Great Expectations is a Charles Dickens novel, first published in series between 1860-1861 and published in book form in 1861.
The classic novel was one of the author’s greatest critical and popular successes. It narrates the coming of age of the orphan Pip and at the same time addresses issues such as social class and human worth.
Summary and synapse
Pip (Philip Pirrip) tells the story of an unspecified time in the future. He grows up in the Everglades of Kent, where he lives with his unpleasant sister and sweet husband, blacksmith Joe Gargery.
While visiting the graves of his family members in the cemetery, young Pip meets Abel Magwitch, a fugitive convict. Pip brings him food, but the fugitive and Compeyson, his former partner in crime and an alleged knight who is now his enemy, are soon caught.
Later, Pip is asked to pay a visit to Miss Havisham, a woman who had gone mad years before because of her lover’s flight on her wedding day. Living with Miss Havisham at Satis House is her adoptive daughter, Estella, whom she is teaching to torment men with her beauty.
Pip, cautious at first, then falls in love with Estella, who does not return his affection. He grows increasingly ashamed of his humble background and hopes to become a knight, in part to win Estella. However, he is disappointed when he becomes Joe’s apprentice.
Several years later a lawyer named Mr. Jaggers appears and informs Pip that an anonymous benefactor has allowed him to go to London for an education; Pip believes the money belongs to Miss Havisham, who does not deter him from the idea.
Once in London, Matthew Pocket and his son Herbert teach Pip how to be a gentleman, the last of whom Pip met years before at Satis House. She also receives instruction from Bentley Drummle, naive and unintelligent.
Pip, increasingly presumptuous, is horrified to discover that his mysterious benefactor is Magwitch. Magwitch is not only in danger of being arrested, but Pip’s social standing is threatened. Pip reveals the situation to Herbert, and it is decided that Magwitch and Pip should leave England.
Before leaving, Pip visits Satis House, where he confronts Miss Havisham for letting him believe that she was his patron. He also professes his love for Estella, who rejects him. Knowing that Drummle is chasing her, Pip warns her, but she announces that she plans to marry him.
Subsequently, Pip makes several surprising discoveries, notably that Magwitch is Estella’s father and that Compeyson was Miss Havisham’s mistress. He also approaches Magwitch, whom he respects.
When Pip and Magwitch try to get out of London in a boat, the police and Compeyson arrive. The two convicts end up fighting on the Thames, and only Magwitch appears; Compeyson’s body is later recovered.
Injured Magwitch is arrested, convicted and dies pending execution. A discouraged Pip is arrested for his debts, but his faulty health prevents him from being jailed.
Joe also informs him that Miss Havisham is dead. After Joe leaves, Pip discovers that his brother-in-law has paid all of his bills.
Later, Pip accepts a job offer at the Herbert branch in Cairo, and enjoys a simple but content life. After more than 10 years, he returns to England and visits the place where Satis House was. There he meets Estella, who is now a widow. When they leave, Pip takes her hand, believing they will never part again.
Genre: learning novel
Great Expectations is a classic example of a learning novel, a category of literature that focuses on the progression of a central character as he matures or becomes an adult and experiences significant psychological growth along the way.
The novel begins with Pip’s first memory of having named himself, due to his “childish tongue.” In the end, Pip establishes himself as a mature professional. Pip not only grows and changes physically throughout the book, but also dramatically alters his understanding of what he considers important in life.
Much of the plot is fueled by his ambitions and he hopes to ascend to a higher position in life as he is “restlessly aspiring,” but by the end of the novel, Pip has been humiliated and has a deeper understanding of true happiness. . The close focus on Pip’s journey to psychological and emotional maturity, made evident through a first-person narrative, is a feature of the learning genre.
- Philip “Pip” Pirrip: an orphan with aspirations of one day being a knight. He falls in love with cruel Estella.
- Miss Havisham: a bitter old woman who was left at the altar on her wedding day. She teaches Estella to break men’s hearts.
- Estella: A beautiful young orphan, raised by Miss Havisham to be cold and distant. Initially, she rejects Pip’s advances, but the two reconcile at the end of the novel.
- Abel Magwitch – An ex-convict whom Pip meets while visiting his parents’ graves. Abel makes a fortune in Australia and then returns to England to reveal himself as Pip’s benefactor.
- Joe Gargery: As Mrs. Joe’s husband, Joe is a father figure to Pip throughout Pip’s childhood, and his tender kindness protects Pip from Mrs. Joe’s harsh upbringing.
- Biddy: An orphan that Pip meets at the village school, Biddy moves to the forge to help after Ms. Joe’s attack and then becomes a school teacher. She is humble, kind, moral, and fiercely intelligent.
- Wemmick: As an employee of Mr. Jaggers, Wemmick models his character into Mr. Jaggers while in the office where he is rational, emotionless, and money minded.
- Mrs. Joe Gargery: Pip’s older sister and guardian after her parents’ death, Mrs. Joe is ardent, tyrannical, and fake, insisting on her own victim even when she abuses Pip and Joe.
- Compeyson (aka The Other Convict): A cruel and scheming villain, Compeyson is a forger and counterfeiter who uses his polite, high-class appearance to trick people into thinking that he is more honorable and less guilty than the criminals of lower class.
Great Expectations works on several levels: as a critique of Victorian society and as an exploration of memory and writing. However, a search for true identity is perhaps more important.
During the course of the novel, Pip realizes that his “high expectations” (status and wealth) are less important than loyalty and compassion. High hopes were also noted for their mix of humor, mystery, and tragedy. In the original ending of the play, Pip and Estella did not meet, but Dickens was persuaded to write a happier conclusion.