Who expects what in Great Expectations?  Are the expectations really "great"?

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mrs-campbell eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Pip is the main character that has expectations in this novel.  After he meets Miss Havisham and Estella, he becomes discontented with his station in life.  Estella describes his hands as "rough," and her learning and beauty intimidates him.  He realizes, for the first time, that there could be other things out there in the world, and he aspires to them.  He is embarassed by his lowly station.  He develops expectations in regards to his life; he wants to rise above his circumstances and become a gentleman.  The expectations refer to both money, and his station in life.  They are tied together, hand-in-hand.  His expectations are also tied to Estella herself--he feels that if he can rise to her expectations of what a gentleman should be, then he can have her love.  He expects to be with her, to marry her, and to love her.  He expects to earn her love in return through raising his own station in life.  Pip feels that if he can't have these things, he can't be happy; happiness is his end goal, and he feels that he knows how to attain it.

Upon the receipt of money, Pip does indeed step into circumstances that allow him to become educated, refined, and a "gentleman."  However, he learns that those things that he had been expecting were not that great after all.  Having money alienates him from his true friends and family, brings out people who want to take advantage of him, and doesn't, in the end, get him Estella.  Pip thought that money could help him to attain his expectations of happiness, but they didn't.  If happiness is indeed the end goal, Dickens asserts that money is not the way to get it.

I hope that those thoughts helped; good luck!

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Great Expectations

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