Great Expectations

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Great Expectations  

First edition title page of Vol. 1
Author Charles Dickens
Country United Kingdom
Language English
Genre(s) Novel
Publisher Chapman and Hall
Publication date 1860 – 1861 (in serial form) & 1861 (in 3 volumes)
Media type print (hardback & paperback)
Pages 799 pp (hardback)

Great Expectations is a novel by Charles Dickens first serialised in All the Year Round[1] from 1 December 1860 to August 1861. It is regarded as one of his greatest and most sophisticated novels, and is one of his most enduringly popular, having been adapted for stage and screen over 250 times.[2]

Great Expectations is written in a semi-autobiographical style and is the story of the orphan Pip, writing his life from his early days of childhood until adulthood and trying to be a gentleman along the way. The story can also be considered semi-autobiographical of Dickens, like much of his work, drawing on his experiences of life and people.

The action of the story takes place from Christmas Eve, 1812, when the protagonist is about seven years old, to the winter of 1840.[3]

Each installment in All the Year Round contained two chapters and was written in a way that kept readers interested from week to week, while still satisfying their curiosity at the end of each one.


[edit] Plot summary

The story is divided into four phases of Pip's life expectations.

On Christmas Eve, young Pip, an orphan being raised by his sister and her husband, encounters a frightening man in the village churchyard. The man, a convict who has escaped from a prison ship, scares Pip into stealing him some food and a file to grind away his leg shackle. This incident is crucial: firstly, it gives Pip, who must steal the goods from his sister's house, his first taste of true guilt, and, secondly, Pip's kindness warms the convict's heart. The convict, however, waits many years to truly show his gratitude.

At his sister's house, Pip is a boy without expectations. Mrs. Joe beats him around and has nothing good to say about her little brother. Her husband Joe is a kind man, although he is a blacksmith without much ambition, and it's assumed that Pip will follow in his footsteps. Only when Pip gets invited unexpectedly to the house of a rich old woman in the village named Miss Havisham, does Mrs. Joe, or any of her dull acquaintances, hold out any hope for Pip's success.

Indeed, Pip's visits to Miss Havisham changes him. Miss Havisham is an old woman who was abandoned on her wedding day and has, as a result, given up on life. She wears a yellowed wedding gown and haunts around her decrepit house, her only companion being Estella, her adopted daughter. Estella is beautiful, and Pip develops a strong crush on her, a crush that turns into love as he grows older. But it is unrequited love, as Miss Havisham has made it her dark life's project to raise Estella as a cruel-hearted girl who will break men's hearts, satisfying Miss Havisham's own desire to spurn love.

Pip frequently visits Miss Havisham, until one day she tells him never to return because the time has come for his apprenticeship with Joe to begin. Having tasted the spoils of a better life, Pip is miserable as a blacksmith and constantly worries that Estella will look through the forge window and see him as horribly common. Estella soon leaves the village, and things progress until one day Mrs. Joe suffers an attack which leaves her mute and incapacitated but much nicer. A young girl about Pip's age, Biddy, comes to live at the house in order to care for Mrs. Joe. Pip again settles into his routine, until one night at Joe's house, a London lawyer, Jaggers, approaches Pip, revealing startling news: Pip has inherited a sum of money from an anonymous benefactor, a condition of which is that he must leave for London immediately, to buy some clothes and to become a gentleman. Pip accepts the condition.

In London, Pip studies with a tutor and lives with a new and close friend, Herbert. Pip is certain that his benefactor is the rich Miss Havisham. In addition, he becomes convinced that Miss Havisham's financial support towards his elevated social status is the result of her desire that he may marry Estella someday. Pip passes many years in London; he remains ashamed of Joe, and they grow apart; Mrs. Joe dies, as he becomes more and more infatuated with Estella--who seems to get colder and colder by the day--he never confesses his love. Among the people he knows in London are Wemmick, a clerk in Jaggers' office who becomes a friend, and Bentley Drummle, a horrible brute of a boy who begins to become interested in Estella.

One stormy night, Pip learns the true identity of his benefactor. It is not Miss Havisham (who has made many misleading comments indicating it was her) but rather a petty criminal named Magwitch who had been transported to New South Wales. Magwitch is the convict Pip fed in the churchyard many years ago, and he's left all his money to Pip in gratitude for that kindness and also because young Pip reminded him of his own child, whom he thinks is dead. The news of his benefactor crushes Pip--he's ashamed of him, and worse yet, Magwitch wants to spend the rest of his days with Pip. Pip takes this on like a dreadful duty, and it's all the worse because Magwitch is a wanted man in England and will be hanged if he's caught.

Eventually, a plan is hatched by Herbert and Pip, whereby Pip and Magwitch will flee the country by rowing down the river and catching a steamer bound for mainland Europe. This must be done on the sly, and further complicating matters is the fact that an old criminal enemy of Magwitch's, Compeyson, is hot in pursuit. Compeyson, it's discovered, is the same man that swindled and jilted Miss Havisham so many years back. Miss Havisham, meanwhile, is softening a bit and seems repentant for her life-long mission against love.

Estella has been married to Bentley Drummle, a marriage that anyone can see will be an unhappy one. Just before Pip is to flee with Magwitch, he makes one last visit to Miss Havisham and finds her filled with regret, wanting his forgiveness. Unfortunately, she gets a little too close to the fire and sets herself ablaze. Pip heroically saves her, but she's badly burned and does eventually die from her injuries.

Pip and Magwitch, along with Herbert and another friend, Startop, make a gallant attempt to help Magwitch escape, but instead he's captured--pointed out, in fact, by his old enemy Compeyson. Compeyson dies in the struggle, and Magwitch, badly injured, goes to jail. Pip by now is devoted to Magwitch and recognizes in him a good and noble man. Magwitch dies, however, not long before he's slated to be executed. Pip has discovered that Magwitch is actually Estella's father, and on Magwitch's deathbed, Pip tells Magwitch his discovery and also that he loves Estella.

Without money or expectations, Pip, after a period of bad illness during which Joe cares for him, goes into business overseas with Herbert. Joe has married Biddy, and after eleven relatively successful years abroad, Pip goes to visit them out in the marshes. They are happy and have a child, whom they've named Pip. Finally, Pip makes one last visit to Miss Havisham's house, where he finds Estella wandering. Her marriage is over, and she seems to have grown children and wants Pip to accept her as a friend. When the novel ends, it seems that there is hope that Pip and Estella will finally end up together.

[edit] The first stage of Pip's expectations:

Pip, a young orphan, lives a humble existence with his shrewish older sister and her strong but kind husband, Joe Gargery. One day Pip meets Magwitch, an escaped convict, and brings him food and a file after the man threatens his life. This convict is later caught again and sent away.

Pip is satisfied with his life and his warm friends until he is hired by an extremely wealthy woman, Miss Havisham, as an occasional companion to her beautiful but haughty adopted daughter, Estella. Pip falls in love with 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 future working as a blacksmith.

After a fight with Joe's assistant, Orlick, Mrs. Joe is found in the kitchen after a terrible attack.

This life is suddenly turned upside down when he is visited by a London lawyer, Mr. Jaggers, who informs Pip that he is to come into the "great expectations" of handsome property and be trained to be a gentleman on the behalf of an anonymous benefactor (whom Pip assumes to be Miss Havisham).

[edit] The second stage of Pip's expectations:

Pip travels to London. He arrives on a carriage near Mr. Jaggers' offices. After a stroll around the area, Pip is told by Mr. Jaggers that he will temporarily stay at the Barnard's Inn. Upon arriving, he finds Herbert Pocket (a relative of Miss Havisham), who informs Pip of Miss Havisham's past. Apparently, Miss Havisham had once been deceived by her jealous brother (Arthur Havisham) and an accomplice (Compeyson). Compeyson had misconstrued her into falling in love with him but had fled with her wealth, leaving her at the altar. Angered and humiliated, she raises Estella to take revenge on all males.

With Mr. Herbert Pocket, Pip receives an education and tutoring in manners, fine clothing, and cultured society. Whereas he always engaged in honest labour when he was younger, he is now 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.

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 illiterate ways, despite his protestations of love of and friendship for Joe. At the end of this stage, Pip is introduced to his anonymous benefactor, Magwitch, the escaped convict he helped long ago who has now acquired affluence in Australia. This revelation again changes his world and ends this stage of his expectation.

[edit] The third stage of Pip's expectations:

From this point on, Pip's life changes from the artificially supported world of his upper class strivings and introduces him to realities that he must deal with, including moral and financial challenges. He learns startling truths - including that Magwitch is innocent (framed by Compeyson) and that Estella is Magwitch's daughter. He realizes that he cannot accept Magwitch's fortune, is cast into doubt about the valuence embraced so eagerly, and finds that he cannot regain many of the important things that he had cast aside so carelessly. Moreover, he discovers that Bentley Drummle has wooed Estella. Pip tries to warn Estella, but she ignores his admonitions and continues with the engagement.

Pip returns to Satis House and finds Miss Havisham distraught with remorse. Miss Havisham realizes that she has done Pip wrong and that she has also ruined Estella. She begs his forgiveness, which he quickly gives. Later, whilst sitting next to a fireplace, her dress catches fire, and she goes up in flames. However, Pip saves her though he burns his own hands. Miss Havisham loses her sanity and since then perpetually asks for Pip's forgiveness.

Pip soon receives an invitation mysterious stranger to the Marshes in his old town. There, he is kidnapped by Orlick, who despises Pip for smearing his reputation with Biddy whom he secretly admires. He admits to attacking Pip's sister and is about to kill Pip just when he is saved by Herbert.

They return to London and attempt to smuggle Magwitch from England to Hamburg, Germany on a foreign steamer. This attempt fails when Compeyson leads the police to the ship Magwitch is on. Magwitch seizes Compeyson, and a fight in the water ensues. Compeyson dies, and Magwitch is hit by the keel of the steamer ship, which was to take him away, and is apprehended. Soon after, Mr. Wemmick marries Miss Skiffins, and Herbert leaves for Cairo, Egypt. Magwitch falls ill, and Pip tells him before he dies that his daughter (Estella) is still alive and that he loves her. Magwitch dies in peace, but Pip falls ill. His illness is brought on by a his kidnapping and near murder from Orlick, the former hand at Joe's forge. Joe tends to him and pays the debts that Pip has accumulated. Pip eventually travels with Herbert as an occupation Middle East.

[edit] The ending

Charles Dickens wrote two different endings for Great Expectations. Dickens changed the ending at the suggestion of a friend, the novelist Edward Bulwer Lytton, presumably for the sake of a happier ending. The majority of books being published currently contain the first ending, or both, with the Dickens' original with its own explanation.

Original ending:

Pip meets Estella on the streets. Her abusive husband Drummle has died, and she has remarried, to a doctor. Estella and Pip exchange brief pleasantries, after which Pip states while he could not have her in the end, he was at least glad to know she was a different person now, somewhat changed from the cold-hearted girl Miss Havisham had reared her to be. The novel ends with Pip saying he could see that "suffering had been stronger than Miss Havisham's teaching and had given her a heart to understand what my heart used to be."

Revised ending:

Pip and Estella meet again at the ruins of Satis House:

'"We are friends," said I, rising and bending over her, as she rose from the bench.

"And will continue friends apart," said Estella.

I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her.'

[edit] Themes and analysis

The main themes of the novel include gratitude, suffering, and social mobility. Pip appreciates the gentle Joe Gargery but treats him with indifference after leaving for London. The failure of Pip to keep in contact with Joe never causes Joe to complain. Joe's selfless nature is frequently contrasted with Mr. Pumblechook's constant criticism of Pip's ingratitude. Suffering is depicted by many characters, including Miss Havisham and Pip, who suffer equally. Miss Havisham was jilted on her wedding day and tricked out of part of her money, while Pip suffers by never gaining Estella's love. Dickens uses Pip to bring attention to the increasing social stratification in Victorian London. Estella criticizes Pip for his working class background, and Pip in turn develops a contempt for his own family's lack of wealth. Pip constantly attempts to impress Estella by moving up the social ladder, though many of the benefits of this climb are dubious. The wealthy class is represented by the cruel Compeyson and Mr. Jaggers and the wasteful and indolent Miss Havisham. The working class is depicted in a constant state of oppression, despite the intelligence and honesty of many poor characters.

Other main issues in the text include parenthood (there are very few positive maternal figures in the story) and the influence that one generation's actions may have on subsequent generations. Dysfunctional family relationships in the novel result in resentment, particularly in the case of Estella's relationship with her cold-hearted guardian Miss Havisham. Revenge is another key theme. Late in the novel, the major adult characters who tried to seek revenge through others or have had serious problems in their youth regret their actions and try to make amends, suggesting that the events in a person's life may be consuming to the point of destruction, and that one's actions are irreversible and irrevocable. Another prominent theme is imprisonment, a familiar theme in Dickens' later novels (and in particular, in Little Dorrit), focusing on the sections which take place in the Hulks and Newgate Prison. Guilt is also a theme that is touched upon. Pip feels guilty about a number of things, for instance the attack on Mrs. Joe, which he associates with the help he gave to the convict.[4]

[edit] Main characters in Great Expectations

[edit] Pip, the protagonist, and his family

  • Philip Pirrip, nicknamed Pip, an orphan, and also the protagonist. Pip is destined to be trained as a blacksmith, a lowly but skilled and honest trade but strives to rise above his class after meeting Estella and Miss Havisham.
    • Handel, Herbert Pocket's nickname for Pip (he is given this name from The Harmonious Blacksmith, a piece by Handel) which he uses to address Pip from their first formal meeting.
  • Joe Gargery, Pip's brother-in-law, and his first father figure. A blacksmith who is the only person Pip can be honest with. Joe represents the poor but honest life that Pip rejects.
  • Mrs. Joe Gargery, Pip's hot-tempered adult sister, who brings him up by hand after the death of their parents but complains constantly of the burden Pip is to her. Orlick attacks her, and she is left disabled for the rest of her life, until Pip receives a letter saying she is dead. Late in the book, Pumblechook reveals that her true first name is Georgiana Maria (shortened to Georgiana M'Ria in the novel).
  • Mr. Pumblechook, Joe Gargery's uncle, an officious bachelor who tells Mrs. Joe how noble she is to bring Pip up by hand and holds Pip in disdain. As the person who first connected Pip to Miss Havisham, he even claims to have been the original architect of Pip's precious fortune. He is a corn merchant. Pip despises Mr. Pumblechook as Mr. Pumblechook constantly makes himself out to be better than he really is. He is a cunning impostor. When Pip finally stands up to him, Mr. Pumblechook turns those listening to the conversation against Pip.

[edit] Miss Havisham and her family

  • Miss Havisham, wealthy spinster who takes Pip on as a companion and whom Pip suspects is his benefactor. Miss Havisham does not discourage this as it fits into her own spiteful plans. She later apologizes to him. He accepts her apology, and she gets badly burnt when her dress catches aflame from a spark which leapt from the fire. Pip saves her, but she later dies from injuries from the fire.
  • Estella (Havisham), Miss Havisham's adopted daughter, whom Pip pursues romantically throughout the novel. She is secretly the daughter of Molly, Jagger's housekeeper, and Abel Magwitch, Pip's convict, but was given up to Miss Havisham after a murder trial. Estella represents the life of wealth and culture that Pip strives for. Since her ability to love 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 gambled heavily, being drunk quite often.
  • Matthew Pocket, a cousin of Miss Havisham's. He is the patriarch of the Pocket family, but he is not one of her relatives who are greedy for Havisham's wealth. Matthew Pocket has a family of nine children, two nurses, a housekeeper, a cook, and a pretty but useless wife (named Belinda). He also tutors young gentlemen, such as Bentley Drummle, Startop, Pip, and his own son Herbert, who live on his estate.
  • Herbert Pocket, a member of the Pocket family, Miss Havisham's presumed heirs, whom Pip first meets as a "pale young gentleman" who challenges Pip to a fist fight 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. He has a secret relationship with a woman called Clara. Herbert keeps it secret because he knows his mother would say she is below his "station." She's actually a sweet, fairy-like girl who takes care of her dying drunk of a father.
  • Camilla, an aging, talkative relative of Miss Havisham who does not care much for Miss Havisham but only wants her money. She is one of the many relatives who hang around Miss Havisham "like flies" for her wealth.
  • Cousin Raymond, another aging relative of Miss Havisham who is only interested in her money. He is married to Camilla.
  • Georgiana, an aging relative of Miss Havisham who is only interested in her money.
  • Sarah Pocket another aging relative of Miss Havisham who is only interested in her money.

[edit] Characters from Pip's youth

  • The Convict, an escapee from a prison ship, whom 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. Pip also covers him as his uncle in order that no one recognizes him as a convict sent to Australia years before.
    • Abel Magwitch, the convict's given name, who is also Pip's benefactor.
    • Provis, a name that Abel Magwitch uses when he returns to London, to conceal his identity. Pip also says that "Provis" is his uncle visiting for out of town.
    • Mr. Campbell, a name that Abel Magwitch uses after he is discovered in London by his enemy.
  • Mr. and Mrs. Hubble, simple folk who think they are more important than they really are. They live in Pip's village.
  • 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, even though he is not very good.
    • Mr. Waldengarver, the stage name that Mr. Wopsle adopts as an actor in London.
  • Biddy, 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, is an orphan, who is the opposite of Estella. Pip ignores Biddy's obvious love for him as he fruitlessly pursues Estella. After he realizes the error of his life choices, he returns to claim Biddy as his bride, only to find out she has married Joe Gargery. Biddy and Joe later had two children, one named after Pip who Estella mistook as Pip's child in the original ending. Orlick was attracted to her, but his affection was unreciprocated.
  • Clara, wife to Herbert Pocket. A very poor girl that lives with her father who is suffering from gout. She dislikes Pip the first time she meets him because he influences Herbert's spending, but she eventually warms up to him.
  • Mr. Pumblechook A man who claims to be part of high society, but is not much higher than Pip's family. He claims that it was all thanks to him that Pip got to Miss Havisham's in the first place, but he is an obvious, cocky, fake.

[edit] 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 brushes many of the characters, and is a particularly large man for his stature.
  • Mr. 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's maidservant whom Jaggers saved from the gallows for murder. She is revealed to be the former lover of Magwitch, and Estella's real mother.

[edit] 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 Abel Magwitch when he learns that he is in London and eventually dies.
  • "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 marries her. It is said he ill-treats Estella and took much from her.
    • "The Spider", Mr. Jaggers's nickname for Bentley Drummle.

[edit] Film, TV, and theatrical adaptations

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

[edit] Cultural references and spin-offs

  • Great Expectations, the Untold Story (1986), starring John Stanton, directed by Tim Burstall is a spin-off movie depicting the adventures of Magwitch in Australia.
  • In explaining the character Pip, the creators of South Park made a parody episode, "Pip". It initially followed the plot, but spun off on a tangent (one involving robot monkeys) that made Miss Havisham more villainous (by way of a brain-switching device) as a parody of the fact that Dickens had changed the ending to fit the fads at the time.
  • Peter Carey's Jack Maggs is a re-imagining of Magwitch's return to England, with the addition, among other things, of a fictionalised Charles Dickens character and plot-line.
  • Lloyd Jones's Mister Pip is set in Bougainville where, during a time of civil unrest, a white man uses Great Expectations as the basis for his lessons to the local children.
  • The plot and characters of Great Expectations feature heavily in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. Miss Havisham is Thursday's friend and mentor, and Fforde draws from the manuscript to further along the story and give a glimpse of what goes on inside the world of Great Expectations when no one is reading it.
  • The novel is referenced in a song named after it, by the New Jersey band The Gaslight Anthem.

[edit] See also

[edit] References

  1. ^ How Great Expectations
  2. ^ Great Expectations Critical Overview
  3. ^ Meckier, Jerome Dating the Action in Great Expectations: A New Chronology.
  4. ^

[edit] External links

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