Great Expectations Key Plot Points
by Charles Dickens

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Key Plot Points

Pip Is Attacked by a Convict (Chapters 1–3): Philip Pirrip, or Pip, is an orphan living with his sister, “Mrs. Joe,” and brother-in-law, Joe, in the marshes of Kent. One night, Pip visits his parents’ tombstones in the village graveyard. Suddenly, a convict appears and demands that Pip bring him food and a file so he can remove the irons on his legs. Pip is terrified and obeys but is unable to return quickly. His overbearing sister orders him to stir the holiday pudding because it is Christmas Eve. When he returns to the graveyard, a different man appears and tries to strike him before running away. Pip finds the original convict, who is cold, wet, and hungry. Pip pities him and gives him the food and file he demanded. The convict becomes upset when Pip describes the man who attacked him. Pip quietly runs home while the man furiously files away at his leg irons. 

The Convict Is Captured (Chapters 4–7): Pip feels guilty for helping the convict. He panics when, in the middle of Christmas dinner, several policemen arrive with a pair of handcuffs. However, they only seek the help of Pip’s brother-in-law, who is a blacksmith, because the handcuffs are broken. While Joe works, the policemen explain that they are searching for two escaped convicts. Pip and Joe agree to join in the search, but Pip suddenly feels anxious for the convict he helped. Both convicts are eventually found fighting in the marsh. Pip’s convict does not reveal that Pip helped him; instead, he tells the policemen that he robbed Joe. The convict is arrested, and Pip, who feels even more guilty, returns home with Joe. One day, Mrs. Joe and Mr. Pumblechook, Pip’s wealthy uncle, abruptly announce that Pip will be sent to play at Satis House, the home of a wealthy unmarried woman named Miss Havisham. 

Pip Visits Satis House (Chapters 8–10): Mr. Pumblechook accompanies Pip to Satis House, where they are met by a rude but very beautiful girl named Estella. She takes Pip inside the manor, which is old and dark, to meet Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham sits at a mirror in an old wedding dress. Pip notices that everything in the room seems to have frozen in time—even the clocks are perpetually set to 20 minutes to nine. Miss Havisham coldly orders Pip to play cards with Estella, who insults his social class and unrefined manners. Pip is nonetheless infatuated with her, which seems to amuse Miss Havisham. Pip cries during his walk home, but fantasizes about the grandeur of Satis House while he tries to fall asleep. He begins to silently criticize his family, especially Joe, for being so simple and low-class, and he resolves to try harder in school in order to elevate his own social standing. One night, when he arrives at the village pub to bring Joe home, he notices a man stirring a drink with the same file that he gave to the escaped convict. The stranger gives Pip two pounds, which he later gives to Mrs. Joe. Pip’s anxiety about the convict resumes, but he does not tell Joe about what really happened. 

Pip’s Dream of Becoming a Gentleman Is Shattered (Chapters 11–13): Pip resumes his visits to Satis House, where Miss Havisham continues to encourage Estella to torment him. Pip, who grows increasingly fond of Estella, does not notice when Miss Havisham whispers “Break their hearts!” in Estella’s ear. Instead, he is convinced that Miss Havisham intends for him to marry Estella and that she will make him a gentleman by giving him a fortune of his own. His hopes are shattered when she offers to help him establish an official apprenticeship with Joe. Estella laughs at Pip when Joe, who looks very out of place, arrives at Satis House to sign the apprenticeship papers. Pip’s family is delighted about the arrangement, but Pip is deeply dissatisfied and continues to aspire to a higher social status. 

Pip Apprentices for Joe (Chapters 14–16): Pip begins working in Joe’s blacksmith shop. Pip dislikes the apprenticeship but says nothing to Joe because he...

(The entire section is 2,890 words.)