What are some examples of suspense from the book Great Expectations by Charles Dickens?Great Expectations

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

 As a novel that was serialized, Great Expectations contained suspenseful installments that would encourage readers to purchase the next segment when it was published.

Book the First

During the Christmas dinner, Pip worries what will happen when Mrs. Joe discovers that the meat pie has been taken.  Then, when Mrs. Joe offers brandy to Uncle Pumblechook, Pip holds tightly to the leg of the table, waiting for his fate as he is discovered as the thief. This installment ends with Pip narrating 

But I ran no farther than the house door, for there I ran head foremost into a party of soldiers with their muskets, one of whom held out a pair of handcuffs to me, saying:  "Here you are, look sharp, come on!" (Ch 4)

In Dickens's time, readers would have worried that Pip would go to jail as petty thieves were sent to prison.

Then, in Chapter 5 when the constables come to the door, asking about the convicts and Joe and Pip go out onto the marshes, Pip worries if he will see his convict and be implicated.  As they return, they seek the blacksmith.  Pip's convict is caught and Pip worries that he will tell on Pip for stealing.

Of course, the visit from Mr. Jaggers with the news of Pip's "great expectations" leads the read to wonder what it is that Pip has inherited at the end of Chapter 18.

Book the Second

In this stage, Herbert tells Pip the history of Miss Havisham, and Pip wonders about this mysterious past of the woman he beieves is his benefactor.  He also wonders if he will get to marry Estella. In Chapter 33, Pip is concerned about Estella's resemblance to someone else he has seen. 

More suspense is contained in Chapter 35 when Pip returns to the forge, Biddy tells Pip that Orlick pursues her.

In Chapter 36,  Pip turns twenty-one and hopes to learn the name of his benefactor, but Mr. Jaggeers is evasive.

In Chapter 39, Pip is startled by footsteps on the stairs outside his door, and to his horror and dismay, he discovers the old convict.  Magwitch, who calls himself Provis has come to visit, but Pip is shocked when informed that he is his benefactor.  Dismayed and repulsed by thoughts that all this time Magwitch has supported him, Pip is caught between his fear of Magwitch and his fear for the old convict.

Book the Third

In Chaper 47 Pip waits for Wemmick's signal to transport Magwitch; in addition, he feels that Compeyson is following him.

In Chapter 53 Pip enters the old sluice house because of a letter he has received.  This is, indeed, a very suspenseful chapter, one in which Dickens describes the scene,

There was a melancholy wind, and the marshes were very dismal. A stranger would have found them insupportable, and even to me they were so oppressive that I hesitated, half inclined to go back. But, I knew them and could have found my way on a far darker night, and had no excuse for returning, being there. So, having come there against my inclination, I went on against it.

The letter is from Orlick, who ties Pip and says he will kill him.

Then,  in Chapter 54, Pip and Herbert try to get Provis to steamer, but when Provis sees Compeyson, he jumps into the water to fight the man, and is injured.  He is rescued, but becomes very ill as he awaits trial.  Pip hopes he will be granted a reprieve, but Jaggers holds no hopes for him.

Read the study guide:
Great Expectations

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question