Introduction to Great Expectations

Great Expectations is a novel by Charles Dickens. It was originally serialized in Dickens’s weekly literary magazine, All The Year Round, between 1860 and 1861, before later being compiled into three volumes, as was standard in Victorian publishing. The novel was met with near-universal acclaim from both critics and the public, and it has enjoyed enduring popularity into the modern day. It has been frequently adapted for both film and stage, and various other authors have since been inspired to write follow-up novels continuing Pip’s story.

Alongside David Copperfield, Great Expectations is one of only two Dickens novels to employ an entirely first-person narration. Readers are given intimate access to Pip’s thoughts and emotions as he grows up, and people and events are filtered through his perspective. This limited point of view—combined with the novel's status as a Bildungsroman, or coming-of-age story—provides insight into Pip’s mounting maturity and changing worldview. 

Pip’s status as an impoverished orphan informs much of the novel’s thematic content. As a result of his upbringing, Pip’s primary motivations in life involve the attainment of wealth and status, both for his own security and for the purposes of wooing Estella. However, this ambition blinds him to the values of friendship and morality. Miss Havisham and Estella prove that wealth alone is unfulfilling; instead, good moral character is the foundation for a happy life. The novel ends on an optimistic note, implying that so long as one learns from and repents their past mistakes, salvation is possible.

A Brief Biography of Charles Dickens

Charles Dickens (1812–1870) was arguably the most prominent English novelist of the Victorian era, known as much for the epic sweep and realistic texture of his fiction as for his keen awareness of the social issues of his time. Raised in an impoverished family and forced to work in a factory from a young age, Dickens went on to work as a journalist as a young man and eventually began writing and selling fiction in the serialized format typical of the time. His first novel was The Pickwick Paperas, published in 1836, which quickly became an enormous success. Over the next three decades, Dickens produced a monumental body of work—including novels, plays, short stories, and nonfiction—with broad popular appeal and literary richness. By championing social causes in his works, creating vivid, unforgettable characters, and caring for his audience as much as he did for his pen, Dickens established himself as one of the greatest authors of nineteennth-century England. His best-known works include Oliver Twist (1838), A Christmas Carol (1843), and A Tale of Two Cities (1859).

Frequently Asked Questions about Great Expectations

Great Expectations

Estella's decision to marry Bentley Drummle stuns everyone. Drummle is of noble stock, but he is also cruel and brutish. Pip is shocked and made miserable when Estella reveals her intention to...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2020, 12:27 pm (UTC)

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Great Expectations

The ending line of Great Expectations suggests that Pip and Estella will eventually marry, now that both have matured: I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2020, 11:38 am (UTC)

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Great Expectations

Pip is raised by his older sister, Mrs. Joe, and her husband, Joe Gargery, after Pip’s parents die. Although one might think it admirable that a family member chose to raise Pip, his sister is far...

Latest answer posted September 4, 2020, 1:39 am (UTC)

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Great Expectations

Pip's character begins as mild-mannered, caring, and modest. He is an orphan who lives with his much older sister, Mrs. Joe, and her husband, Joe. He does not have prospects in life beyond becoming...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2020, 11:13 am (UTC)

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Great Expectations

At the beginning of Great Expectations, Pip is a poor blacksmith’s apprentice. As this life is all he has ever known, he is relatively happy with his lot. He accepts that “the plain honest working...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2020, 1:11 pm (UTC)

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Great Expectations

Pip believes he loves Estella, and he is certainly enamored of her for many reasons. First, Estella is beautiful, and Pip is an impressionable young man who is bowled over by her beauty. Moreover,...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2020, 11:34 am (UTC)

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Great Expectations

By birth, Pip's name is Philip Pirrip. Pip has had an unfortunate start to life, with both his parents and all but one of his siblings having died. He is raised by his one remaining sister and her...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2020, 7:23 pm (UTC)

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Great Expectations

In chapter 59, Pip goes to visit Joe and Biddy. He discovers that in addition to having a daughter, the couple now have a little son named after him. Both Joe and Biddy are happy to see Pip. During...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2020, 1:35 pm (UTC)

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Great Expectations

Estella is so mean to Pip in the novel because she has been taught to be this way by Miss Havisham. Estella is a beautiful girl and is Miss Havisham's ward, and Miss Havisham plans to use her to...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2020, 11:48 am (UTC)

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Great Expectations

Mrs. Joe uses a euphemism when she calls her cane "the tickler." A euphemism is an indirect expression that replaces a word or phrase that is often considered blunt, rude, harsh, or impolite. Often...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2020, 1:07 pm (UTC)

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Great Expectations

Great Expectations is a novel written by famed English writer and social critic Charles Dickens and originally published in 1860. Due to the fact that it centers on the development of the...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2020, 3:52 pm (UTC)

1 educator answer

Great Expectations

Great Expectations tells a story of characters who have ambitious and often unrealistic expectations for both themselves and the people in their lives. It could be argued that the purpose of this...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2020, 12:47 pm (UTC)

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Great Expectations

Without a doubt, social class is of the utmost importance in Great Expectations. Pip desires to rise from his lowly place as a blacksmith's apprentice to to the status of a gentleman not only to...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2020, 11:56 am (UTC)

1 educator answer

Great Expectations

Great Expectations is relevant today because we still judge people by their outer appearances rather than their inner worth. We still put more value on the people who have money, even if, as in...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2020, 11:36 am (UTC)

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Great Expectations

Compeyson is the name of the deceitful and manipulative character who jilted Miss Havisham at the altar with a letter telling her that he wouldn’t be attending their wedding. Although he is an...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2020, 5:01 pm (UTC)

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Great Expectations

Pip remains single at the end of Great Expectations. The woman he loves, Estella, married another man, who is dead at the end of the novel. However, as Dickens originally ended the story, she...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2020, 12:22 pm (UTC)

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Great Expectations

There are many "great expectations" in the book Great Expectations. For instance, there are Estella’s expectations of her purpose in life and what her future holds. Most important, however, are...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2020, 12:10 pm (UTC)

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Great Expectations

A classic is defined as a work of art that transcends its own time, remaining relevant and entertaining to generations of audiences long afterward. Classics also tend to be first-rate examples of...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2020, 12:11 pm (UTC)

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Great Expectations

As with most great works of literature, readers will find a myriad of messages in Great Expectations, some of which might not have occurred to Dickens himself. One primary message the author...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2020, 12:57 pm (UTC)

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Great Expectations

The story of Great Expectations follows Pip, a lower-class orphan raised by his abusive sister and her kindhearted blacksmith husband, Joe. The novel opens with a significant episode in Pip's life:...

Latest answer posted September 3, 2020, 12:47 pm (UTC)

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Summary