Great Expectations Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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Explain irony in the title of the novel Great Expectations.

As the young protagonist Pip grows to manhood, he discovers that his “great expectations” of wealth and power do not form his pathway to success in life. Ironically, his expectations take him down the exact opposite path until he discovers that kindness, compassion, and humility pave his road to maturity.

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When Pip receives a large sum of money from Jaggers, which has been given to the lawyer by Abel Magwitch, he is told that he has come into a fortune and has “great expectations.” What he means by this is that Pip can look forward to a life of wealth and high social standing, the life of a gentleman. This is the dream that Pip’s harbored for many years, and is understandably excited to escape from his humble blacksmith’s cottage and enter into a new life of urbane sophistication.

And yet, although Pip does indeed lead such a life for a time, it is eventually taken away from him. His great expectations of wealth and social standing essentially divert him from his true self, turning him into a frightful snob. The irony of the title, therefore, is that these great expectations are, in the long run, anything but great. They lead Pip to value those things in life that are ultimately unimportant, such as money and social class. It is only by turning his back on these fripperies and...

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