Drummle, and instead sets out to walk the entire distance back to London. It is past midnight when he arrives there. A guard at the Temple, after hearing his name for identification, gives him a note from Wemmick reading, "DON'T GO HOME".

Leaving the gate immediately, Pip heads to Covent Garden where he spends a restless night in a sooty and dusty room. Early the next morning, he travels to the Castle, Wemmick's home, and finds him in a cheerful mood. Wemmick, communicating indirectly to him by hints and indirect statements because he is in his personal space now, informs Pip that he has overheard talk that suggests that rumors have arisen about the convict's whereabouts and that Pip's quarters are being watched. Pip asks Wemmick if he knows of Compeyson and if he is alive, and Wemmick affirms both facts.

Wemmick also tells Pip that he sought out and found Herbert, and informed hm that if he knew of suspicious people hanging around his chambers, that he should get anybody out of the way, meaning that Magwitch must be moved, but that it is not yet safe to ship him from England. Herbert decided to move Magwitch to the home of his fiancée, Clara Barley, at Mill Pond Bank.

After spending the rest of the day at Wemmick's home, Pip goes to the Barleys' residence, where he finds Magwitch comfortably residing. He asks Magwitch if he trusts Jaggers' judgement, and Magwitch says that he does. Pip goes on to tell him of the danger he is in, and that he will stay here until he can be safely moved out and removed by boat from England, a task that is to be accomplished by having Pip and Herbert practice rowing so as to remove Magwitch to a spot where they can meet and board an ocean-going steamer. Magwitch is pleased at this proposal, and Pip takes his leave.

Pip returns to the Temple, where he obtains a boat to practice rowing on the Thames in the following days to prepare to remove Magwitch by this means when the time is right. Pip practices hard and often, sometimes alone and sometimes with Herbert. He becomes a familiar presence rowing on the Thames, which is his intention, so that his comings and goings on the boat will not arouse suspicion. Though weeks pass with no hint of trouble, Pip lives in constant fear that the convict’s pursuers may appear at any time.

Nothing is heard from Wemmick for some time. Pip’s financial affairs are deteriorating and he feels he cannot take any more of Magwitch's money, returning the cash-filled pocketbook he had given him for safekeeping. Another of Pip’s fears is that Estella has already married, and he avoids newspapers lest he read something to confirm that fear.

One cold February evening, after a day of rowing, Pip decides to stop at a chophouse for dinner. There he unexpectedly encounters Mr. Wopsle, who Pip heard had given up his pursuit in theatre, now performing comic pantomime. To Pip’s surprise, he sees Mr. Wopsle glaring in his direction with a look as though he had unconfirmed suspicions of him. As Pip leaves the performance, he finds Mr. Wopsle waiting for him. He tells Pip that he saw him, but also saw someone else. Becoming alarmed, Pip presses Mr. Wopsle to explain, and Mr. Wopsle replies that he saw a figure sitting behind Pip "like a ghost", and that he was certain it was someone he had seen on Christmas Day long ago, when Pip was a child. He asserts that he feels that the person was one of the two fighting prisoners on the marshes, "the one who had been mauled." Pip realizes with terror that the person who had been behind him was Compeyson, Magwitch's enemy.

About at week after his encounter with Mr. Wopsle, Pip runs into Jaggers after another day of rowing, who invites him to dine at his home with Wemmick. There, Pip is given a note from Miss Havisham stating that she wishes to ee him on a matter of business, meaning the gift for Herbert.

Jaggers comments that "the Spider," or Drummle, has won, which confirms his status as Estella's husband. Pip is then distracted by the arrival of Molly, Jaggers' maidservant, who he sees make "a certain action of her fingers as she spoke that arrested my attention." The action strongly resembles the motions Pip saw of Estella's knitting. He scrutinizes Molly's looks and becomes convinced that she is Estella's mother.

Pip and Wemmick leave Jaggers' dinner early, and as they walk, the "right" Wemmick emerges. Pip asks Wemmick if he knows anything about Molly's backstory. Wemmick obliges, explaining that some years ago, Molly was tried for murder, with Jaggers as her attorney. Evidence made it clear that the murderer had been an exceptionally strong woman who had strangled another woman in a passionate fight.

While all available evidence pointed to Molly as the murderer, Jaggers acquitted her by claiming that a woman as small as Molly could never overpower another so much larger. He dressed Molly so as to make her appear more delicate than she really was, and explained the lacerations on the back of her hands as the result of being scratched by brambles.

Jaggers also challenged the prosecution's classification of the murder as one of jealousy, and that Molly had destroyed her child to exact revenge upon the man that had wronged her; he demands on why Molly is not being tried for the murder of her child, and the jury is forced to concede and acquit Molly.

Pip asks Wemmick if he knew the gender of Molly's child, and Wemmick replies, "Said to have been a girl."

After this discovery, Pip goes to Satis House once more to talk with Miss Havisham. Sensing that the house is disquietingly empty now that Estella is gone, Pip finds Havisham in a disconcerted state. After Havisham gets from him the exact amount of money to write to Herbert, she asks him about Estella. Pip restates his feelings for Estella, and is surprised when Havisham crawls to him to her knees, lamenting, "What have I done!" Havisham says that Pip's confession of love to Estella and Estella's coldness at this made her realize the folly of raising her to have a heart of ice. She insists that when she first received Estella as a baby, she only planned to protect her from the misery she had suffered from being jilted, but when Estella grew up to be beautiful, her intentions changed to using her as a tool to take out her revenge on men. Pip asks her if she knows where Estella came from, but Havisham says that she knows nothing about this, other than Jaggers giving her custody of the baby.

Pip leaves Havisham still crying, "What have I done!" and takes a brief tour of the garden he first met Estella in. When he returns to peek in her room, he witnesses her trailing wedding gown catching fire from the fireplace, and quickly smothers out the fire by using the tablecloth from a nearby table. Havisham survives, but from then only stares into space, muttering about her regret and grief. Pip forgives her by giving her a kiss.

The day finally arrives to escort Magwitch from England, and Pip and Herbert set their plan in motion. They begin by rowing him off the coast, heading towards a steamer which will pick up Magwitch. Along the way, however, they come upon another ship who had been seeking them out. Magwitch recognizes a person on the ship as none other than Compeyson, and initates a vicious fight with him, in vain of Pip's attempts to hold him back.

The day after, Pip learns that Magwitch is being held in jail. Jaggers informs him that he will most likely have to give up his fortune and his great expectations. Pip is willing to do so, as his feelings for Magwitch have mellowed considerably, seeing the convict's compassion for him, and visits him in jail frequently. Magwitch, however, is declining in health; just before he dies, Pip reveals to him that his daughter that he thought dead is in fact alive and that he is in love with her. With a final squeeze of his hand, Magwitch passes away peacefully.

After this incident, Pip becomes bedridden with a serious fever. When he comes to, he sees Joe sitting by his side, who had come to London and took care of him since he heard news of his illness. Pip gradually gets stronger with the assistance of Joe, and begins to think of other things now that his business with Estella and Magwitch has been resolved. When he has fully recovered, he makes plans to propose to Biddy as part of his recompense for neglecting her and Joe back at home. Before he goes, he discovers that Joe has already left and that he has paid off all of his debts.

Pip returns to his hometown, only to learn from Biddy, just before he proposes to her, that she and Joe are about to be married. Pip congratulates them both, resigning himself to the fact that his latest plan had been as futile and illusionary as all the previous rest. Since he no longer has his great expectations, he decides to take on a modest but honest job with Herbert.

Many years later, Pip also meets the son of Joe and Biddy, who bears a striking likeliness of him as a child, and becomes a sort of guardian to him. Biddy also asks him if he really has gotten over Estella; Pip replies that he has, although his reply is more affirmative and final in the original ending (see below).

The ending

Charles Dickens wrote two different endings for Great Expectations. In the original ending, Pip meets Estella on the streets, remarried to a doctor after the death of her abusive husband Drummle. He and Estella exchange brief pleasantries, after which he states that while he could not have her in the end, he was at least glad to know that she was a different person now, somewhat changed from the cold-hearted girl Havisham reared her as.

After allegations from his publisher that this ending was too unhappy for his readers, Dickens instead published a revised, more ambiguous, ending, in which Pip, after hearing the death of Estella's husband, Drummle, revisits the overgrown garden in Satis House. He unexpectedly meets an older and slightly softer Estella who acknowledges that she has been reformed by her suffering. Pip and Estella leave the garden, hand in hand, with Pip seeing "no shadow of a parting from her."

Significant characters in "Great Expectations"

Pip, the protagonist, and his family

  • Philip Pirrip, nicknamed Pip – an orphan, and the protagonist. Pip is to be trained as a blacksmith, a low but skilled and honest profession, but strives to rise above his class after meeting Estella Havisham.
    • Handel- Herbert Pocket's nickname for Pip, which he uses to address Pip from their first meeting.
  • Joe Gargery - Pip's brother-in-law, and his first father figure. Joe represents the poor but honest life that Pip rejects.
  • Mrs. Joe Gargery - Pip's adult sister, who brings him up after the death of their parents, but complains constantly of the burden Pip is to her. A hot tempered woman, Mrs. Joe goads Joe into defending her honour against Orlick, Joe's journeyman blacksmith, who secretly attacks her as revenge, eventually leading to her death.
  • Mr. Pumblechook - Joe's uncle, an officious bachelor man who tells Mrs. Joe how noble she is to bring up Pip, and who holds Pip in disdain. As the person who first connected Pip to Miss Havisham, he ever after claimed to have been the original architect of Pip's good fortune.

Miss Havisham and her family

  • Miss Havisham - Wealthy spinster who takes Pip on as a companion, and who Pip is led to believe is his benefactor. Miss Havisham does not discourage this as it fits into her own spiteful plans.
  • Estella [Havisham] - Miss Havisham's adopted daughter, who Pip pursues romantically throughout the novel. Estella represents the life of wealth and culture that Pip strives for. Since her ability to love any man (or anyone for that matter) has been ruined by Miss Havisham, she is unable to return Pip's passion. She warns Pip of this repeatedly, but he is unwilling or unable to believe her.
  • Arthur (Havisham) - Miss Havisham's half-brother, who felt he was shortchanged in his inheritance by their father's preference for his daughter. He joined with Compeyson in the scheme to cheat Miss Havisham of large sums of money by gaining Miss Havisham's trust through promise of marriage to Compeyson. Arthur is haunted by the memory of the scheme and sickens and dies in a delirium, imagining that the still-living Miss Havisham is in his room, coming to kill him. Arthur has died before the beginning of the novel, and is only described to Pip by Magwitch.
  • Herbert Pocket - a member of the Pocket family, Miss Havisham's presumed heirs, who Pip first meets as a "pale young gentleman" at Miss Havisham's house when both are children. He is the son of Matthew Pocket, Pip's tutor in the "gentlemanly" arts, and shares his apartment with Pip in London, becoming Pip's fast friend who is there to share Pip's happiness as well as his troubles.

Characters from Pip's youth

  • The Convict - an escapee from a prison ship, who Pip treats kindly, and who turns out to be his benefactor, at which time his real name is revealed to be Abel Magwitch, but who is also known as Provis and Mr. Campbell in parts of the story to protect his identity.
    • Abel Magwitch - the convict's given name.
    • Provis - a name that Abel Magwitch uses when he returns to London, to conceal his identity.
    • Mr. Campbell - a name that Abel Magwitch uses after he is discovered in London by his enemy.
  • Mr. Wopsle - The clerk of the church in Pip's town. He later gives up the church work and moves to London to pursue his ambition to be an actor.
    • Mr. Waldengarver - The stage name that Mr. Wopsle adopts as an actor in London.
  • Biddy - The granddaughter of Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt; the latter runs an evening school in her home in Pip's village and Biddy becomes Pip's teacher. A kind and intelligent but poor young woman, like Pip and Estella an orphan, who is the opposite of Estella. Pip ignores Biddy's obvious love for him as he fruitlessly pursues Estella. After he realises the error of his life choices, he returns to claim Biddy as his bride, only to find out she has married Joe Gargery.

The attorney and his circle

  • Mr. Jaggers - Prominent London attorney who represents the interests of diverse clients, both criminal and civil. He represents Pip's benefactor and is Miss Havisham's attorney as well. By the end of the story, his law practice is the common element that touches many of the characters.
  • Mr. (John) Wemmick - Jaggers's clerk, only called "Mr. Wemmick" and "Wemmick" except by his father, who himself is referred to as "The Aged Parent", "The Aged P.", or simply "The Aged." Wemmick is Pip's chief go-between with Jaggers and generally looks after Pip in London.
  • Molly - Mr. Jaggers' maidservant who Jaggers saved from the gallows for murder. She is revealed to be the former wife of Magwitch, and the natural mother of Estella.

Pip's antagonists

  • Compeyson (surname) - another convict, and enemy to Magwitch. A professional swindler, he had been Miss Havisham's intended husband, who was in league with Arthur to defraud Miss Havisham of her fortune. He pursues Magwitch when he learns that he is in London and eventually dies while battling him.
  • "Dolge" Orlick - Journeyman blacksmith at Joe Gargery's forge. Strong, rude and sullen, he is as churlish as Joe is gentle and kind. His resentments cause him to take actions which threaten his desires in life, but for which he blames others. He ends up in a fistfight with Joe over Mrs. Joe's taunting and is easily beaten. This set in motion an escalating chain of events that lead him to secretly injure Mrs. Joe grievously and eventually make an attempt on Pip's life.
  • Bentley Drummle - A coarse unintelligent young man whose only saving graces are that he is to succeed to a title and his family is wealthy. Pip meets him at Mr. Pocket's house, as Drummle is also to be trained in gentlemanly skills. Drummle is hostile to Pip and everyone. He is a rival to Pip for Estella's attentions and eventually marries her.
    • "The Spider" - Mr. Jaggers' nickname for Drummle.

Significant places in "Great Expectations"

The physical setting

  • Rochester, Kent and surrounding countryside – locale of Pip's childhood home
  • London and environs in the early 19th century – primary location of the events of Pip's adult life

Real places referred to

  • The marshes - Wetlands on the banks of the River Thames estuary in Kent near to Pip's boyhood home and town.
  • The Hulks - Prison ships anchored off the marshes holding prisoners who are to be transported to Australia as punishment.
  • Little Britain - Old London neighbourhood of narrow streets and location of Mr. Jaggers's offices.
  • Newgate Prison - ancient prison near Mr. Jaggers's office, where criminals are imprisoned and executed.

Fictional places in Kent

  • The Forge - the workplace and home of Pip and his family. In the forge itself his substitute father Joe Gargery works as a master blacksmith. Pip later works there as his apprentice.
  • Satis House - also known as Manor House, Miss Havisham's ruined mansion where she lives with her adopted daughter Estella, and where Pip serves for years as her periodic companion.
  • The Three Jolly Bargemen - The public house and general meeting place of Pip's town.
  • The Blue Boar - Inn/hotel in Pip's home town.

Fictional places in London

  • Barnard's Inn - Shabby apartment block in London where Pip shares a flat with Herbert Pocket.
  • The Castle - Wemmick's fanciful home, where he lives with his father and receives Pip.
  • The Temple - Location of houses where Pip and Herbert move, and where Pip meets his benefactor.

Comparison to Dickens' other works

There is very little agreement amongst readers as to which of Dickens' novels is the best, but today Great Expectations is often placed near the top of polls. This contrasts with the end of the 19th century, when the author George Gissing, in his study of Dickens' works, had to remind the readers of the plot of Great Expectations as it was largely ignored compared to his other works. The book's lack of popularity shortly after it was written and its greater status today is perhaps due to the fact that it is the least "Dickensian" of any of his books. The usual grotesque characters common to many of his books are more muted and believable in this book. The book is very carefully plotted and less episodic than many of Dickens' other stories with the central character's changing viewpoint and perception of the world around him an important element of the story. There was an academic revival of interest, particularly by American critics starting in the 1940s, which has since placed it in the canon of often-read school texts.

The character of Pip contrasts sharply with the title characters in such books as Nicholas Nickleby and Oliver Twist. In these novels, the main character is more simply portrayed and the characters around them are of far greater interest. Pip, on the other hand, begins as a likeable, but simple child, but develops into quite an unsympathetic character later in the book. Dickens draws the reader into following the fortunes of the changing Pip from childhood - a subject in which Dickens is an acknowledged master - on to a rather snobbish and objectionable adolescent and then to his final reformation. Although he would probably not have liked to admit it, Dickens himself was a very clear model for Pip's personality. Despite having great fondness for the poor and oppressed and wishing to improve their conditions, Dickens felt himself to be superior to them. What he saw as a shameful personal connection to the poor earlier in his life made his desire to separate from them more pronounced, and this is mirrored in Pip's story.

The ending of the book is another measure of the difference to other Dickens novels and also greatly affects the reader's interpretation of the whole story. Dickens originally wrote an unhappy ending to the book that was, however, consistent with the book's theme. Dickens rarely did this and indeed it was very unusual for Victorian novels in general. After talking to his friends and fellow novelists Wilkie Collins and Edward Bulwer-Lytton he re-wrote a more hopeful ending which is the one used in all subsequent editions. Many critics regard the first ending as far more in keeping with the morality of the proceeding story but the second ending is acknowledged to be better written from a stylistic point of view. Both endings though are atypical compared to his other books and shows an uncertainty or ambivalence in the author's mind as to how the work should be ended.

Like many of Dickens's works, Great Expectations has been criticized for its excessive use of words. [citation needed] This may be related to the fact he was paid by installement for his serialised work (although often mistaken for being paid by the word). It is possible that the installment approach did lead to a more verbose style than would otherwise have been used. [2]

Film, TV or theatrical adaptations

Like many other Dickens novels, Great Expectations has been filmed several times:

Main article: Great Expectations (film)
  • 1917 - silent, starring Jack Pickford, directed by Robert G. Vignola.
  • 1922 - silent, made in Denmark, starring Martin Herzberg, directed by A.W. Sandberg.
  • 1934 - starring Phillips Holmes and Jane Wyatt, directed by Stuart Walker.
  • 1946 - starring John Mills as Pip and Jean Simmons as Estella, directed by David Lean.
  • 1959 - starring Dinsdale Landen as Pip, Helen Lindsay as Estella and Derek Benfield as Landlord. (BBC television series)
  • 1967 - starring Gary Bond and Francesca Annis.
  • 1974 - starring Michael York and Sarah Miles, directed by Joseph Hardy.
  • 1981 - starring Derek Francis, directed by Julian Amyes.
  • 1989 - starring Anthony Hopkins as Magwitch and Jean Simmons as Miss Havisham, directed by Kevin Connor.
  • 1998 - starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow, directed by Alfonso Cuarón.
  • 1999 - starring Ioan Gruffudd as Pip, Justine Waddell as Estella, and Charlotte Rampling as Miss Havisham (Masterpiece Theatre—TV)

A spin-off movie depicts the adventures of Magwitch in Australia:

  • 1986 - Great Expectations, the Untold Story, starring John Stanton, directed by Tim Burstall.


  1. ^ Meckier, Jerome Dating the Action in Great Expectations: A New Chronology.
  2. ^ Was Dickens really paid by the word?. The Dickens Project - Dickens FAQ. Retrieved on 2006-06-23.

See also

  • Great Expectations (film)
  • Pip (South Park episode) parody style treatment

External links

Wikisource has original text related to this article:
Great Expectations

Online editions

  • Great Expectations, available freely at Project Gutenberg
  • Great Expectations - Searchable HTML version.
  • Great Expectations - Easy to read HTML verson.
  • Great Expectations - PDF scans of the entire novel as it originally appeared in The Strand Magazine.

Study Guides

  • Great Expectations - CliffNotes
  • Great Expectations - MonkeyNotes
  • Great Expectations - Barron's Booknotes
  • Great Expectations - BookRags
  • Great Expectations - SparkNotes
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