Illustration of Pip visiting a graveyard

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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Give a character description for 6 major characters of the novel Great Expectations.

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In typical Dickensian fashion, the major characters of Great Expectations compose a variety of types and are a tribute to the ingenuity of their author.In fact, it has been Dickens's ability to create such realistic characters that accounts for much of his tremendous success.Six of the major characters are the following:

Pip (Philip Pirrip)

An orphan who lives with his sister, Pip is subjected to verbal and physical abuse and made to feel guilty for ever being born as she complains of having the burden of raising him and being worn away "with fret and fright and worrit."  Along with Pip's encounter with the convict in the graveyard and his theft from his sister's pantry, he is ridden with twinges of conscience and inferiority throughout the narrative, recriminating himself for his failures. While it is Dickens's usual habit to imbue his character with physical characteristics that reflect their attitudes, there is no mention of any physical characteristics in Pip because it is the interior of Pip with which Dickens is concerned.

Joe Gargery

Along with Mr. Jaggers and Wemmick, Joe Gargery almost represents a father figure for Pip.  A strong, robust man, Joe is tolerant of his termagant wife's tantrums because of his respect  for women and because of his desire to shield Pip from physical abuse and remain "every the best of friends." A truly good, kind man, Joe Gargery is in many ways the most responsible for forming Pip's good character as he teaches Pip about lying and being deceitful.  Despite Pip's cruel disregard for his feelings, and Pip's newly acquired haughtiness, Joe comes to Pip's aid after he is burned and in the end.

Miss Havisham

An extremely eccentric old woman, Miss Havisham is the daughter of a wealthy brewer who has been abandoned on her wedding day after her brother Arthur and Compeyson have conspired to capture her wealth.  After being duped, Miss Havisham cultivates a girl to wreak havoc upon the male gemder.  It is only at the end of the narrative that Miss Havisham realizes her mistake in making of the girl cold and vengeful; even then, her mistake is only perceived in terms of herself and she begs Pip to forgive her. 


The "star" that enters Pip's life, Estella remains for Pip the ideal that is never achieved.  Beautiful and intelligent, Estella grows from an insulting and cruel girl to a lady, who tells Pip in Chapter XLIV that if she were normal and not made of ice, she would select Pip as her spouse.  Estella's honesty echoes the candor of her father's, the convict named Magwitch.

Abel Magwitch

Of a rather ambiguous character, Magwitch seems of bad at first since he has been a prisoner for most of his life and has burdened Pip with guilt.  But, from him Pip learns to be ashamed of his curses and haughtiness.  With the character of Magwitch, also, Dickens portrays the influence that society holds on the individual, for society corrupts and blames its ills upon what is often not the true cause. Magwitch, poor and ignorant, is a much better man than the superior-acting Mr. Jaggers; however, society labels him evil in its injustice of assigning worth to the upper class.

Mr. Jaggers 

A burly, dark man who points with his great forefinger at those to whom he makes a point, and waves a large silk handkerchief whenever he means to stall, Mr. Jagger is the quintessential lawyer. For, he is keen, shrewd, and arrogant and uninvolved. Yet, Jaggers shows a heart as he finds a home for Estella.

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