What are some of the important events in Great Expectations?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

1. Another significant event in Pip's journey to maturity, is his detour after having gone with Joe to Miss Havisham to sign the papers of indenture.  Afterwards, Pumblechook, "that basest of swindlers," arrives at the Gargery's to wish Pip the "joy of the money."  During the celebration, Pip is wretched and feels that he will not like Joe's trade, not now:

It is a most miserable thing to feel ashamed at home.  home had never been a very pleasant place to me....But Joe had sanctified it, and I believed in it....I had belieed in the kitchen as a chaste though not magificent apartment; I had believed in the forge as the glowing road to manhood and independence.  Within a single year all this was hanged.  Now, it was all coarse and common, and would not have had Miss Havisham and Estella see it on any account.

At this point, Pip has lost sight of the real values in life, and does not return to them until Stage Three of Great Expectations. 

2. However, from Matthew Pocket Pip learns that a true gentleman at heart is a true gentlman in manner. And, he sees this aphorism exemplified in the person of Mr. Jaggers's clerk, Wemmick, who demonstrates great love and devotion to his aged father.  This solicitation is mirrored as Wemmick makes his rounds at Newgate Prison yet in this situation, Wemmick shows little emotion in Chapter XXXII.

3. Certainly, when Pip visits Miss Havisham for the last time, significant events occur.  She asks him to write upon a piece of paper, under her name, that he forgives her:  "There was an earnest womanly compasion for me in her new affection."  After having signed his name, Pip glances back at Miss Havisham seated before the fire.  Just then, Pip sees "a great flaming light" and poor Miss Havisham has caught her decrepit wedding dress on fire.  After the doctor leaves and a bed made for Miss Havisham she echoes her plea:

"Take the pencil and write under my name, 'I forgive her.'"



pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As you know, this is a really long book and so there are a ton of important events. I would say that the main ones are:

  • Pip meets the convicts out in the marshes at the start of the book.
  • Pip is sent to Miss Havisham's place to play with Estella.
  • Pip gets the news that he is going to be sent to London to become a gentleman.
  • Magwitch comes back to London and Pip finds out that he is the one who had been giving Pip the money to become a gentleman.
  • Magwitch is captured and dies.

But there really are a lot of other important events as well, such as Mrs. Joe getting attacked, Pip getting to know Wemmick, Miss Havisham dying, Pip's relationship with Estella...

lit24 | Student

Dickens' "Great Expectations" is a 'bildungsroman' or a novel which deals not merely with the physical growth and changes of its protagonist Pip but more importantly with his  moral, mental and psychological development.

The following three incidents in Pip's life are very important to his psychological development.

1. His first terrifying sight of Miss Havisham in Ch.8:

In an arm-chair, with an elbow resting on the table and her head leaning on that hand, sat the strangest lady I have ever seen, or shall ever see.

Throughout this chapter Pip is humiliated by both Miss Havisham and Estella and when he comes out of the house he gives vent to his feelings in the following manner:

But, when she [Estella] was gone, I looked about me for a place to hide my face in, and got behind one of the gates in the brewery-lane, and leaned my sleeve against the wall there, and leaned my forehead on it and cried. As I cried, I kicked the wall, and took a hard twist at my hair; so bitter were my feelings, and so sharp was the smart without a name, that needed counteraction.

2. In Ch.9 Pip returns from his first visit to Miss Havisham's house and he is forced to tell lies to satisfy the curiosity of the adults who pester him with their questions about the appearance of Mrs. Havisham. Finally, when he is alone with Joe he confesses to him that he has been telling lies and at once Joe advises him against telling lies:

Lookee here, Pip, at what is said to you by a true friend. Which this to you the true friend say. If you can't get to be oncommon through going straight, you'll never get to do it through going crooked. So don't tell no more on 'em, Pip, and live well and die happy."

Pip is moved by the earnest and sincere tone of Joe's advice and goes to bed, but his feelings of inferiority complex that Estella would not approve either of Joe or his sister get the better of him and he spends a restless and disturbed night.

The chapter ends in the following manner:

That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But, it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and 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.

3. Perhaps, the most striking and important event in Pip's life occurs in Ch.39, when Magwitch returns to London from Australia and Pip recognizes that it is Magwitch who is his real benefactor and not Miss Havisham as he has been thinking all these years:

All the truth of my position came flashing on me; and its disappointments, dangers, disgraces, consequences of all kinds, rushed in in such a multitude that I was borne down by them and had to struggle for every breath I drew.

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Great Expectations

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