Great Expectations: Plot Summary And Analysis

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The one great principle of English law is to make business for itself.

-Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens, full name Charles John Huffam Dickens, was born on 7th February 1812, Portsmouth, Hampshire, England. He was a great and famous English novelist died on 9th June 1870, in Gad’s Hill, near Chatham, Kent. He was considered as one of the greatest novelist of the Victorian era. Charles Dickens wrote many novels, and some of his famous works are A Christmas Carol, A Tale of Two Cities, Great Expectations and Our Mutual Friend.

Dickens was a famous English author in comparison with any previous author. Charles Dickens works were simple and sophisticated. His works also contains topic related to technological development. The Qualities of Charles Dickens work enabled him to be known worldwide very quickly. His long career saw variation within the gathering and sales of individual novels, but none of them was unimportant or uncharacteristic or neglect, and though he’s now cherish for aspects and chapter of his work that got less weight by his contemporaries, his fame has never break off. The foremost abundantly comic of English authors, he was rather quite a decent entertainer. The range, kindness, and intelligence of his work enriched his novels and made him both one in all the good forces in 19th-century literature and an influential spokesman of the conscience of his age.

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Dickens was a mediocre and very fond of drama and theatre activities. He became a professional actor in the year 1832. Nearly around 1833 he started writing or started contributing his ideas through his stories and vivid essays to newspapers and magazines; these were the point of attention and reprinted as Sketches by “boz” in the year 1836.

‘Great Expectations’ (1861) was one of his incredible novel, which was published between December 1860 to august 1861. The story was narrated in the first person, which spotlight on the enduring journey of moralistic development for the novel idol, an orphaned named pip. The story contains extreme imagery and bright characters, the prominent themes include wealth and poverty, love and rejection and good versus evil.

Key Facts

  • Title: Great Expectations
  • Author: Charles Dickens
  • Type Of Work: Novel
  • Genres: historical fiction, communal criticism, autobiographical fiction
  • Language: English
  • Publisher: serialized in all the year round; published in England by Chapman and Hall
  • Narrator: Pip
  • Characters: Pip, Abel Magwitch, Joe Gargey, Jaggers, Herbert Pocket, Wemmick, Biddy, Dolge Orlick, Mrs Joe, Uncle Pumblechook, Bentley Drummle, Molly, Mr Wopsle, Startop, Miss Skiffins, Miss Havisham, Estella.


Great Expectations is the thirteen novel by Charles Dickens and his completed novel before his death, which shows the education journey of a young orphan boy named Pip. After David Copperfield it is the second novel which was fully narrated in the first person. It was first disclose as a serial in Dickens’ weekly journal All The Year Round from year 1860 to 1861. In October 1861, novel was published in three volumes by Chapman and Hall.

The novel is set in London and it consists of Dickens’s most glorious scenes, begin with graveyard, where the small little boy Pip is annoyed by the escaped convict Abel Magwitch.

Great Expectations is full of extreme imagery in his novel – poverty, jail, and fights to the death. It has bright characters that help in making the novel one of the best novels of that time. Novel includes the freak character Miss Havisham, the charming but cold Estella, Joe, the straight forward and kind Blacksmith. Charles Dickens novel throws many themes through his novel to the reader like wealth and poverty, love and rejection, and god over evil. Great Expectations collected lot of fame during that time which has been translated into many languages and adapted numerous times into various media.

The time novel release, it received near broad applause. Thomas Carlyle and George Bernard praised the novel and were very happy with Charles Dickens amazing work. Dickens was very happy while seeing all the comments, ‘a very good and new idea’, ‘amazing novel with amazing characters’ etc. Dickens was also feeling delighted by the sale of the novel.

Great Expectations was not only a famous novel of that time but also in today’s century. In 21st century the novel received good rating in literary critics and in 2003 the novel ranked 17th on the, The Big Read Poll.

Plot Summary

The novel began with Christmas Eve around 1812; Pip an orphan seven years old young boy meets an escaped prisoner in the village churchyard unexpectedly. The prisoner was visiting the graves of his parents and relatives. The Pip was disturbed by seeing convict, as he stole food and tools from Pip’s cranky elder sister and her charming husband, Joe Gargery, a blacksmith who have taken the orphan in. On Christmas morning, Pip arrived with a file, a pie and a brandy, because he was scare of being punished. At the time of Christmas dinner, Pip’s theft was about to be disclosed, but suddenly the soldiers arrive and ask Joe to mend some shackles. Joe and Pip follow them as they recapture the convict. The prisoner was fighting with other escaped prisoner. The convict who meets Pip in the village churchyard confesses to stealing food and tools from the blacksmith workshop, clearing Pip doubt.

A few years passed away. Miss Havisham, a well-off, isolated lone women who has neglected at the altar and she stills wears her wedding dress in the satis house. Miss Havisham wanted to meet Pip, so she told Mr Pumblechook, a relative of Gargerys, to find Pip to visit her. Pip visits Miss Havisham and falls in love with her beautiful and adopted daughter Estella. Estella always remains unsympathetic and unfriendly to Pip, which was encouraged by Miss Havisham. Pip visits regularly to Miss Havisham for learning.

Pip goes with Joe for his last visit to Miss Havisham, as Pip has to collect money from her to be bound as an apprentice blacksmith. Joe’s rude assistant, Dolge Orlick is jealous of pip and hate Joe’s wife. Mrs Joe is viciously attacked, leaving her helpless to speak and do her work when Joe and Pip was away from the house. Orlick was questionable and suspected of the attack on Mrs Joe. Mrs Joe becomes good and kind-hearted, but got brain-damaged after the injury. Pip schoolmate Biddy comes to join him to help Pip.

After four years of training of Pip, Mr Jaggers informed him that he has been provided with money from patron, allowing him to become a man of honour. Pip has to leave for London but before that he wants to meet Mrs Havisham for her support and money. So he decided to meet her before leaving.

Pip fit himself and sets up house in London at Barnard’s Inn along with Herbert Pocket. Herbert Pocket was a son of his tutor and cousin of Miss Havisham. Pip was already friend with Herbert as Pip and Herbert have previously met at Satis Hall, where Herbert faced rejection as a companion for Estella, Pip’s crush. Herbert shares all about Miss Havisham to Pip like how she was defrauded and deserted by her finance. Pip’s started meeting pupils. Bentley Drummle, a violent young man from a huge and noble family, and Startop who is a pleasant man. Meanwhile Jaggers contributed money to Pip needs from his fund.

Pip met Joe at Barnard’s Inn; Pip was very guilty of him. Joe gives a message to Pip that Estella was returning to Satis house for a visit. Pip returns back to meet her and encouraged by Miss Havisham but Pip was not interested in meeting Joe. He was disquieted to see Orlick’s, now in duty to Miss Havisham. He mentions his anxiety to Jaggers, who promises Orlick’s dismissal. Pip and Herbert exchange their romantic secrets to each other when they came back to London. Pip cherishes Estella and Herbert was committed with Clara. Pip met Estella when she was sent to Richmond to be introduced into society.

Pip and Herbert build up their debts together. Mrs Joes Dies and Pip came back to village for her funeral. Pip was earning 500 per annum at the age of twenty-one. Pip plans to help Herbert anonymously with the help of Jaggers’ clerk, Wemmick. Pip and Estella goes to satis house. Later Estella and Miss Havisham had argument on Estella attitude. In London, Bentley fury Pip, by proposing a toast to Estella. After that, Pip met Estella at an Assembly ball in Richmond and tells all about the meeting with Drummle and warns hers about him; She told Pip that she has no second thought about entrapping him.

Many weeks have gone and one day the Pip learned the fact that his benefactor is the same convict he met in the village churchyard, Abel Magwitch. Abel transported to New South Wale after captured again by the police. After getting freedom, he has become rich, kind and wealthy person but he never returned to England on pain of death. However he returned to see Pip motivated towards his life and goals. Pip felt guilty after he got to know about all this and decided with Herbert to escape from England.

After this Magwitch shares his past story/ history with Pip, and tell that the convict whom Pip met in the village churchyard was Compeyson, the swindler who had deserted Miss Havisham. Pip returned back to visit Estella and met Drummle, who came to see Estella and Now Orlick was his servant. Pip blames Miss Havisham to not telling him about the truth about his benefactor. She confesses to doing so, but her main motive was to irritate her relatives. Pip also confesses her love to Estella but Estella rejected and tells him that she is going to marry Drummle soon. Pip was heart-broken and return back to London. After coming back Wemmick told him, that Compeyson is seeking him. Pip and Herbert again starts making plans for Magwitch’s escape.

During dinner at Jaggers house, Wemmick praised Jaggers. Wemmick told Pip that how Jaggers acquired his maidservant, Molly and rescue her from the scaffold when she was accused to murder.

Then, full of contrition, Miss Havisham told Pip that how Jaggers brought Estella to her and raised by her without unsympathetic and unkind. She has no idea about that where is she from and what her parents do. She knows nothing about her ancestry. She also told Pip that Estella is happy and now married. Miss Havisham pays Pip and told him to pay for Herbert pocket’s position at clarriker’s and also ask for his forgiveness. Miss Havisham sets her dress on fire as Pip was about to leave. Pip saves her, and hurt himself in the action. Miss Havisham dies from her injuries, groan her manipulation of Estella and pip. After that Pip realized that Estella is the daughter of Molly and Magwitch. When he tells about this to Jaggers, Jaggers discourages Pip form acting on his intuitions.

A Few days before the Magwitch’s planned Escape, Pip was bamboozle by an unnamed letter into going to a Sulice house which is near his old home, Where he was captures by Orlick, who tried to murder him. Orlick also admit to injuring Pip’s sister. As Pip was almost struck by a hammer, but Herbert and Startop reached and saves Pip’s. The three of them tried to pick u Magwitch and to row him to steamboat for Hamburg, but suddenly they met police boat carrying Compeyson, who has offered to describe Magwitch. Magwitch grab Compeyson, and they fought in the river. Magwitch was seriously injured and taken by the police. Compeyson body is found later.

Pip was already aware that Magwitch’s resources/fortune go to the crown after his trial. But at the same time Herbert offers Pip a position in Clarriker’s as he was already preparing to move to Cario, Egypt, to manage Clarriker’s office. Pip used to visit Magwitch in the hospital as he waits for trial, and on Magwitch deathbed Pip wanted to tell him that his daughter Estella is alive. Herbert departure for Cario and on the other hand Pip falls ill in his room and faces loss in his debts. Though, Joe nurse help Pip to get healthy and paid all his debts. But when Pip was recovering, Joe slips away. Pip return to propose Biddy only to find out that she was married and promise to repay him and leave for Cario. Pip started leaving with Herbert and Clara eventually becoming third in the company. Herbert got to know that Pip has paid money for getting position in the firm.

Pip worked for eleven years in Egypt and then returned to England and met Pip junior son of Joe and Biddy. Then Pip went to visit Widowed Estella in Satis house. Estella was very embarrassed and asks Pip to forgive her for all what had happened. Pip takes Estella hand and both of them leave the moonlight ruins, he saw “no shadow of another parting from her”.


Great Expectations combine many elements of the bildungsroman, eerie novels, and social evaluation in its story of Pip and also describe the wish to become a gentleman. The novel’s varied sense of classification which helps to throw the image and complex situations of the Victorian class system and human psychology.

Story shows many ups and downs of Pip’s life. Pip’s formally becomes an adult follows him from being a boy to his problematic and unsettled adulthood and finally maturity. As in most Bildungsroman, Pip has to leave his home and move outside to see the world and to find his fortune. Though, in Great Expectation, it was just opposite, Pip comes to meet and find the people and genesis. He meet many people upper class, middle class, lower class etc. but what he finds common in upper class families that are corrupt, cold hearted and they can do anything by showing the power of money. These help Pip to become a gentleman.

Miss Havisham and her crumbling, Satis house shows the gothic elements in the novel. The gothic always deals with the dark and dreaded world of the supernatural, an idea personify in Havisham’s stopping all the clocks to the hour and minute of her greatest embarrassment and her also leaving her wedding dress on the table to rot. Miss Havisham unable to move on from her discomfort, Miss Havisham obsesses over it. She always wants to be alone and also want that her daughter Estella to become her tool of retribution against men.

The gothic comes out in nice and precise way as well. The early scenes of the novel on the swamp, where Pip meet the terrifying Magwitch, summon ghost stories or it makes the atmosphere of classic gothic novels, which gives a different look to the reader. Horrifying violence also give a live touch to the novel and characters, like from the attack that makes Mrs Joe an ailing to Miss Havisham slaughter in her wedding gown. This entire chunk to a story makes novel different and amazing. This is classic feature of gothic literature, which bloom on horror and agog.

The bildungsroman and gothic section both give finishing touch to Dickens’s novel. Novel largely deals with class, partiality and ethics. Pip’s wish to become a gentleman is presented in such a good way that it can be touched to the reader. Pip is aware that he is abusing good people in his race to become good for Estella, still he is so filled up with hatred for himself only that he acts opposite his own personal happiness to become the kind of man Estella wants or deserves.

The pattern of social detention emerges again and again in the novel, not just in the legal form or legal custody like Magwitch but also in the purportedly free characters, free personality like Pip and Miss Havisham, both of them became convict of their own hallucination and unhappiness. In the novel Charles also presented London as a prison, influenced by materialism, futility and affectedness. Pip becomes isolated from the people he met while working in London, showing that his search only led to spiritual degeneration.

Obviously, Charles Dickens does not end his novel on a note of inner defeat. Pip becomes more intelligent, kind and wiser through all the disappointments he faced and he saved his life. Same thing happens with Magwitch and Miss Havisham, two characters of the novel who also dishonour by the world and society and still suffering from their past who nevertheless conclude moral saving through sympathetic acts.

Love and Kindness- not class, fortune or good rising, come out as the head of goodness which make a person truly great and amazing. Novel taught us a great and good lesson.


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