is a novel
by Charles Dickens
in All the Year Round
from 1 December 1860
to August 1861
. It is regarded as one of his greatest and most sophisticated novels, and is one of his most enduringly popular, having been adapted for stage and screen over 250 times.
Great Expectations is written in a semi-autobiographical style, and is the story of the orphan Pip, writing his life from his early days of childhood until adulthood. The story can also be considered semi-autobiographical of Dickens, like much of his work, drawing on his experiences of life and people.
The action of the story takes place from Christmas Eve, 1812, when the protagonist is about seven years old, to the winter of 1840.
Each installment in All the Year Round contained two chapters, and was written in a way that kept readers interested from week to week, while still satisfying their curiosity at the end of each one.
The story is divided into three phases of Pip's life expectations.The first stage of Pip's expectations:
Pip, a young orphan, lives a humble existence with his ill-tempered older sister and her strong but gentle husband, Joe Gargery. One day Pip meets an escaped convict and brings him food to keep him alive. This convict is later caught again and sent away.
Pip is satisfied with his life and his warm friends until he is hired by an embittered wealthy woman, Miss Havisham, as an occasional companion to her beautiful but haughty adopted daughter, Estella. From that time on, Pip aspires to leave behind his simple life and be a gentleman. After years as companion to Miss Havisham and Estella, he spends more years as an apprentice to Joe, so that he may grow up to have a future working as a blacksmith.
This life is suddenly turned upside down when he is visited by a London attorney, Mr. Jaggers, who informs Pip that he is to come into the "great expectations" of handsome property and be trained to be a gentleman on the behalf of an anonymous benefactor (whom he assumes to be Miss Havisham). The second stage of Pip's expectations:
Pip has traveled to London to learn the details of being a gentleman. There he receives education and tutoring in manners, fine clothing, and cultured society. Whereas he always engaged in honest labour when he was younger, he now is supported by a generous allowance, which he frequently lives beyond. He learns to fit in this new milieu, and experiences not only friendship but rivalry as he finds himself in the same circles as Estella, who is also pursued by many other men, especially Bentley Drummle, whom she favours.
As he adopts the physical and cultural norms of his new status, he also adopts the class attitudes that go with it, and when Joe comes to visit Pip and his friend and roommate Herbert to deliver an important message, Pip is embarrassed to the point of hostility by Joe's unlearned ways, despite his protestations of love and friendship for Joe. At the end of this stage, Pip is introduced to his anonymous benefactor, Magwitch, the escaped convict he helped long ago. This again changes his world and ends this stage of his expectations.The third stage of Pip's expectations:
Pip's life changes from the artificially supported world of his upper class strivings and introduces him to realities that he must deal with, including moral, physical and financial challenges. He learns startling truths that cast into doubt the values that he once embraced so eagerly, and finds that he cannot regain many of the important things that he had cast aside so carelessly. The ending:
Charles Dickens wrote two different endings for Great Expectations. Dickens changed the ending at the suggestion of a friend, the novelist Edward Bulwer Lytton presumably for the sake of a happier ending. The majority of books being published currently contain the second ending, or both, with the Dickens' original with its own explanation. Original ending:
Pip meets Estella on the streets. Her abusive husband Drummle has died and she has remarried to a doctor. Estella and Pip exchange brief pleasantries, after which Pip states while he could not have her in the end, he was at least glad to know she was a different person now, somewhat changed from the cold-hearted girl Miss Havisham had reared her to be. Revised ending:
Pip goes to Satis House and finds that it is has fallen down. In a silvery mist, Pip walks through the dilapidated garden and begins to think of Estella. He has heard that Stella was unhappy with her husband Dummle, but that Drummle has since died. As the mist rises, Pip encounters Estella wandering through the garden and the two begin to talk fondly about their past. The moon rises as the two leave the garden hand in hand; Pip believes they will never part again.
Themes and analysis
The main themes of the novel are gratitude, suffering, and social mobility. Pip appreciates the gentle Joe Gargery, but treats him with indifference after leaving for London. The failure of Pip to keep in contact with Joe never causes Joe to complain. Joe's selfless nature is frequently contrasted with Mr. Pumblechook's constant criticism of Pip's ingratitude. Suffering is depicted by many characters, including Miss Havisham and Pip, who suffer equally. Miss Havisham was jilted on her wedding day and tricked out of part of her money while Pip suffered by never gaining Estella's love. Dickens used Pip to bring attention to the increasing social stratification in Victorian London. Estella criticizes Pip for his working class features, and Pip in turn develops a contempt for his own family's lack of wealth. Pip constantly attempts to impress Estella by moving up the social ladder, yet it only leads to his demise. The wealthy class is represented by the cruelty of Compeyson, and Mr. Jaggers, and the waste and indolence of Miss Havisham. The working class is often depicted in a constant state of oppression, despite the intelligence and honesty of many poor characters.
More complex explorations of the text reveal themes and symbols such as parenthood (there are very few positive mother-like characters in the story) and the impressions that one generation's actions may have on subsequent generations, especially in regard to bitter feelings, resentment, and revenge, and in the example of Estella being brought up cold-hearted by miss Havisham. Later, the major adult characters who had tried to seek revenge through others or have had serious problems in their youth later regretted their actions and wanted to make amends, suggesting that the events in a person's life may be consuming to the point of destruction, and that once an action is taken it cannot be taken back (and thus it is important to think on our actions very carefully). Another prominent theme is imprisonment, shown profusely in the sections with the Hulks and Newgate Prison.
Main characters in Great Expectations
Pip, the protagonist, and his family
- Philip Pirrip, nicknamed Pip, an orphan, and the protagonist. Pip is destined to be trained as a blacksmith, a lowly but skilled and honest trade, but strives to rise above his class after meeting Estella Havisham.
- Handel, Herbert Pocket's nickname for Pip (he is given this name from The Harmonious Blacksmith, a piece by Handel) which he uses to address Pip from their first formal meeting.
- Joe Gargery, Pip's brother-in-law, and his first father figure. Joe represents the poor but honest life that Pip rejects.
- Mrs. Joe Gargery, Pip's hot-tempered adult sister, who brings him up by hand after the death of their parents, but complains constantly of the burden Pip is to her. Orlick attacks her, and she is left disabled for the rest of her life, until Pip receives a letter saying she is dead. Late in the book, Pumblechook reveals that her true first name is Georgiana M'Ria.
- Mr. Pumblechook, Pip's uncle, an officious bachelor who tells Mrs. Joe how noble she is to bring Pip up by hand and holds Pip in disdain. As the person who first connected Pip to Miss Havisham, he even claims to have been the original architect of Pip's good fortune. Pip despises Mr. Pumblechook as Mr. Pumblechook constantly makes himself out to be better than he really is. He is a cunning imposter. When Pip finally stands up to him, Mr. Pumblechook turns those listening to the conversation against Pip.
Miss Havisham and her family
- Miss Havisham, wealthy spinster who takes Pip on as a companion, and whom Pip suspects is his benefactor. Miss Havisham does not discourage this as it fits into her own spiteful plans. She later apologizes to him. He accepts her apology and she gets badly burnt when her dress catches aflame from a spark which leapt from the fire. Pip saves her, but she later dies from natural causes and from injuries from the fire.
- Estella (Havisham), Miss Havisham's adopted daughter, whom Pip pursues romantically throughout the novel. Estella represents the life of wealth and culture that Pip strives for. Since her ability to love any man (or anyone for that matter) has been ruined by Miss Havisham, she is unable to return Pip's passion. She warns Pip of this repeatedly, but he is unwilling or unable to believe her.
- Arthur (Havisham), Miss Havisham's half-brother, who felt he was shortchanged in his inheritance by their father's preference for his daughter. He joined with Compeyson in the scheme to cheat Miss Havisham of large sums of money by gaining Miss Havisham's trust through promise of marriage to Compeyson. Arthur is haunted by the memory of the scheme and sickens and dies in a delirium, imagining that the still-living Miss Havisham is in his room, coming to kill him. Arthur has died before the beginning of the novel, and is only described to Pip by Magwitch.
- Matthew Pocket, a cousin of Miss Havisham's. He is the patriarch of the Pocket family but he is not one of her relatives who are greedy for Havisham's wealth. Matthew Pocket has a family of nine children, two nurses, and a pretty but useless wife (named Belinda). He also tutors young gentlemen, such as Bentley Drummle, Startop, Pip, and his own son Herbert, who live on his estate.
- Herbert Pocket, a member of the Pocket family, Miss Havisham's presumed heirs, whom Pip first meets as a "pale young gentleman" who challenges Pip to a fist fight at Miss Havisham's house when both are children. He is the son of Matthew Pocket, Pip's tutor in the "gentlemanly" arts, and shares his apartment with Pip in London, becoming Pip's fast friend who is there to share Pip's happiness as well as his troubles. He has a secret relationship with a woman called Clara. Herbert keeps it secret because he knows his mother would say she is below his "station." She's actually a sweet, fairy-like girl who takes care of her dying drunk of a father.
- Camilla, an ageing, talkative relative of Miss Havisham who does not care much for Miss Havisham but only wants her money. She is one of the many relatives who hang around Miss Havisham "like flies" for her wealth.
- Cousin Raymond, another aging relative of Miss Havisham who is only interested in her money. He is married to Camilla.
- Georgiana, another aging relative of Miss Havisham who is only interested in her money.
- Sarah Pocket is an aging relative of Miss Havisham who is only interested in her money.
Characters from Pip's youth
- The Convict, an escapee from a prison ship, whom Pip treats kindly, and who turns out to be his benefactor, at which time his real name is revealed to be Abel Magwitch, but who is also known as Provis and Mr. Campbell in parts of the story to protect his identity. Pip also covers him as his uncle in order that no one recognizes him as a convict sent to Australia years before.
- Abel Magwitch, the convict's given name.
- Provis - a name that Abel Magwitch uses when he returns to London, to conceal his identity.
- Mr. Campbell, a name that Abel Magwitch uses after he is discovered in London by his enemy.
- Mr. and Mrs. Hubble, simple folk who think they are more important than they really are. They live in Pip's village.
- Mr. Wopsle, The clerk of the church in Pip's town. He later gives up the church work and moves to London to pursue his ambition to be an actor, even though he is not very good.
- Mr. Waldengarver, the stage name that Mr. Wopsle adopts as an actor in London.
- Biddy, granddaughter of Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt; the latter runs an evening school in her home in Pip's village and Biddy becomes Pip's teacher. A kind and intelligent but poor young woman, like Pip and Estella, is an orphan, who is the opposite of Estella. Pip ignores Biddy's obvious love for him as he fruitlessly pursues Estella. After he realizes the error of his life choices, he returns to claim Biddy as his bride, only to find out she has married Joe Gargery. Biddy and Joe later have two children, one named after Pip which Estella mistakes as Pip's child in the "original ending."
- Clara, wife to Herbert Pocket. A very poor girl that lives with her father who has some strange sickness. She dislikes Pip the first time she meets him because he influences Herbert's spending, but she eventually warms up to him.
The attorney and his circle
- Mr. Jaggers, prominent London attorney who represents the interests of diverse clients, both criminal and civil. He represents Pip's benefactor and is Miss Havisham's attorney as well. By the end of the story, his law practice is the common element that brushes many of the characters.
- Mr. Wemmick, Jaggers's clerk, only called "Mr. Wemmick" and "Wemmick" except by his father, who himself is referred to as "The Aged Parent", "The Aged P.", or simply "The Aged." Wemmick is Pip's chief go-between with Jaggers and generally looks after Pip in London.
- Molly, Mr. Jaggers's maidservant whom Jaggers saved from the gallows for murder. She is revealed to be the former lover of Magwitch, and the natural mother of Estella.
- Compeyson (surname), another convict, and enemy to Magwitch. A professional swindler, he had been Miss Havisham's intended husband, who was in league with Arthur to defraud Miss Havisham of her fortune. He pursues Abel Magwitch when he learns that he is in London and eventually dies.
- "Dolge" Orlick, journeyman blacksmith at Joe Gargery's forge. Strong, rude and sullen, he is as churlish as Joe is gentle and kind. His resentments cause him to take actions which threaten his desires in life, but for which he blames others. He ends up in a fistfight with Joe over Mrs. Joe's taunting and is easily beaten. This set in motion an escalating chain of events that lead him to secretly injure Mrs. Joe grievously and eventually make an attempt on Pip's life.
- Bentley Drummle, a coarse unintelligent young man whose only saving graces are that he is to succeed to a title and his family is wealthy. Pip meets him at Mr. Pocket's house, as Drummle is also to be trained in gentlemanly skills. Drummle is hostile to Pip and everyone. He is a rival to Pip for Estella's attentions and marries her. It is said he ill-treats Estella and took much from her.
- "The Spider", Mr. Jaggers's nickname for Bentley Drummle.
Significant places in Great Expectations
The physical setting
- Rochester, Kent and surrounding countryside, locale of Pip's childhood home
- London and environs in the early 19th century, primary location of the events of Pip's adult life
Real places referred to
- The hill, wetlands on the banks of the River Thames estuary in Kent near to Pip's boyhood home and town.
- The Hulks, Prison ships anchored off the marshes holding prisoners who are to be transported to Australia as punishment.
- Little Britain, old London neighbourhood of narrow streets and location of Mr. Jaggers's offices.
- Barnard's Inn: one of the minor Inns of Court, referred to in the text as "the dingiest collection of shabby buildings ever squeezed together in a rank corner as a club for tom cats", attached to Gray's Inn where Dickens had worked as a clerk.
- Newgate Prison, ancient prison near Mr. Jaggers's office, where criminals are imprisoned and executed. Also a location where debtors, such as Dickens' father, were imprisoned.
- The Temple, location of houses where Pip and Herbert live after they leave Barnard's Inn, and where Pip meets his benefactor. According to the text, "Our chambers were in Garden-court, down by the river." Garden Court still exists, nearby Temple tube station.
- St. James church in the opening scenes, on the [Isle of Grain], to the north of Rochester
Fictional places in Kent
- The Forge, the workplace and home of Pip and his family, in Grain, to the North of [Rochester]. In the forge itself his substitute father Joe Gargery works as a master blacksmith. Pip later works there as his apprentice.
- Satis House, as in Latin "satis" meaning enough. Also known as Manor House, Miss Havisham's ruined mansion where she lives with her adopted daughter Estella, and where Pip serves for months as her periodic companion. The house is based on a real manor house off Rochester High Street, later owned by Rod Hull.
- The Three Jolly Bargemen, the public house and general meeting place of Pip's home town.
- The Blue Boar, inn/hotel in Kent, Pip stays here rather than staying with Joe and Biddy when he visits his home town. The descriptions match the Bull Inn on Rochester High St. There is also a Blue Boar Lane in the area.
Fictional places in London
- The Castle, Wemmick's fanciful home, where he lives with his father and receives Pip, located in Walworth.
- Mr. Jaggers's Office, as stated, Mr. Jaggers's Office, where he and Wemmick work.
Film, TV, and theatrical adaptations
Like many other Dickens novels, Great Expectations
has been filmed several times, including:
- 1917 - silent, starring Jack Pickford, directed by Robert G. Vignola.
- 1922 - silent, made in Denmark, starring Martin Herzberg, directed by A.W. Sandberg.
- 1934 - starring Phillips Holmes and Jane Wyatt, directed by Stuart Walker.
- 1946 - starring John Mills as Pip and Jean Simmons as Estella, directed by David Lean.
- 1959 - starring Dinsdale Landen as Pip, Helen Lindsay as Estella and Derek Benfield as Landlord. (BBC television series)
- 1967 - starring Gary Bond and Francesca Annis.
- 1974 - starring Michael York and Sarah Miles, directed by Joseph Hardy.
- 1975 - Stage Musical (London West End). Music by Cyril Ornadel, starring Sir John Mills. Ivor Novello Award for Best British Musical.
- 1981 - starring Derek Francis, directed by Julian Amyes.
- 1981 - starring George Ndirangu, directed by b.dot njuguna.
- 1989 - starring Anthony Hopkins as Magwitch and Jean Simmons as Miss Havisham, directed by Kevin Connor.
- 1998 - starring Ethan Hawke and Gwyneth Paltrow, directed by Alfonso Cuarón.
- 1999 - starring Ioan Gruffudd as Pip, Justine Waddell as Estella, and Charlotte Rampling as Miss Havisham (Masterpiece Theatre—TV)
- 2000 - Parody episode of "South Park".
Cultural references and spin-offs
- Great Expectations, the Untold Story (1986), starring John Stanton, directed by Tim Burstall is a spin-off movie depicting the adventures of Magwitch in Australia.
- In introducing the character Pip, the creators of South Park made a parody episode, "Pip". It initially followed the plot, but spun off on a tangent (one involving robot monkeys) that made Miss Havisham more villainous (by way of a brain-switching device) as a parody of the fact that Dickens had changed the ending to fit the fads at the time.
- Peter Carey's Jack Maggs is a re-imagining of Magwitch's return to England, with the addition, among other things, of a fictionalised Charles Dickens character and plot-line.
- Lloyd Jones's Mister Pip is set in Bougainville where, during a time of civil unrest, a white man uses Great Expectations as the basis for his lessons to the local children.
- The plot and characters of Great Expectations feature heavily in Jasper Fforde's Thursday Next series. Miss Havisham is Thursday's friend and mentor, and Fforde draws from the manuscript to further along the story and give a glimpse of what goes on inside the world of Great Expectations when no one is reading it.