Introduction of Great Expectations
Great Expectation by Charles Dickens, is about a young, orphaned kid, Pip. It was his 13th novel published in a weekly periodical in episodes weekly from 1860 to 1861. The story is written in the first-person point of view, through the voice of Pip, the primary character, and his coming of the age situation in England. The story starts from his childhood to adulthood including his relationship and a highly challenging life adventure. The book was published in three volumes in 1861.
Summary of Great Expectations
The story starts on the Christmas Eve of 1812. Philip Pirrip, known as Pip in his family and friends, is a seven-year-old boy and the protagonist of the story. Pip accidentally meets an escaped criminal, Abel Magwitch, in the churchyard of the village. Pip is at the graves of his parents. Magwitch scares Pip and convinces him into bringing some food from his sister and brother-in-law’s house. Although Joe Gargery, Pip’s brother-in-law, is quite loving and caring, Pip is fearful of his bad-tempered sister. When he returns in the morning, he brings some tools, bread, and brandy with him despite fears of being caught. When dinner time arrives in the evening, Joe is visited by soldiers asking help for mending shackles. Later, Pip realizes that it is for arresting Magwitch. However, to his surprise, he does not involve Pip in the food-stealing case.
Living with the sister and Joe soon comes to an end when Pip is sent to Miss Havisham, a reclusive spinster. She asks Mr. Pumblechook for a boy to be at her home and as an acquaintance. Hence, Pumblechook convinces Joe Gargery to let Pip go. Later, they plan and send Pip, who begins to visit Miss Havisham. There he must comply with her instructions. Pip also meets Estella, a beautiful girl about his age. At first, he instantly falls in love with her. Pip learns that Estelle is Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter. Miss Havisham discourages Estelle to be kind to Pip or have a friendship. Despite the bad experience, Pip continues visiting Miss Havisham for odd tasks at home and learns enough to get ready for the future.
Finally, she relieves him by giving him some money after which Joe thinks that he can learn the trade to be a blacksmith. One day, Dolge Orlick who doesn’t like his sister attacks her when, Joe and Pip, are not present at home, paralyzing her. After this attack, Joe does his best to look after his wife and Pip. Also, previously aggressive Mrs. Joe becomes kindhearted. Biddy, Pip’s friend and a teacher, helps them to take care of his sister. Having four years in apprenticeship, Pip learns the trade quite well when he finds Mr. Jaggers, a lawyer, informing him about the inherited amount he received from some unknown benefactor on the condition that he must be an educated gentleman. Pip, immediately meets Miss Havisham first, considering her benefactor, and then leaves for London to become an educated young man. Thus starting his adventure alone.
Pip is tutored by Matthew Pocket, Miss Havisham’s cousin. He lives at Barnard’s Inn with Matthew’s son, Herbert Pocket. They recall meeting when Pip was visiting Miss Havisham. They laugh about Estella who then, rejected him as her playmate. Knowing the past details of Miss Havisham, Herbert discloses the strange life of Miss Havisham. A few years before she turned to isolation, she was the victim of a fraud committed by her fiancé. When she was waiting for him on her wedding day, he never turned up. Soon Pip becomes friends with other pupils, Startop, a very social fellow, and Bentley Drummle, a snob from a noble family. Having new to London and getting money from an unknown source, Pip becomes reckless in handling his finances. After too much indulgence and parties, Pip finds himself in financial difficulty. However, every time he needs money, he approaches Mr. Jaggers, the lawyer, who provides him necessary financial assistance but with a warning.
A couple of years later, Pip is immersed in his routine when one day Joe, his brother-in-law, comes to meet him. Having influenced by city life, Pip is disgusted by Joe’s habits and makes him feel bad. Joe brings a message for him that Estella is waiting for him at Satis House, the residence of Miss Havisham. Although he goes to Miss Havisham who does not discourage him yet he feels uneasy when he sees Orlick there, serving Miss Havisham. When he meets Jaggers, the lawyer, he tells him about Orlick’s involvement in his sister’s paralytic condition. The lawyer, then, promises him that he would do something to get him removed from Satis House. After this, he comes back to London and meets Herbert, his roommate, and tells him about his romance. This story continues when he goes to Richmond to meet Estella.
Living together, Pip and Herbert soon face the dilemma of rising debts. To add fuel to the fire, Mrs. Joe breathes her last. Pip returns home for the funeral. When he comes back, he has come of age finding that his fixed income is enough to support Herbert with a shipbroker. Meanwhile, he meets Estella where he finds Miss Havisham taunting Estella for her coldness. On the other hand, when he meets Estella in London, he becomes furious at Bentley Drummle for offering her a toast, though, she meets him on her own desire despite Pip’s warning to her.
When Pip turns 23 and comes to know about the convict, Magwitch, as his real benefactor. He also comes to know about his release and exile including the fear of death, though, he returns to meet him. After learning this, Pip is ashamed to know that he has been misusing Magwitch’s money. However, he does not want to turn him over to the police for which he takes help from Herbert and other friends to help him escape. During the rescue mission, Pip hears the rest of the story and exposes the real criminal, Compeyson, who had deceived Miss Havisham, too.
When Pip goes to meet Estella at Satis House, he finds Orlick serving Bentley. When he confronts Miss Havisham about the money he has been receiving, she admits on the pretext that it was to tease her relatives but when he confronts Estella, she openly declares that she is going to marry Drummle. On the other hand, he comes to know that Compeyson is on the lookout for him while they are trying to arrange Magwitch’s escape from the police. When Pip learns about Molly’s rescue by Jaggers, he feels that he could also do such kind acts.
As the story goes further, Pip also comes to know that Miss Havhsim and how she has brought up Estella in a way that she became heartless. As Jaggers has given Estella to her, she is unaware of her parental lineage. However, she continues with the money for Pip to seek for him a position at Clarriker’s. Pip goes to meet her and confronts her past. When he is about to leave, he hears her shrieks, seeing that she has caught fire. He tries his best to save her and injures himself during this struggle yet she breathes her last in this accident. It is at this point he comes to know about Estella’s parents and she is Magwitch’s daughter. He tries to get more of the story from Jaggers who knows all the details. However, he refuses to give full details to Pip.
When Magwitch is almost about to escape, Orlick tricks Pip into visiting a sluice house to kill him. However, it turns out that Herbert and Startop have been tipped about regarding the plan. They immediately arrive to save him. Then, they take Magwitch to Hamburg in a boat but a police boat impedes their departure. However, they come to know that Compeyson is also in that boat to identify Magwitch. When both come face to face, there ensues a scuffle of the convicts with the police in which Magwitch is fatally hurt and Compeyson is drowned.
After this incident, Magwitch is imprisoned and heartbroken, Pip finds it hard to work on his business plans with Herbert, hence continues to work with Clarriker. Meanwhile, he tries to save Magwitch from recovering from his injuries in a prison hospital but fails to do so. However, he informs him about his daughter Estella before dying. Soon Pip himself faces arrest after the debts are not paid at which Joe comes to his rescue. When Pip comes to Biddy to woo her, he sees that Joe has already married her and they have two children. He, then, leaves for Cairo at Herbert’s invitation and joins Clara and Herbert to work with them. Almost after a decade of work in Egypt, Pip comes back, visits his relatives and Estella who has been widowed and both of them meet to discuss their future.
Major Themes in Great Expectations
- Social Class: The novel, Great Expectations, shows the theme of social class and class differences through the characters of Pip, Joe, Miss Havisham, and Magwitch. Whereas Magwitch belongs to the lesser strata, living in extreme poverty and falling to the pit of the criminal world, Pip is representing the working class that they have had to work for the elite class of Miss Havisham to improve their prospects and also has to face refusal from people born and bred up in the elite class like Estella.
- Ambition: The theme of ambition in the novel is shown through the plans and desires of Pip and Herbert. Both yearn and try to get some position where they could earn honorably. Whereas Pip gets assistance from Magwitch’s money, Herbert works very hard to make a niche in society. However, both of them help each other and work at Carriker’s and when Herbert finds a good position in Cairo for himself, he helps by inviting Pip to join him.
- Guilt and Redemption: The thematic strand of guilt is shown through the characters of Miss Havisham, Pip, and Estella at the end of the story. Miss Havisham expresses guilt in the way she had raised Estella and admits that she has brought her up as a heartless girl while Pip’s guilt is that though he was becoming a gentleman, he feels that he has learned everything from the money given to him by a criminal. However, he later treats Joe and Biddy well despite his initial shyness not to contact them. Similarly, Miss Havisham informs him when she is about to die that she has brought up Estella in that way, the reason that she has rejected Pip’s advances.
- Uncertainty: The theme of uncertainty is present throughout the novel in that Pip is uncertain about his future as well as his parents. Even when he steals food for Compeyson, he is uncertain of him. This uncertainty stays during his contact with Estella as well as Miss Havisham’s generous assistance which later proves that he was right about it.
- Deceit: The theme of deceit in the novel comes into play when some characters feel uncertainty about each other. Pip, for example, feels that Molly’s identity is not certain, hence, the deception. In the case of Estella, Mr. Jaggers entrusts her over to Miss Havisham to bring her up. Though with good intentions, the lawyer successfully deceives Pip and hides Estella and her parent’s past. Pip later comes to know that Estella is the daughter of Molly and Magwitch.
- Desires: The novel shows the desires of different characters in different ways. Pip desires to be a gentleman and improve his social and educational prospects, while Magwitch desires him to be a gentleman worthy of living in Victorian England. Although some characters fulfill their desires such as Herbert who wins Clara. At first, Pip fails and does not fulfill his desire of marrying Estella. However, later it proves that he has been right as Drummle leaves her.
- Illusions: The thematic strand of illusion has been shown through Pip who has created this illusion for him that he is a gentleman and deserves a better lifestyle. However, he comes to know the reality when he faces the question of Estella as she rejects him outright in the favor of Drummle. In fact, Pip has created this illusion for him that he would be leading a good life of the upper class but does not face the truth that he is not from that class and have to stay humble in spite of his riches.
- Innocence: The theme of innocence appears in the characters of Joe, Pip, Estella, and Biddy. Joe is innocent in that he suffers due to the arrogance of Mrs. Joe and yet helps Pip, while Pip is innocent in understanding Estella who harbors high dreams about life. The same goes for Estella that she thinks Drummle from the high class yet finds him unworthy of such a good opinion while Biddy is innocent not only in her dealings but also in her words.
- Hints of Colonialism: The mentioning of jobs in Egypt and sending of the convicts or criminals to America show the colonialism of the Victorian period in that the people think that they could find good markets for their products and skills such as Herbert and Pip go to Egypt. They also know that the government exiles criminal minds to foreign lands to keep society healthy and free of crimes.
Major Characters in Great Expectations
- Philip Pirrip: Philip Pirrip is known as Pip throughout the story. He is the protagonist and the main narrator of the story. The story begins from an orphaned child’s perspective, who is very kind and loving, though he faces the wrath of his sister, Mrs. Gargery. He is so gentle and kind that he even steals food for the criminal. When having lost everything, Joe, his brother-in-law, keeps him close to his heart and almost like a father. He is later sent to Miss Havisham due to their financial constraints. After getting an anonymous reward, he, however, turns snobbish toward his family members when he lives in London to be a gentleman. Eventually, Pip learns from his mistakes and comes to his senses. Despite his love for Estella and being a gentleman, he loses her to Bentley, a purely brute, though, after learning a lesson of being left by him high and dry, Estella returns to him by the end.
- Estella: Estella lived mostly with Miss Havisham, who taught her to be discouraging toward the advancing young men. She grows up to be a rude, proud, and heartless young woman, enjoy the life of a glittery world. He is a kind-hearted and loving girl. Although she commits the mistake of marrying Bentley, she learns the lesson of ignoring a sincere friend, Pip. Later it proves that she has nothing to do with Miss Havisham and that she was the daughter of Magwitch, who rewarded Pip for his good upbringing.
- Mr. Joe Gargery: The role of Mr. Joe in the novel is important. He takes Pip into his care, as a father figure, despite his wife/Pip’s sister being short-tempered. His fatherly figure plays an important role to make him learn to confront difficult situations. When Pip becomes snobbish during his stay in London, he makes him realize his mistake by taking care of him during his illness. When Mrs. Joe is injured by Orlick and dies, he marries Biddy, Pip’s teacher.
- Mrs. Joe Gargery: She is the elder sister of Pip married to Joe Gargery. Sadly, after their parent’s death she very angry and short-tempered most of the time. She actually vents her frustration over the domestic chores. Her obsession with good status costs her when Orlick attacks her, paralyzing her to die on her bed.
- Magwitch: Magwitch is also a significant character in the novel. Though he is a convict, he wins the hearts of the readers by helping Pip to become a gentleman. Later, Pip comes to know about his benefactor as Magwitch and not Miss Havisham and Estella as his daughter and not of Miss Havisham. Also, Magwitch became a criminal due to the circumstance arisen with the main antagonist, Compeyson.
- Miss Havisham: The character of Miss Havisham appears when Pip needs financial assistance the most and calls him to be Estelle’s playmate. The revengeful Miss Havisham lives her life at Satis House, a gothic mansion after Compeyson deceives her. She, thus, teaches Estella to be deceptive and heartless toward men as she keeps Pip away from her.
- Biddy: Biddy appears when Pip needs her the most when he is ill and his sister, Mrs. Joe, is left paralyzed in the attack by Orlick. Biddy helps Pip to study before he leaves for London. She is a passionate, kind, and loving girl and becomes his teacher. When Pip returns from London to propose to her, she is already married to Joe with whom she has a son and names him Pip.
- Pumblechook: Pip’s uncle, Pumblechook is a condescending and boastful person. He becomes a self-styled role model for Pip, thinking he is playing his role in his upbringing. However, he proves very greedy and stands as a symbol of such human behavior. He is, however, a mediator between Pip’s family and Havisham’s before Pip moves to London.
- Herbert Pocket: Herbert Pip’s best friend. He first meets Pip’s opponents when they were at Miss Havisham’s. Herbert, sadly, gets a sound beating from him at Satis House. Herbert meets Pip during his stay in London. They live and study together. Later, Herbert moves to Cairo with Pip’s help. He proves an asset for him by showing his positive attitude at every step of his life. He marries Clara. Herbert also continues to work with Pip.
- Compeyson: The great convict, Compeyson is a heartless fraudster, who has played with the life of Miss Havisham, and proves a sworn enemy of Magwitch. Despite his early release, he wants to destroy Magwitch’s future. He drowns in the river during the police chase.
Writing Style of Great Expectations
Written in the first-person point of view, Great Expectations shows humor, tragedy, daily life, and simple style. The sentences, though, very long are easy to understand due to the simplicity of the language. The narrative of Pip, the major character, turns to dark humor instead of emotional language. Diction, too, is quite simple, showing a mixture of formal when the narrator is in London and informal when he is with his relatives, especially, with Joe Gargery and Herbert, or at Miss Havisham.
Analysis of Literary Devices in Great Expectations
- Action: The main action of the novel comprises Pip’s life as a child from a small town, growing up, learning to be a young gentleman living in London. The rising action occurs when Pip falls in love with Estella and then expresses it despite her coldness toward him. The falling action occurs when Magwitch is arrested and is in hospital on his death bed.
- Anaphora: Great Expectations shows the use of anaphora such as:
i. A man with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag
tied round his head. (V-I, Chapter-1)
The sentence shows the repetitious use of “with.”
- Antagonist: Great Expectations shows the character of Miss Havisham, Compeyson, and Drummle as main antagonists on account of their bad behavior toward Pip, obstructing his love, growth as well as meeting with his benefactor.
- Allusion: There are various examples of allusions given in the novel.
i. ‘Swine were the companions of the prodigal. The gluttony of
Swine is put before us, as an example to the young.’ (I thought this
pretty well in him who had been praising up the pork for being so
plump and juicy.) (Chapter-4)
ii. He never even seemed to come to his work on purpose, but would slouch in as if by mere accident; and when he went to the Jolly Bargemen to eat his dinner, or went away at night, he would slouch out, like Cain or the Wandering Jew, as if he had no idea where he was going and no intention of ever coming back. (Chapter-15)
iii. ‘How did you bear your disappointment?’ I asked.
‘Pooh!’ said he, ‘I didn’t care much for it. She’s a Tartar.’
‘Miss Havisham?’ I suggested. (V-II, Chapter-3)
iv. ‘I think I shall trade, also,’ said he, putting his thumbs in his waistcoat pockets, ‘to the West Indies, for sugar, tobacco, and rum. Also to Ceylon, specially for elephants’ tusks.’ (V-II, Chapter-3)
The first two allusions are related to theological characters, while the other two are related to Tartars and countries; historical invasions, and colonialism.
- Conflict: The are two types of conflicts in the novel. The first one is the external conflict going on between Pip and Estella, Miss Havisham, and Compeyson including Drummle. Another conflict is in the mind of Pip about his position as a boy, his gentlemanly learning, and his behavior with his relatives.
- Characters: Great Expectations presents both static as well as dynamic characters. The young boy, Pip, is a dynamic character as he faces a huge transformation during his growth. However, the rest of the characters do not see any change in their behavior, as they are static characters like Estella, Biddy, Joe Gargery, and Miss Havisham.
- Climax: The climax takes when Miss Havisham’s house catches fire and Orlick tries to kill Pip.
- Foreshadowing: The novel shows the following examples of foreshadowing:
i. She was dressed in rich materials—satins, and lace, and silks—all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white. (V-I, Chapter-8)
ii. I turned my eyes—a little dimmed by looking up at the frosty light—towards a great wooden beam in a low nook of the building near me on my right hand, and I saw a figure hanging there by the neck. (V-I, Chapter-8)
iii. I derived from this speech that Mr Herbert Pocker (for Herbert was the pale young gentleman’s name) still rather confounded his intention with his execution. But I made a modest reply, and we shook hands warmly. (V-II, Chapter-3)
These quotes from the book foreshadow the coming events.
- Hyperbole: Hyperbole or exaggeration occurs in the novel at various places. For example,
i. He was a broad-shouldered loose-limbed swarthy fellow of great strength, never in a hurry, and always slouching. He never even seemed to come to his work on purpose, but would slouch in as if by mere accident; and when he went to the Jolly Bargemen to eat his dinner, or went away at night, he would slouch out, like Cain or the Wandering Jew. (V-I, Chapter-15)
This sentence is hyperbole and it also shows how Orlick’s slouching is problematic.
- Imagery: Imagery is used to make readers perceive things involving their five senses. For example,
i. It was a rimy morning, and very damp. I had seen the damp lying on the outside of my little window, as if some goblin had been crying there all night, and using the window as a pocket handkerchief. Now, I saw the damp lying on the bare hedges and spare grass, like a coarser sort of spider’s webs; hanging itself from twig to twig and blade to blade. (V-I, Chapter-3)
ii. The sun had been shining brightly all day on the roof of my attic, and the room was warm. (V-I, Chapter-18)
iii. The best light of the day was gone when I passed along the quiet echoing courts behind the High-street. The nooks of ruin where the old monks had once had their refectories and gardens, and where the strong walls were now pressed into the service of humble sheds and stables, were almost as silent as the old monks in their graves. The cathedral chimes had at once a sadder and a more remote sound to me. (V-III, Chapter-10).
- Metaphor: Great Expectations shows good use of various metaphors such as,
i. I coaxed myself to sleep by thinking of Miss Havisham’s, next Wednesday; and in my sleep I saw the file coming at me out of a door, without seeing who held it, and I screamed myself awake. (V-I, Chapter-11)
ii. There was a door in the kitchen, communicating with the forge; I unlocked and unbolted that door, and got a file from among Joe’s tools. (V-I, Chapter-1)
iii. She really was a most charming girl, and might have passed for a captive fairy, whom that truculent Ogre, Old Barley, had pressed into his service. (V-III, Chapter-7)
- Mood: The novel shows various moods in the beginning but it turns out darkly humorous when the chilling tale of Magwitch and Compeyson emerges along with the tragic and instructive story of Pip.
- Motif: Most important motifs of the novel are double examples of the convicts, double loves of Pip, Estella, and Biddy, and two invalid ladies Miss Havisham and Mrs. Joe Gargery.
- Narrator: The novel is narrated in the first-person point of view; here the narrator is Pip, the orphaned young boy taken by Joe Gargery.
- Protagonist: Pip is the protagonist of the novel. The novel starts with his entry into the world and moves forward as he grows young and becomes a gentleman.
- Rhetorical Questions: The novel shows good use of rhetorical questions at several places such as,
i. ‘Sarah Pocket,’ returned Cousin Raymond, ‘if a man is not his own neighbour, who is?’. (V-I, Chapter-11)
ii. When the day came round for my return to the scene of the deed of violence, my terrors reached their height. Whether myrmidons of Justice, specially sent down from London, would be lying in ambush behind the gate? Whether Miss Havisham, preferring to take personal vengeance for an outrage done to her house, might rise in those grave-clothes of hers, draw a pistol, and shoot me dead? Whether suborned boys – a numerous band of mercenaries – might be engaged to fall upon me in the brewery, and cuff me until I was no more? (V-I, Chapter-12)
iii. What could I become with these surroundings? How could my character fail to be influenced by them? Is it to be wondered at if my thoughts were dazed, as my eyes were, when I came out into the natural light from the misty yellow rooms? (V-I, Chapter-13)
These examples show the use of rhetorical questions posed but different characters not to elicit answers but to stress upon the underlined idea.
- Setting: The setting of the novel spread over the village of Pip, London, Satis House, the North Kenth marshland, and Cairo.
- Simile: The novel shows the perfect use of various similes. For example,
i. I knew he made himself so dreadfully uncomfortable, entirely on my account, and that it was for me he pulled up his shirt-collar so very high behind, that it made the hair on the crown of his head stand up like a tuft of feathers. (V-I, Chapter-13)
ii. We walked to town, my sister leading the way in a very large beaver bonnet, and carrying a basket like the Great Seal of England in plaited straw. (V-I, Chapter-13)
iii. Flopson, by dint of doubling the baby at the joints like a Dutch doll, then got it safely into Mrs Pocket’s lap, and gave it the nutcrackers to play with. (V-II, Chapter-4)
These are similes as the use of the word “like” shows the comparison between different things.