Illustration of Pip visiting a graveyard

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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Essential Quotes by Character: Pip

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Essential Passage 1: Chapter 8

My sister’s bringing up had made me sensitive. In the little world in which children have their existence whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice. It may be only small injustice that the child can be exposed to; but the child is small, and its world is small, and its rocking-horse stands as many hands high, according to scale, as a big-boned Irish hunter. Within myself, I had sustained, from my babyhood, a perpetual conflict with injustice. I had known, from the time when I could speak, that my sister, in her capacious and violent coercion, was unjust to me. I had cherished a profound conviction that her bringing me up by hand, gave her no right to bring me up by jerks. Through all my punishments, disgraces, fasts and vigils, and other penitential performances, I had nursed this assurance: and to my communing so much with it, in a solitary and unprotected way, I had in great part refer the fact that I was morally timid and very sensitive.


Pip's parents died when he was a baby and Pip has been reared by his older sister. Mrs. Joe, as she is called, has little patience with childish ways and whims, and has treated Pip with contempt, abusing him physically and verbally. Pip has only known love through his brother-in-law, Joe Gargery. The two of them together form a “mutual protection” partnership against the blows of Mrs. Joe. Pip develops into an extremely sensitive and humiliated child, who strongly feels the injustice of his upbringing. When he is taken to Miss Havisham’s home to “play” with her adopted daughter Estella, Pip is once again treated like common, low-life boy. When Estella shows disdain for his rough manners and ignorance of “social graces,” Pip is humiliated. Still, Estella’s beauty and high social position enthralls him. More than anything, he wants to be her equal, but Estella makes it clear that he is not. This humiliation causes him to reflect on the great injustices he suffers at the hands of his sister and Estella.

Essential Passage 2: Chapter 49

“You are still on friendly terms with Mr. Jaggers?”
“Quite. I dined with him yesterday."
“This is an authority to him to pay you that money, to lay out at your irresponsible discretion for your friend. I keep no money here; but if you would rather Mr. Jaggers knew nothing of the matter, I will send it to you.”
“Thank you, Miss Havisham; I have not the least objection to receiving it from him.”
She read me what she had written, and it was direct and clear, and evidently intended to absolve me from any suspicion of profiting by the receipt of the money. I took the tablets from her hand, and it trembled again, and it trembled more as took off the chain to which the pencil was attached, and put it in mine. All this she did, without looking at me.
“My name is on the first leaf. If you can ever write under my name, ‘I forgive her,’ though ever so long after my broken heart is dust—pray to it.”
“O Miss Havisham,” said I, “I can do it now. There have been sore mistakes; and my life has been a blind and thankless one; and I want forgiveness and direction far too much, to be bitter with you.”


Pip has learned that Miss Havisham is not his benefactor. He goes to visit her one last time. Estella is married. Pip is alone.  His “great expectations” have come to naught. He can no longer accept money from someone he has feared since childhood. His benefactor is a criminal. Humbled, he visits Miss Havisham in order to get money for Herbert Pocket (Miss Havisham’s relative). Pip has helped to finance Pocket's business from Magwitch's money. Miss Havisham agrees to provide Herbert money he needs since Pip is no longer able to do so. As she does so, she asks Pip to forgive her for her toying with his future and his innocence, provoking Estella to break his heart and leading him to believe that it was she who was his benefactor. Stripped of his pride, Pip readily forgives her. He has lived an ungrateful life and has no cause to be bitter toward someone who has taught him so much about life.

Essential Passage 3: Chapter 54

We remained at the public-house until the tide turned, and then Magwitch was carried down to the galley and put on board. Herbert and Startop were to get to London by land, as soon as they could. We had a doleful parting, and when I took my place by Magwitch’s side, I felt that that was my place henceforth while he lived.
For now, my repugnance to him had all melted away, and in the hunted wounded shackled creature who held my hand in his, I only saw a man who had meant to be my benefactor, and who had felt affectionately, gratefully, and generously, towards me with great constancy through a series of years. I only saw in him a much better man than I had been to Joe.


Pip and Herbert have at last instigated their plan to sneak Magwitch out of England. Having been transported to Australia, Magwitch is under the penalty of death should he return. Rowing him down the Thames, Pip and Herbert reach the ship that will take Magwitch to Germany. However, on board is Compeyson, the “second convict” of Pip’s childhood, who was responsible for Magwitch’s capture and transportation. Compeyson now identifies Magwitch, who grabs him as he climbs aboard the ship. The two fall into the water, where Magwitch is injured and Compeyson is drowned. Magwitch is arrested and is to be taken off to prison. Pip, seeing the extent of Magwitch’s injuries, knows that it is likely that his benefactor will not survive long enough to face execution. After all his humiliating and humbling experiences, Pip feels nothing but gratitude for the man towards whom he had once felt fear and loathing. Pip refuses to leave Magwitch's side as he is being taken off to prison.

Analysis of Essential Passages

Pip, as the hero of his own story (to quote David Copperfield), is in search of the life of a gentleman, which is handed to him by an unlikely benefactor’s bequest, fulfilling his “great expectations.” Yet Pip, in his search, is oblivious to the true quest of his life: the meaning of “gentleman.”

As the archetypal questing hero, Pip comes from humble beginnings—poor, misunderstood, without promise or opportunity. As a “Cinderella” figure, Pip is subject to the abuse of his sister, Mrs. Joe. The unknown “fairy godmother,” in the guise of an escaped convict, opens the door to a new world, a world that has been his dream since he first encountered to odd Miss Havisham and her adopted daughter, the beautiful Estella. His goal of being a gentleman is sure to be fulfilled through the financial gifts from a stranger.

Escaping from his domestic troubles, Pip is brought to London to begin his training as a gentleman. His focus is on the surface trappings of the comfortable life. Through the advice and counsel of his friend Herbert Pocket, Pip goes far in obtaining the fulfillment of the image he believes constitutes that of a gentleman. This definition of what it is to be “genteel,” however, leads him into debt. He believes that class can be bought and put on.

However, on discovering the true identity of his benefactor, Pip’s dreams are destroyed. He can no longer accept the money that he has believed to be his; it comes from the convict that has been his nightmare since his childhood. In debt, alone, and disillusioned, Pip believes that his “great expectations” have been destroyed and will never come to fruition.

Yet Pip soon learns the true definition of what it means to be a gentleman. His kindness to Abe Magwitch, displayed in his dedication to the convict even in the face of death, shows that his heart is noble, though his social status may not be. His forgiveness of Miss Havisham, whom he believed to be his benefactor only discover that she purposely misled him, proves that a higher standard of behavior cannot be bought with money.

Pip’s quest to become a gentleman ultimately fails, yet his true quest is achieved in the end. His moral choices come full circle, garnering the respect of those who know and love him, even those who at one time may have sought him harm (such as Miss Havisham). Going along the path of innocence to a tragic fall, Pip ultimately achieves redemption through living a life of true Nobility of Heart.

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Essential Quotes by Theme: False Expectations