Summary of the Novel
Great Expectations can be divided into three stages in the life of Pip. The first stage presents Pip as an orphan being raised by an unkind sister who resents him, and her husband, who offers him kindness and love. While visiting the tombstones of his parents in the cemetery, Pip encounters a convict and is made to bring him food and a file the next day. Pip’s convict and a second convict are caught by soldiers of the Crown and returned to the prison ships (the Hulks).
Uncle Pumblechook arranges for Pip to go to Miss Havisham’s house to play, and there he meets and falls in love with Estella. Pip returns to Miss Havisham’s house to walk her around the decayed banquet table every other day for nearly 10 months. Miss Havisham rewards Pip for his service by paying for his apprenticeship to become a blacksmith with Joe.
Pip is unhappy with his position and longs to become a gentleman in order that he may eventually win Estella’s affection. One day a lawyer, Mr. Jaggers, comes to tell Pip that a beneficiary has left him great fortunes. Pip is to go to London to become a gentleman. Pip believes that the benefactor is Miss Havisham.
The second stage of Pip’s life takes place in London where he becomes friends with Herbert Pocket. The two young men live beyond their means and fall deeply in debt. Pip makes friends with Mr. Jaggers’ clerk, Mr. Wemmick, and enjoys visiting him at his Castle. Pip is told the background of Miss Havisham and her ill-fated wedding day. He also is embarrassed by a visit from Joe. An unexpected visit from his convict reveals that the convict, not Miss Havisham, is his benefactor. The man’s name is Magwitch; he is the one to whom Pip had brought food in the churchyard. This knowledge begins the change in Pip from ungrateful snobbery to the humility associated with Joe and home.
The third stage in Pip’s life solves all the remaining mysteries of the novel. Compeyson, the second convict who was Magwitch’s enemy, is drowned when Pip tries to aid Magwitch in his escape from London. Pip finds out who Estella’s mother and father are. Pip is rescued from Orlick. Magwitch dies in prison, and Pip becomes a clerk in Cairo with Herbert. He returns 11 years later and finds Estella at the site of Satis House. The more popular ending indicated that they stayed together.
Estimated Reading Time
Four weeks should be allowed for the study of Great Expectations. Three weeks will be required to read the novel, reading four chapters at a sitting. The student should read every day from Monday through Friday. After reading the chapters, the student should answer all study questions in this book to ensure understanding and comprehension. The essay questions may be used if needed. The fourth week is set aside for reports, projects, and testing as deemed necessary by the teacher.