"Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens is a bildungsroman that is divided into three important stages of the life of Pip, the main character. As an ingenuous boy, Pip lives with his shrewish sister whom he refers to as "Mrs. Joe," a term that indicates no fondness between them. On the other hand, Joe, a blacksmith is both parent and friend to Pip, and a loving relationship exists between them. Yet, Pip's contentment with this relationship is disturbed when he visits Satis House and becomes enamored of Estella whose derogatory remark, "This boy? Why, he's a common laboring boy" causes Pip to perceive himself as inferior. When Pip returns from this life-changing visit, he tells Joe that he wishes he were not "common" with such coarse boots and hands. The first stage ends with Pip's being visited by Mr. Jaggers who informs Pip that he has "Great Expectations" as he will move to London and become a gentleman. With this news, Pip also acquires some false values as he feels ashamed of the coarse, uneducated Joe; he walks alone to the coach that will carry him to London. In addition, Pip remarks that Uncle Pumblechook, whom he has heretofore referred to as "that great swindler," is not so bad, afterall:
I remember feeling convinced that I had been much mistaken in him, and that he was a sensible, practical, good-hearted, prime fellow.
Sadly, in his expectation of becoming a gentleman, Pip begins to acquire false values. With these false values of wealth and clothes indicating a person's worth, Pip pursues his education as a gentleman in London in Stage Two. There he becomes friends with Herbert Pocket, his fellow lodger, who instructs Pip in table manners and relates what history of Estella he knows. Pip attends a party hosted by Mr. Jaggers and meets other "gentlemen" along with Mr. Wemmick, the eccentric clerk of Mr. Jaggers, who is a devoted son to his "Aged P."
When Joe comes to visit Pip where he lives with Herbert, Pip is embarrassed by Joe's coming as Joe is awkward in a suit. When Biddy writes Pip later on, informing him that Mrs. Joe has died, Pip returns home and speaks with Biddy, who senses his snobishness. She tells him that he will not really visit Joe, but Pip perceives Biddy as insulting to him. Upon his return to London Pip's expectations have deteriorated as he is visited by Magwitch and is repulsed to learn that the old convict has been his benefactor rather than Miss Havisham. In addition, he becomes disillusioned in his hopes of marrying Estella. However, in this stage, Pip does demonstrate unselfishness as he takes precautions to protect Magwitch, although he is left with few expectations and much guilt:
Miss Havisham's intentions toward me, all a mere dream; Estella not designed for me; I only suffered in Satis House as a convenience,...But the sharpest and deepest pain of all--it was for the convict, guilty of I knew not what crimes, that I had deserted Joe.
In the third and final stage, Pip, who holds few expectations, matures and regains the goodness of heart that he possessed as a boy. He tries to help Magwitch out of London, and, failing, stays by the dying man, comforting him; after he procures money for Herbert from Miss Havisham, he rescues her from a fire and forgives her for using him in her revenge against men. When Joe tends his burns, Pip apologizes to him for his despicable behavior and snobbish attitudes. In reply Joe says, "Ever the best of friends." Having recovered from his burns, Pip encounters Estella after having bid her goodbye years before saying, "God bless you, God forgive you!" when she informs Pip that she was to marry Drummle. Now, Estella begs him to again say these same words, for she has acquired a heart from her suffering. Likewise, Pip has acquired an experienced heart from his trials and has learned to value the true worth of love for family and love for friends. His expectations in this last stage are that his life will have fulfillment from these loves as he realizes that true goodness does not come from social station or wealth, but from inner worth.