Great Expectation Essay
Great Expectations is a novel by Charles Dickens. It was first published in serial form in the publication All the Year Round from 1 December 1860 to August 1861. It has been adapted for stage and screen over 250 times.  Great Expectations is written in the style of bildungsroman, which follows the story of a man or woman in their quest for maturity, usually starting from childhood and ending in the main character’s eventual adulthood. Great Expectations is the story of the orphan Pip, writing about his life and attempting to become a gentleman along the way.
The novel can also be considered semi-autobiographical of Dickens, like much of his work, drawing on his experiences of life and people. The main plot of Great Expectations takes place between Christmas Eve 1812, when the protagonist is about seven years old (and which happens to be the year of Dickens’ birth), and the winter of 1840.  On Christmas Eve of 1812, Pip,a boy aged 7, encounters an escaped convict in the village churchyard while visiting his mother and father’s graves. The convict scares Pip into stealing food for him and a file to grind away his leg shackles.
He threatens Pip not to tell anyone and do as he says or his friend will cut out Pip’s heart. Pip returns home, where he lives with Mrs. Joe, his older sister, and her husband Joe Gargery. His sister is very cruel and beats him and Joe regularly, while Joe is much more kind to Pip. Early the next morning, Pip steals food and drink from the Gargery pantry (including a pie for their Christmas feast) and sneaks out to the graveyard. It is the first time in Pip’s life he’s felt truly guilty.
This is an important event in the book because the convict will never forget the kindness (albeit forced) that Pip showed to him. The convict, however, waits many years to fully show his gratitude. During Christmas dinner with the minister, Mr. Wopsle, Mr. and Mrs. Hubble, and Uncle Pumblechook, Pip and Mrs. Joe’s moderately wealthy uncle, no one notices the missing food or brandy until Uncle Pumblechook drinks some brandy and spits it out. Pip realizes that he filled the brandy jug not with water, but with tar water.
Pip sits at the table being told how lucky he is by all the relatives and holds on to the dining table leg for dear life, scared that someone will notice the missing pie. When Mrs. Joe gets up and goes to the kitchen for the pie, Pip bolts to the door. However, his way is blocked by police officers. They ask Joe to repair their handcuffs and invite Joe, Pip and Mr. Wopsle to come with them to hunt for some escaped prisoners from the local jail. As they hunt through the marshes outside the village, they accost the two convicts while engaged in a fight.
One of them is the convict helped by Pip; however, when questioned about where he got the food and file, he claims he stole the items himself in order to shield Pip. The police take the two to the Hulk, a giant prison ship, and Pip is carried home by Joe, where they finish Christmas dinner. A while after Pip’s encounter with the convict, Pip’s life returns to normal. He goes to school, run by Mr. Wopsle’s great-aunt, and becomes friends with Biddy, an orphan who was adopted by the Wopsles. He still feels guilty for the theft.
Pip’s Uncle Pumblechook gets Pip invited to the house of a rich old woman named Miss Havisham, who lives in the village in Satis House. Miss Havisham is a spinster who wears an old wedding dress with one shoe on and has all the house clocks stopped at 20 minutes to nine. She hasn’t seen sunlight in years and claims to have a broken heart and just wants to see Pip play cards with Estella, a young girl she has adopted. After this first meeting, Pip frequently visits Miss Havisham and Estella, for whom he harbours a feeling of obsessive attraction.
He begins to tenaciously learn everything he can from Biddy in school, in an effort to impress Estella who called him a common labouring boy. One day, when Pip goes to the town pub to pick up Joe, they are approached by a messenger sent by Pip’s convict. He mixes his drink with the stolen file and gives Pip two pounds before leaving. Pip visits Miss Havisham on her birthday where she shows him her wedding cake, which is being eaten by mice, and where she will be laid out when she is dead, a death she looks forward to. He also meets the Pockets.
Pip works with Joe for a few years in the forge, doing work that he hates. In an agreement with Joe, he visits Miss Havisham only on his birthday, when he receives a half-holiday. He and Joe work with a journeyman named Orlick. When he returns home, he discovers that Mrs. Joe had been attacked. She becomes a horribly brain-damaged invalid. Pip feels guilty again when the police believe escaped criminals attacked Mrs. Joe. The detectives from London are inexperienced and do not discover anything. Mrs. Joe spends her days calling for Orlick and draws a capital “T” on a slate.
Biddy thinks that the “T” represents a hammer and that Orlick is the attacker. When Orlick arrives, Mrs. Joe tries to please him and shows him the slate. Biddy moves in with the Gargerys and Pip confides in her about his feelings for Estella. When Pip and Joe are listening to Mr. Wopsle read a murder trial from a newspaper, a London lawyer, Jaggers, approaches Pip, revealing very startling news: Pip has inherited a large sum of money from an anonymous benefactor. The conditions of the receipt of said money require him to leave for London immediately, buy some clothes and become a gentleman.
Pip behaves badly in society (mostly over jealousy of Estella) and squanders his allowance, running into debt. He is rescued on his 21st birthday, when he is notified by Jaggars that he is awarded 500 pounds and an increased steady allowance, until such a time as his benefactor will appear. Pip originally believes Miss Havisham is his benefactress (and so the reader is led to believe, as well) for several years as he begins to learn to be a gentleman, helped by the now grown Herbert Pocket, who is assigned as his companion. During this time, Mrs.
Joe dies. However, in one of Dickens’ patented plot twists, Pip’s benefactor turns out to be instead Magwitch, the convict whom Pip helped, who had been transported to New South Wales, where he had eventually prospered and become wealthy. Magwitch left all his money to Pip in gratitude for that kindness and also because Pip reminded him of his own child, whom he thinks is dead. The revelation of his true benefactor crushes Pip. He’s ashamed of Magwitch’s criminal past, however, Magwitch now expects to spend the rest of his life living with Pip.
Pip, very reluctantly, lets Magwitch stay with him. There is a warrant out for Magwitch’s arrest in England and he’ll be hanged if he’s caught. Eventually, because Magwitch is on the run from the law, a plan is hatched by Herbert and Pip which involves fleeing the country by boat. During these events, it is revealed to Pip that Estella is the daughter of Jaggers’ housemaid, Molly, whom he defended in a murder charge and who gave up her daughter to be adopted by another of his clients, Miss Havisham, in return for his service in allowing her to be acquitted of the charge.
Pip later realizes Magwitch is Estella’s father. Pip has an encounter with Orlick, who admits he was the one who attacked Pip’s sister. Meanwhile, Estella has married Bentley Drummle, a marriage that will be an unhappy one. Before Pip flees with Magwitch, he makes one last visit to Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham realizes that she created a monster out of Estella, who broke Pip’s heart, and asks him for forgiveness. Pip confronts Miss Havisham with Estella’s history and present circumstance in an unhappy marriage, blaming Miss Havisham for teaching Estella to be cold and unloving.
In the heat of the confrontation, Miss Havisham stands too close to the fire and ignites her dress. Pip heroically saves her, but she later dies from her burn injuries. Pip, Herbert and another friend, Startop, make a gallant attempt to help Magwitch escape, but instead he is captured and sent to jail. Pip is devoted to Magwitch by now and recognizes in him a good and noble man. Pip tries to have Magwitch released but Magwitch dies shortly before his execution. Under English law Magwitch’s wealth forfeits to the Crown, thus extinguishing Pip’s “Great Expectations”.
After an extended period of sickness during which he is looked after by Joe, he returns to good health and returns home to ask Biddy for forgiveness and for her love. However, when he arrives, he finds that it is Biddy and Joe’s wedding day. Thankful for not mentioning his interest in Biddy to Joe while he was sick, Pip congratulates the happy couple. Afterwards, Pip goes into business overseas with Herbert. After eleven relatively successful years abroad, Pip goes back to visit Joe and the rest of his family out in the marshes.
Finally, Pip makes one last visit to the ruins of Miss Havisham’s house, where he finds Estella wandering. Her marriage is over, and she seems to have children and wants Pip to accept her as a friend. In the book Dickens says “There was no shadow of them parting” which is led the public to believe that Estella and Pip ended up together. ‘After over 50 chapters of Pip longing for her, they ended up together in the end of the book’ is the basic logical explanation for why people believe the book was ended as them being “more than friends”
University/College: University of Chicago
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Date: 17 February 2017
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