A writer uses different characters to evolve a story and convey his idea through their personality. Without characters and their development, the story cannot progress. They could be animals and inanimate objects. Some of the best characters in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens have become icons in literature. Some of the major characters of Great Expectations have been analyzed below.
Characters in Great Expectations
Philip Pirrip known as Pip to his family and friends is the protagonist and the narrator of the novel Great Expectations. Pip as a child is very observant and kind-hearted. He shows his kindness by stealing food from home and giving to the convict. He is immature and yet has a good conscience. He holds a strong desire to educate himself and live his life of poverty. He is afraid of his sister Mrs. Joe Gargery. Having lost his parents at an early age, his brother in law becomes his father figure in his life. During his education under Miss Havisham, he becomes snobbish and cold towards Joe and Biddy. Though he is a kind person, he leaves his good qualities behind to live lavishly as Miss Havisham and Estella. He is also in love with Estella but loses her to another person Bentley Drummle. Throughout his life experiences, he learns to value money and people who genuinely love him. At the end of the novel, when Pip, now transformed into a perfect gentleman and perhaps in the 40s, meets Estella again and they confess their love for each other.
Estella lives at Miss Havisham’s, the Sati House who trains her to fulfill her desire of breaking the hearts of men out of jealousy. Although she wins over Pip, she is highly manipulative but plays a major role in Pip’s transformation. Pip later learns that she is Magwitch’s and Mr. Jagger’s housekeeper Molly’s daughter. She marries Bentley Drummle who marries her for money and later dies in an accident. Her pride is crushed in later years because of her failed relationships as her life of wealth is left in the past. Though she had hurt Pip in the beginning, she realizes that Pip never stopped loving her. In the end, Estella and Pip confess their love for each other.
Mr. Joe Gargery
Joe plays a major role in Pip’s life. After the death of his parents, Joe becomes a father figure for Pip. Not only does he take care of him in difficult circumstances, but he also helps him whenever he needs. Despite his harsh upbringing and low status, Joe is one of the kindest people in Pip’s life. He quickly forgives Pip’s snobbery during his visit to London and cares for Pip when he falls ill. After his wife’s (Pip’s sister) death, he marries Biddy, a teacher.
Mrs. Joe Gargery
Mrs. Joe Gargery is Pip’s sister. She is at least 20 years older than Pip, short-tempered and strict towards Pip as she is frustrated doing the entire house chores alone. Her obsession with social status, too, forces her to be bitter with others. She is disabled after Joe’s assistant attacks her. Eventually, she dies.
Abel Magwitch is one of those unrefined and rough characters who win the hearts of the readers due to his benevolent nature. When young Pip helps him escape from the police and provides him food, Abel Magwitch becomes Pip’s secret benefactor. Through his lawyer, Mr. Jaggers, and Miss Havisham, Magwitch plays a significant role in Pip’s life and development. Though he is Estella’s father, he treats Pip as his own son and does everything to transform him into a gentleman.
Miss Havisham lives in an old and musty mansion, the Satis House, and is known for her cynicism and vindictive nature. Her vengeance starts after the tragedy of marrying Mr. Compeyson. She uses Estella as a weapon against men and teaches her to break their hearts to heal hers. However, she redeems herself in the end when Pip forgives her.
Biddy is a very kindhearted girl who takes care of Pip’s sister after she is left disabled when Dolge Orlick attacks her. Her character is opposite to Estella due to her compassionate nature. Though both Pip and Biddy are orphans, she mentors Pip to some extent and encourages him to follow his heart. After Mrs. Joe Gargery’s death, she marries Joe and gives birth to a son. Biddy and Joe name their son, Pip.
Uncle Pumblechook is another character like Miss Havisham who is supercilious and condescending by nature. Despite being an ordinary shopkeeper, he is very boastful. He is very close to Pip’s sister and feels that he played a major role in Pip’s life and transformation. He is robbed by Orlick who also disables Pip’s sister. Pumblechook is a classic example of greedy humans.
Pip meets Herbert as a child and gets a bloody nose in the fistfight at the Satis House. Herbert Pocket appears again in London and becomes a loyal friend to Pip throughout the story. In fact, it is Herbert Pocket teaches Pip to realize the proper use of his money in business instead of upgrading his social status. Optimist and wise young man, Pocket teaches Pip the value of money, education and positive attitude. He later marries Clara Barley, and they form a strong bond with Pip.
He is Abel Magwitch’s enemy. He was engaged to Miss Havisham and cheated her to take half of her property. He also deceives Magwitch by forging signatures. He is released early from the jail due to his good behavior. However, Compeyson seeks to destroy Magwitch. During a chase involved with the police, Compeyson drowns in Thames river.