How does Dickens explore the theme of "expectations" in his serial novel "Great Expectations"?

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lhc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The idea of "expectations" relates to Dickens's overarching theme in this and many other of his works:  the haves vs. the have-nots and the social classes they inhabit.  Pip spends much of the novel trying to overcome his poor childhood and the scorn with which society views him.  He wants to be what Englishmen at that time called a "gentleman", a term that basically meant you inherited some money, went to the best schools, and owned property.  As Pip struggles to attain his dreams of success and love, Dickens portrays society's elite as being those who have simply inherited wealth, but have little or nothing else to offer, while he gives his characters who have worked hard a certain wisdom and character.  The underlying premise is that in stark contrast to English values and beliefs, in fact social status has nothing to do with a person's value or character, a lesson Pip finally learns as he discovers the unexpected nobility of Magwitch's character. 

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Great Expectations

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