The first chapter opens memorably with young Pip contemplating his life in a very isolated setting out in the marches. Pip is out in a graveyard and is contemplating the gravestones of his parents and siblings. Suddenly, a terrible image of a man jumps up and surprises Pip, threatening to eat him. When he interrogates Pip and finds out that he lives in the house of a blacksmith, he forces Pip to promise to bring him food and a file to cut through the chain that he has on his foot. This stranger threatens Pip by teling him of a young man who is hiding along with him who delights in "tearing" young children "open." Pip agrees, and watches as this stranger vanishes, and it is clear that his adult self looking back is able to see that this man is actually not as fearsome as his younger self remembers:
At the same time, he hugged his shuddering body in both his arms--clasping himself, as if to hold himself together--and limped towards the low church wall.
The first chapter then introduces the reader to the retrospective first person narration that dominates the novel as at times we have the thoughts and impressions of the child, Pip, and then at points these are intermingled with the greater understanding of his maturer and wiser self who now writes his memories. The first chapter ends with Pip rushing back home, terrified of the younger man who has been used to threaten him.