List ten memorable quotations from the novel Great Expectations and briefly explain their significance.   

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Here are some other selected passages that are connected to the themes, motifs, and characterization of Dickens's very didactic novel, Great Expectations.



....the marsh mist was thick....I couldn't warm my feet, to which the damp cold seemed riveted as the iron was riveted to the leg of the man I was running to meet.

The misty and damp marshes are symbolic of the ambiguity in which Pip exists throughout his life.  The image of the leg iron prevails throughout the narrative as one of Dickens's stylistic devices which connects various characters in their "guilt and corruption, their roles as betrayers and betrayed, corruptors and corrupted."


That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But it is the same with any life....think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.

This passage from Chapter IX is the adult Pip's reflection of the great impact that his visit to Satis House had upon him. Estella's having called him "a common laboring boy" has caused him, for the first time in his life, to be ashamed of what he is. His exposure to the upper class produces Pip's consuming desire to be a gentleman so that he will be the equal of anyone and Estella may then love him. This incident corrupts the innocence of Pip, who goes on to value money and position over friendship and love. 


 “Well, Mr. Wemmick,” said the turnkey, who kept us between the two studded and spiked lodge gates, and who carefully locked one before he unlocked the other, “What's Mr. Jaggers going to do with that Waterside murder? Is he going to make it manslaughter, or what is he going to make of it?”

This citation from Chapter XXXII in which Pip visits Newgate Prison continues the symbolism of fetters and bars and leg irons with the motif of guilt and corruption. It also represents Dickens's theme of society as a prison because there is a separate justice for those with money who can pay the unscrupulous Jaggers.


“Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There's no better rule.”

These words of Mr. Jaggers express the theme of Appearances vs. Reality. Pip fails to take this advice throughout because he has assumed that Miss Havisham and Estella are models by which he should live but thinks Magwitch is repulsive when he really has a loving heart.



...that basest of swindlers, Pumblechook, rising to shake hands with her [Mrs. Joe]..."and I wish you joy of the money."

Pumblechook's echoing of this phrase, the "joy of money," indicates the superficiality of his character as a representation of the rising middle class in Dickens's time that foolishly envied what Dickens considered a frivolous aristocracy. This statement proves ironic, as well, since Pip's money brings him no joy.


"Your own, one day, my dear, and you will use it well....Break their hearts and have no mercy" [Ch.XII]

“Take the pencil and write under my name, ‘I forgive her!’” [Ch.XLIX]

Miss Havisham in an earlier chapter and in Chapter XII, executes her revenge upon the male gender through her protege, Estella. Locked in her own personal prison formed by the melancholy Satis House and her hardened heart, she instead transforms into a victim herself as Estella, made heartless by her, becomes cold and cruel. After Miss Havisham realizes what she has wrought, she begs Pip's forgiveness for his cruel treatment by her and Estella.


literaturenerd eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. "I give Pirrip as my father's name on the authority of his tombstone."(Pip, Chapter 1)

Here, this shows readers that Pip is an orphan. It opens him up to the reader's sympathy and/or empathy.

2. "Mrs. Joe was a very clean housekeeper, but had an exquisite art of making her cleanliness more uncomfortable and unacceptable than dirt itself." (Pip, Chapter 4)

Pip is telling readers that he is not at all comfortable in his sister's home. It is ironic that her clean house makes him feel uncomfortable given the dirt itself would feel better to Pip.

3. "But I loved Joe--perhaps for no better reason than because the dear fellow let me love him." (Pip, Chapter 6)

This quote is important, memorable, because it shows the reader exactly how much Pip cares for Mr. Joe. This also explains why he feels the way he does about his sister, she simply does not let him love her.

4. "My sister’s bringing up had made me sensitive." (Pip, Chapter 8)

Here, Pip is explaining his character. Reader's can expect, based upon Pip's statement, that he will not act like a typical boy when it comes to certain challenges.

5. "I had known, from the time when I could speak, that my sister, in her capacious and violent coercion, was unjust to me." (Pip, Chapter 8)

Here, Pip is allowing readers to come to terms with the fact that he does no how Mrs. Joe really is. He has never been confused about her feelings--instead, he knew that she was, and always would be, unjust to him. He is ready for it (which allows him some leeway and planning time (when needed)).

6. "For now, my repugnance to him had all melted away, and in the hunted wounded shackled creature who held my hand in his, I only saw a man who had meant to be my benefactor, and who had felt affectionately, gratefully, and generously, towards me with great constancy through a series of years." (Pip, Chapter 54)

Here, Pip comes to accept Magwitch completely. Even with the chains, Pip recognizes a good man. The image of Magwitch in chains and Pip's love for him contrast each other greatly.

7. "Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded together, as I may say, and one man’s a blacksmith, and one’s a whitesmith, and one’s a goldsmith, and one’s a coppersmith." (Joe, Chapter 27)

Joe is trying to explain to Pip that men are like smiths. While all are smiths, each are different in their own way. This is Joe's way of explaining life to Pip.

8. “So,” said Estella, “I must be taken as I have been made. The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me.” (Estella, Chapter 38)

Estella is stating here that nothing she has ever done can be allotted to her person. She feels as though her "stings" have been pulled her entire life (as they have). Therefore, she does not fell as though she can be deemed guilty of anything.

9. “Look’ee here, Pip. I’m your second father. You’re my son—more to me nor any son. " (Magwitch, Chapter 39)

One of the most endearing quotes, Magwitch is professing his love for Pip. Essentially, Magwitch's "adoption" of Pip proves to be essential to Pip's success and identity.

10. “Dear Magwitch, I must tell you, now at last. You understand what I say?” A gentle pressure on my hand. “You had a child once, whom you loved and lost.” (Pip, Chapter 56)

Here, Pip is telling Magwitch about the daughter he has not seen for many, many years. By telling Magwitch about Estella,Pip is proving his change in regards to what is really important in life.

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Great Expectations

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