The title of a work of literature often suggests something significant about the work as a whole. Consider the title of this novel. To which character besides Pip do you think the word "Great...

The title of a work of literature often suggests something significant about the work as a whole. Consider the title of this novel. To which character besides Pip do you think the word "Great expectations" apply the most? Cite evidence from the novel to support your views.

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The title Great Expectations is probably intentionally ironic. Dickens seems to be suggesting that most people have great expectations when they are young and that they are all disillusioned when they have had experience with the world's cold reality. As far as the characters in the novel are concerned, we can see that Miss Havisham, Joe Gargary, and Abel Magwitch had great expectations. Miss Havisham expected to be happily married and was jilted on the day of her wedding. She has never gotten over it. This becomes evident in the first chapter where Pip meets her. Joe Gargary had great expectations of having Pip as his apprentice for many years and eventually turning over the business to him when he was ready to retire. Joe frequently says, "What larks!" He imagines the two of them singing as they work together at the forge and going on picnics and fishing trips. No doubt he is terribly disappointed when Jaggers comes to take Pip away from him, but Joe is a kind and generous man and never utters a word of regret or complaint.

Abel Magwitch sent all his money to Jaggers to pay for making Pip into a gentleman. Magwitch had great expectations of revealing himself to Pip at some time in the future when he returned illegally to England. In Chapter 39 we see how Magwitch is disappointed.

He stopped in his looking at me, and slowly rubbed his right hand over his head.“It's disappointing to a man,” he said, in a coarse broken voice, “arter having looked for'ard so distant, and come so fur; but you're not to blame for that—neither on us is to blame for that. I'll speak in half a minute. Give me half a minute, please.”

Magwitch is further disappointed when he is apprehended and sentenced to be hanged for returning from Australia in violation of the law. The money he wanted to give to Pip is taken from him by the Crown, and Pip never sees a penny of it.

Chapter 39 is undoubtedly the best chapter in the entire novel, and it is one of the best things the great Charles Dickens ever wrote. This is the chapter in which Pip's great expectations are totally demolished along with the great expectations of his secret benefactor Abel Magwitch. 

Joe's sister must have had great expectations when she was a young girl. This explains why she has such a bad temper. She didn't expect to be married to a blacksmith and forced to raise her little brother "by hand." She takes her frustration out on both little Pip and her husband. Mr. Wopsle had great expectations of becoming a famous actor, but audiences laughed at him. Matthew Pocket had great expectations of marriage, but it turned out that his wife was childish and helpless. All she could do was produce more and more babies for her husband to support. Miss Havisham's toady relatives, Mr. and Mrs. Camilla and Sarah Pocket, have great expectations of getting their hands on her money when she dies, but they actually inherit very little.

Since there are so many characters whose great expectations are disappointed, it seems fair to assume that Dickens intended to represent humanity in general as starting life with great expectations and having them crushed by experience.

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