Illustration of Pip visiting a graveyard

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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Chapter 1 Summary

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

The reader is introduced to Pip, who says that his real name is Philip Pirrip. However, as that name is too long for him to pronounce, he calls himself Pip. He explains that he only knows his last name is Pirrip because his sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery, told him so. He also saw his father's name on his tombstone. Pip never knew his mother and father, who are buried together next to the graves of his five little brothers. He does not know anything about what they were like—he only knows his mother's name was Georgiana from seeing it on a tombstone.

Pip's earliest clear memory is from a day in which he visits his parent's graves. In the graveyard, which is in a marshy area near his house, a frightful man calls to him. The man has irons on his legs, rags on his head, and dirt all over his clothes—he is, Pip will learn, an escaped convict. He threatens Pip, and Pip begs the convict not to cut his throat. The convict asks Pip's name and where he lives, and he turns Pip upside down so that a piece of bread falls out of Pip's pockets. The convict eats the bread ravenously and asks Pip where his mother and father are. When Pip explains that they are dead, the convict asks who Pip lives with. Pip says he lives with his sister, the wife of the blacksmith.

The convict, who tilts Pip backward, asks Pip to bring "wittles" (meaning vittles, or food) and a file to the Battery the next morning. He warns Pip not to mention this to anyone, and he tells Pip that he is hiding with a young man who will come after Pip's heart and liver if Pip tells anyone about this incident. Pip says that he will bring the file and food the next morning.

As the convict limps away, Pip notices that he is holding himself together, and Pip imagines that the dead are almost pulling the man into the graves. The convict limps towards a gibbet, or gallows, where a pirate once was hanged. Pip imagines that the convict is the pirate come to life, and he runs home in terror.

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Chapters 2 and 3