Great Expectations Characters

Great Expectations key characters:

  • In Great Expectations, well-intentioned orphan Philip Pirrip (Pip) is awarded a fortune by a mysterious benefactor; his gentlemanly aspirations lead to disaster until he recognizes his real friends.

  • Estella, a beautiful orphan raised by Miss Havisham to be cold and unfeeling, initially rejects Pip; he discovers her reformed and penitent years later, after which point it seems they will be together.

  • Joe Gargery, Pip’s step-brother, helps raise Pip and cares for him; Joe is a true friend to Pip and comes to be a role model of selfless love and affection.

  • Miss Havisham, a bitter lady who was jilted at the altar in her youth, raises Estella to break men’s hearts in revenge, but her plan leaves her alone and friendless.

  • Abel Magwitch, the convict Pip helped in his youth, makes good in Australia and returns to England at the risk of his life to become Pip’s mysterious benefactor; recaptured, he dies in prison.

Characters Discussed

(Great Characters in Literature)

Philip Pirrip

Philip Pirrip, called Pip, an orphan and the unwanted ward of his harsh sister, Mrs. Joe. Although seemingly destined for a career as a blacksmith, he sees his fortunes improve after he meets a convict hiding in a graveyard. Afterward, through Miss Havisham, he meets Estella, the eccentric old woman’s lovely young ward. Thinking Miss Havisham is his benefactor, he goes to London to become a gentleman. Unfortunately for his peace of mind, he forgets who his true friends are. Finally, after Magwitch, the convict, dies and the Crown confiscates his fortune, Pip understands that good clothes, well-spoken English, and a generous allowance do not make one a gentleman.

Miss Havisham

Miss Havisham, a lonely, embittered old woman. When her lover jilted her at the altar, she refused ever to leave her gloomy chambers. Instead, she has devoted her life to vengeance. With careful indoctrination, she teaches Estella how to break men’s hearts. Just before her death, she begs Pip to forgive her cruelty.


Estella, Miss Havisham’s ward. Cold, aloof, unfeeling, she tries to warn Pip not to love her, for she is incapable of loving anyone; Miss Havisham has taught her too well. Years later, however, Pip meets her in the garden near the ruins of Satis House, Miss Havisham’s former home. She has lost her cool aloofness and found maturity. Pip realizes that they will never part again.

Joe Gargery

Joe Gargery, Pip’s brother-in-law. Even though he is married to the worst tempered of women, Mrs. Joe, he manages to retain his gentle simplicity and his selfless love for Pip. After he marries Biddy, he finds the domestic bliss that he so richly deserves.

Mrs. Georgiana Maria Gargery

Mrs. Georgiana Maria Gargery, commonly called Mrs. Joe, Pip’s vituperative sister, who berates and misuses him and Joe with impunity. When she verbally assails Joe’s helper, Orlick, she makes a mortal enemy who causes her death with the blow of a hammer. Later he tries to do the same for Pip.

Abel Magwitch

Abel Magwitch, alias Mr. Provis, Pip’s benefactor. When Pip helps him, an escaped convict, Magwitch promises to repay the debt. Transported to New South Wales, he eventually makes a large fortune as a sheep farmer. When he returns illegally to England years later, the escaped felon reveals himself as Pip’s real patron. Casting off his distaste, Pip finds a real affection for the rough old man and attempts to get him safely out of England before the law apprehends him once more. Recaptured, Magwitch dies in prison.

Mr. Jaggers

Mr. Jaggers, a criminal lawyer employed by Magwitch to provide for Pip’s future. He is a shrewd man with the ability to size up a person at a glance. To him, personal feelings are unimportant; facts are the only trustworthy things. Although completely unemotional, he deals with Pip and Magwitch honestly throughout their long association.

Herbert Pocket

Herbert Pocket, Miss Havisham’s young relative and Pip’s roommate in London. Almost always cheerful and uncomplaining, he is constantly looking for ways to improve his prospects. With Pip’s aid, he is able to establish himself in a profitable business.

John Wemmick

John Wemmick, Mr. Jaggers’ efficient law clerk. Dry and businesslike in the office, he keeps his social and business life completely separate. As a friend, he proves himself completely loyal to Pip.


Biddy, Joe Gargery’s wife after the death of Mrs. Joe. A gentle, loving woman, she is a good wife to him.


Compeyson, a complete villain, the man who jilted Miss Havisham and betrayed Magwitch. He is killed by Magwitch as the two struggle desperately just before the ex-convict is recaptured.

The Aged P

The Aged P, John Wemmick’s deaf old father. In their neat little home, his chief pleasures are reading the newspaper aloud and listening to his son’s nightly firing of a small cannon.

Dolge Orlick

Dolge Orlick, Joe Gargery’s surly helper in the blacksmith shop. After an altercation with Mrs. Joe, he attacks her with a hammer. Later he plots to kill Pip, his hated enemy. Only the timely arrival of Herbert Pocket and Startop prevents the crime.


Molly, Mr. Jaggers’ housekeeper, a woman of strange, silent habits, with extraordinarily strong hands. A murderess, she is also revealed as Magwitch’s former mistress and Estella’s mother.

Matthew Pocket

Matthew Pocket, Miss Havisham’s distant relative and Pip’s tutor during his early years in London. He is also Herbert Pocket’s father.

Mrs. Belinda Pocket

Mrs. Belinda Pocket, a fluttery, helpless woman, the daughter of a knight who had expected his daughter to marry a title.

Alick Pocket

Alick Pocket,

Joe Pocket

Joe Pocket,

Fanny Pocket

Fanny Pocket, and

Jane Pocket

Jane Pocket, other children of the Pockets.

Sarah Pocket

Sarah Pocket, another relative of Miss Havisham, a withered-appearing, sharp-tongued woman.

Uncle Pumblechook

Uncle Pumblechook, a prosperous corn chandler and Joe Gargery’s relative. During Pip’s childhood, he constantly discusses the boy’s conduct and offers much platitudinous advice.

Clara Barley

Clara Barley, a pretty, winning young woman engaged to Herbert Pocket. Magwitch is hidden in the Barley house while Pip is trying to smuggle the former convict out of England.

Old Bill Barley

Old Bill Barley, Clara’s father. A former purser, he is afflicted by gout and bedridden.

Mr. Wopsle

Mr. Wopsle, a parish clerk who later becomes an actor under the name of Mr. Waldengarver. Pip and Herbert Pocket go to see his performance as Hamlet.

Bentley Drummle

Bentley Drummle, called The Spider, a sulky rich boy notable for his bad manners. He is Pip’s rival for Estella’s love. After marrying her, he treats her cruelly. Pip meets him while Drummle is being tutored by Mr. Pocket.


Startop, a lively young man tutored by Mr. Pocket.

Mr. Trabb

Mr. Trabb, a village tailor and undertaker.

Trabb’s Boy

Trabb’s Boy, a young apprentice whose independence is a source of irritation to Pip.

Mr. John (Raymond) Camilla

Mr. John (Raymond) Camilla, a toady.

Mrs. Camilla

Mrs. Camilla, his wife, Mr. Pocket’s sister. She and her husband hope to inherit a share of Miss Havisham’s fortune.

Miss Skiffins

Miss Skiffins, a woman of no certain age but the owner of “portable property,” who marries John Wemmick.


Clarriker, a young shipping broker in whose firm, Clarriker & Company, Pip secretly buys Herbert Pocket a partnership.


Pepper, also called The Avenger, Pip’s servant in the days of his great expectations.

Great Expectations Character Analysis

Estella is as beautiful and cultured as she is cold and brutal, and Pip immediately falls in love with her at a tender age. The daughter of Magwitch the convict, she is taken in by Miss Havisham from the age of three and taught to hate and mistreat men of all kinds, Pip among them. The more Pip loves her, the more Estella seems to enjoy torturing and manipulating him. She is from even lower stock in the class system than he is, and one might think she resents his intrusion into the life she has found among the wealthy.

Dickens doesn’t leave Estella so one-dimensional—he shows us the inner life of this girl who has herself been so tortured and twisted by a desire to be more than her station at birth. We get a sense that Estella struggles against the cruelty and shame she is made to endure; as she and Pip get older, she continually tells him she has no heart to spare his feelings and keep him from being as dependent on her as she has been on the heartless Miss Havisham. In so doing, Estella proves that she does have a heart, albeit a damaged one. Her marriage to Drummle prolongs her own agony, but near the end of the novel she learns the same lesson as Pip: Feelings can’t be suppressed enough to prevent us from feeling, and holding emotions back cripples us, as evidenced by Miss Havisham and Magwitch, among others. At the novel’s end Estella experiences her own kind of evolution, bent into what she hopes is a better shape that will allow her to undo some of the damage she has caused. Estella’s gradual change over the course of the novel has caused some critics to call her Dickens’ first truly developed female character.

Abel Magwitch, also know simply as "The Convict" is a career criminal at the beginning of the novel, with what seem like no redeeming qualities. He stalks Pip in the cemetery after escaping from prison as the novel opens; Pip’s resulting kindness melts his icy heart, and he becomes determined to emulate the self-improvement that tiny boy has devoted his own life to. Magwitch makes his fortune, secretly using his money to finance Pip’s education and lifestyle through Jaggers, elevating the boy into increasingly higher social circles. At the end of the novel, however, his crimes catch up to him and he is caught; like his daughter Estella, Magwitch has to come to terms with the damage he has caused.

Miss Havisham
Miss Havisham begins and ends Great Expectations as a victim, but hardly the sympathetic kind....

(The entire section is 1051 words.)

Great Expectations Themes and Characters

Philip Pirrip, known as Pip, is the story's central figure whose experiences symbolize the problems of growing up. Pip is reared by his...

(The entire section is 791 words.)

Great Expectations Characters

Still from the 1946 film Great Expectations, starring Anthony Wager (right) as Pip and Finlay Currie (left) as Magwitch. Published by Gale Cengage

Arthur, Miss Havisham's suitor who once jilted her, has fallen in with the villainous Compeyson and his...

(The entire section is 3294 words.)