Summary of Great Expectations

Summary of Great Expectations

By Charles Dickens

Key Facts

Date of composition: 1860

Published date: 1860

Genre:  Bildungsroman, social criticism, autobiographical fiction

Place setting:  Kent, southeast county of England, London, and Satis House of Miss Havisham in Kent.

Time setting: 1812 – 1840, nineteenth century.

Point Of View: First-person

Character analysis

There a lot of characters in the novel that is why here we will just analyze thirteen major characters. The main characters of the novel are;


He is the protagonist of the novel. Since the novel is a Bildungsroman, which continues to follow with the development of a character as he grows older, Pip is the protagonist of the Bildungsroman. We quickly learn that he is passionate, idealistic, and truly moral. He is always looking to improve himself in a social and moral way.


He is a convict and secretly moral character. He plays a great role in the plot of the novel.

Miss Havisham

She is a kind of crazy lady when we first meet her we can learn that she is hanging her old wedding dress because she was abandoned on the altar. She wasn’t married, and so she basically walks around in her old wedding dress. She hangs out in a room where all the clocks stop at 20 to 9:00, which is the moment when she finds out that her fiancé has left her; she also wears only one shoe because at that time she wore only one shoe.


She is the heroine of the novel. she lives a high-class life; She is beautiful, and manipulative because she has been taught to break men’s hearts by her guardian and adopted mother, Miss Havisham. But in the journey of her life, she realizes her mistakes and becomes a good heroine. She is liked and loved by Pip very much.

Joe Gargery

He is brother in law of Pip. He is a blacksmith who befriends his wife’s younger brother Pip. Joe is a simple, kind man who accepts his life and wants nothing more than that. Joe values ​​hard work, honesty and friendship. He has respect and devotion.

Mrs. Joe 

She is Pip’s elder sister and Joey’s wife who often beats young Pip. She was heavily wounded by Orlick, a worker of her husband, and because of her injury cannot talk and finally dies.


She is a kind and intelligent girl at Pip’s age. She comes to work for Joe taking care of Mrs. Joe Gargery. Later, Joe marries her because of his wife’s death.

Mr. Jaggers

He is a reasonable and seemingly sensitive lawyer for Miss Havisham and Pip. He is, however, a great orator and specialist to reduce from hard punishment to light punishments for criminals.

Matthew Pocket

Miss Havisham’s cousin. Matthew Pocket has charge of nine children, two nurses and a beautiful but useless wife. He also teaches young men, including Pip.

Herbert Pocket

He is a young gentleman who builds up a good friendship with Pip. He narrates the bitter story of Miss Havisham before Pip.


He is Jaggers’s clerk who befriends Pip. He tells Pip the story of Estella’s mother, a servant of Mr. Jaggers named Tigress.

Bentley Drummle

He is one of the students of Matthew Pocket. He is rude, not well mannered. Estella Marries him but their conjugal life is not happy. Drummle dies prematurely by an horse accident.


He is Magwitch’s deadliest enemy. Compeyson is a gentlemanly swindler. Because of him, Miss Havisham is ever unmarried and ever lonely because he left her on their wedding day just before marriage. We can call him villain of the novel.


Society and class

Near the end of the Industrial Revolution, the novel “Great Expectations” is set. The Industrial Revolution was a time of dramatic technological advancement in production and trade which created new opportunities for the lower and poorer classes to gain wealth and become aristocratic. This new social dynamic marked a break from the hereditary aristocracy of the past. “Great expectations” is set in this new world, and Dickens discovers the emergence of Pip through the class system, a trajectory that would not have been possible in the rigid class hierarchy of the past.

The novel ranges from the lowest class of convicts and orphans to the poorest working-class of Joe and Biddy to the rich Miss Havisham. Significantly, the novel spends virtually no time focusing on the traditional elite, and even when it does, it ridicules those who believe in the legacy of the class through the fancy character of Mrs. Pocket, whose blind faith in blood lineage has made her completely useless to society.

Ambition and self-improvement

The protagonist Pip’s desire for self-improvement is the main source of the novel’s title because he believes in the possibility of progressing in life that is why he sets “great expectations” about his future. Ambition and self-improvement are created in three forms in the novel Great Expectations – moral, social, and educational which inspire Pip’s best and worst behavior throughout the novel.

At first, Pip desires moral self-improvement. When he behaves immorally and feels strong guilt that motivates him to act better in the future. For example, when he left for London, he tortured himself for treating Joe and Biddy so badly. Second, Pip seeks social self-improvement. In Estella’s love, he is eager to be a member of her social class. This gives Dickens the opportunity to gently mock the hierarchy of his era and make a statement about its magical nature. Significantly, Pip’s life as a gentleman is no longer as satisfying as his previous life as an apprentice of a blacksmith named Joe. Third, Pip seeks educational improvement. This desire is deeply rooted in his social ambitions and is eagerly expressed to marry Estella because education is a must to be a gentleman. But in the journey of life, Pip understands that social and educational advancement is irrelevant to one’s true value and that conscience and affection should be valued more than intelligence and social position.

Guilt, repentance, and redemption

Dickens basically shows the theme of Guilt, repentance, and redemption through the characters of Pip and Miss Havisham. Although Pip becomes a gentleman, he is plagued by guilt because of his superior attitude about himself. Pip begins to see himself as superior to the villagers and is also ashamed of Joe. He later works awkwardly and impatiently towards Joe in London. Pip rarely writes to Joe and Biddy, although he promises to do so. Although these actions make Pipe feel intense guilt, he does not change the way he treats Joe.

Pip resolves his crime problem by repentance. The process begins when Pip learns that Magwitch, not Miss Havisham, is his benefactor. Pip can realize the shame of his existence because he has a generous lifestyle based on pleasurable recreational activities without having a high attitude towards the lower class and achieving nothing worthwhile. He soon begins ransom work, such as helping Herbert start a business and becoming a loving surrogate son to Magwitch. Eventually, Pipe realizes that he can earn self-worth by working for it, not as a gentleman. As a result, he works in Herbert’s business for many years.

For the most part in the novel, Miss Havisham shows no sign of guilt. However, when Estella treats her coldly, she begins to feel remorse. Miss Havisham realizes that she has trained Estella to break not only men’s hearts but her own. For this reason, she apologizes to Pip.

Uncertainty and Deceit

The theme of uncertainty and deceit pervades throughout the novel “Great Expectations”. Dickens commences the novel with Pip uncertain about what his parents look like. Pip continues to feel uncertainty about the convicts. This uncertainty leads to his deceptive act of stealing food and a file. Pip’s uncertainty about his benefactor has been caused in part by Miss Havisham’s craft. Miss Havisham makes Pip believe that she is his benefactress.

However, Dickens has shown how removing deceit can also eliminate uncertainty. For example, Pip perceives uncertainty about the identity of Molly who is Mr. Jaggers’s housekeeper. Pip becomes surer of her identity as he learns about Mr. Jaggers’s deceitful act of secretly giving Estella to Miss Havisham to raise her as her adopted daughter. As Pip and readers discover, Estella is Molly and Magwitch’s biological daughter.


Great Expectations takes place in Kent and London from about 1812 to 1840. As a seven-year-old child protagonist, Pip looks over the graves of his parents in a graveyard. There he accidentally meets an escaped convict who terrifies Pip and orders him to bring food and a cutter for him if he wants to be alive. Pip lives with his elder sister, Mrs. Joe, and her husband, Joe, a blacksmith. Mrs. Joe often beats Pip, but Joe loves the boy. Pip steals food and a file or a cutter from home and takes them to the convict.

The following day Pip and Joe find that Magwitch is fighting with another convict (Compeyson) and the soldiers arrest them. Magwitch tells the soldiers that he wants to thank the little boy because last night the boy gave him food.

Pip works hard but he does not get money because his earnings go to the cash box of his sister. He goes to a school where he receives a poor education. This is the range of Pip’s life.

However, one day, Pip’s uncle tells her niece, Mrs. Joe, that a woman named Miss Havisham wants Pip to come to her house. No reason is given. Miss Havisham is an “immensely rich and grim old lady who lives in a large and dismal house named “Satis House. She also leads a life of seclusion. Both Pip and Joe are surprised by the news.

Pip then begins to visit Miss Havisham on a regular basis for nearly 8 to 10 months, and Estella is instructed to play with Pip, often insulting him. He plays cards with Estella, the adopted daughter of Miss Havisham. Estella views Pip as a common laboring boy and insults him because Miss Havisham always whispers to Estella that she can break Pip’s heart. The reason of Miss Havisham’s disdain for men is that twenty years ago she was cheated by a man who wanted to marry her but on the wedding day he did not come. Pip quickly becomes infatuated with Estella and comes to view himself as inferior. After knowing that Pip is in love with Estella and if she rejects him now his heart will be broken, so one day Miss Havisham tells Pip that his services are no longer required. Infected by Miss Havisham’s influence, Pip develops a strong desire to become a “gentleman.” Upon his next visit to Satis House, Pip learns that Estella has gone away to France to be educated as a lady. Then Pip decides that he must be a gentle man.

In the meantime, Pip’s sister has been deaf and kind-hearted after she was injured by Orlick, Joe’s workman. And for this reason, Joe appoints a nurse named Biddy for caring his ill wife. Pip builds up a good friendship with Biddy.

Several years later, a man informs Pip and Joe that he has some private business to negotiate with them. Pip and Joe are surprised. The man informs Pip and Joe that he is  Mr. Jaggers, a lawyer from London. Mr. Jaggers has come to tell Pip “he has great expectations.” Mr. Jaggers explains that an anonymous benefactor will make Pipe a gentleman but the benefactor has two conditions. The first pip will always go by the pip name. Second Pip will accept the benefactor anonymously until the benefactor wants to reveal his name. Pip is stunned and accepts both terms. Mr. Jaggers tells Pip to consider him as his guardian.

Pip comes to London to be a gentleman and aristocrat. He is taught by Matthew Pocket. Pip befriends Herbert Pocket, son of Matthew Pocket. Joe visits Pip in London. During this time, Pipe leads life like a gentleman and he misbehaves with Joe. Joe tells Pip that Miss Havisham wants to see him. When Pip goes to Satis House, he sees Estella, she is now a beautiful woman. Back in London, Pip falls in love with Estella more than ever and believes that Miss Havisham wants Estella to be his wife. In addition, Pip’s lavish lifestyle has led him to debt.

Mrs. Joe dies, and Pip briefly returns to kent to attend the funeral of his sister. On Pip’s 21st birthday, Mr. Jaggers tells Pip that he will now receive the funds which his anonymous benefactor promised. In London Pip attends parties with Estella and continues to love her. However, Pip is tortured by Estella’s coldness toward him.

Two years later Magwitch visits Pip at his residence. Magwitch tells Pip that he is Pip’s benefactor. Magwitch narrates how he became rich in Australia and vowed to give his earnings to Pip to make him into a gentleman in gratitude for the boy’s help. However, because Magwitch returned to England he could be arrested as a convict by the authorities even though he earned his freedom in Australia.

Realizing this, Pip and Herbert decide to keep Magwitch hidden. Pip also plans to leave England with Magwitch. Magwitch explains how he came under the influence of a criminal named Compeyson, who deceived Magwitch.

While visiting Miss Havisham and Estella, Pip realizes that Estella plans to marry Drummle. Deeply hurt, Pip tells Miss Havisham that Estella has succeeded in breaking his heart.

Pip and Herbert make plans to get Magwitch out of the country. Pip learns that Estella has married Drummle and that her natural father is Magwitch. Pip visits Miss Havisham, who asks Pip to forgive her. After this plea Miss Havisham’s dress catches fire, and Pip puts out the flames. Miss Havisham remains alive but weak. Pip returns to England and is ready to go to Australia with Magwitch by boat. But unfortunately, Magwitch is arrested and sentenced to death. Pip regularly visits Magwitch in jail and finally tells Magwitch that Estella is his daughter and he loves her very much. Now Magwitch dies peacefully in his mid-sixties.

Then Pip is severely attacked by fever and remains ill for nearly one month. Joe comes to London and cares for Pip for recovery. Pip gets cured and Joe returns to Kent. In addition, Pip can learn that Joe has repaid his debt. Now Pip wishes to return to Kent and marry Biddy. But he can know that Joe has married Biddy. Pip congratulates them and decides to work hard to make his fortune big.

After working for 11 years, Pip returns to visit Joe and Biddy and feels proud knowing that Joe and Biddy have named their boy ‘Pip’. According to the revised edition, the ending of the novel is that Pip visits Satis House, where he meets Estella. Before dying in an accident, Drummle had tortured Estella, now a widow who apologizes to Pip. Pip forgives and they show signs of staying together. But according to the original ending, Estella gets married to a doctor.

Keywords of the story

If you want to keep the whole story in brain easily, you can carefully look at the following keywords.

  1. Pip’s meeting with Magwitch in the graveyard
  2. Invitation of Miss Havisham
  3. Pip’s heart broken in childhood
  4. Hidden benefactor of Pip
  5. Pip’s lavish life style in Londo
  6. Joe’s visit in London
  7. Death Mrs. Joe, Pip’s siter
  8. Opening of secret of Pip’s benefactor, Magwitch
  9. The struggle of Pip and Herbert to protect Magwitch
  10. Magwitch’s death and Pip’s illness
  11. Marriage between Joe and Biddy
  12. 11 years hard work of Pip and revisit Joe and Biddy
  13. Revised and original ending

Click here: For notes of the novel

SR Sarker
SR Sarker
Articles: 380

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