Great Expectations By Charles Dickens: Summary, Themes And Analysis

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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens narrates the story of Pip, a young child who matures and discovers many important life lessons about himself and others.

Charles Dickens wrote Great Expectations between 1860 and 1861.

In Britain, the mid-19th century saw a lot of societal development. The rural-urban migration was growing, education was gradually getting better, and the legal system was changing. Such modifications are reflected in the book.

Great Expectations at a glance

Pip aids Magwitch, an escaped prisoner

Pip is a little orphan who lives with his sister (known as Mrs. Joe) and her husband, the powerful but kind blacksmith Joe Gargery. As Pip visits the graves of his parents, he has a horrific encounter with the fugitive criminal Magwitch. The criminal is finally apprehended and sent to jail despite Pip’s assistance. Pip continues to live a basic living as a poor but honourable youngster, yet he cannot escape his discontentment with his position in life.

 Pip falls in love with Estella After meeting her

Upon meeting Miss Havisham, Pip learns that she is an eccentric woman who has withdrawn since her wedding was postponed at the eleventh hour. Never leaving her house, she despises all men and still wears her wedding dress. Estella, Miss Havisham’s adoptive daughter, is also introduced to Pip. Estella is being raised by Miss Havisham to inflict pain on men. As a result, Estella is particularly nasty to Pip when she brings up his humble upbringing. Estella becomes the object of Pip’s affections when he sees them on a regular basis. In order for him to be worthy of her, he wants to become a gentleman.

Because of Miss Havisham’s generosity, Pip is able to join Joe and Orlick at the forge as an apprentice. As opposed to his original plans, Pip settles into a solid job while also working hard to better himself with the support of Biddy, a local girl. When Mrs Joe is attacked and becomes unable to care for the family anymore, Biddy takes up residence in the family home in order to assist them.

Pip discovers he has made a significant amount of money

Pip, who is now a young man, receives a visit from Mr. Jaggers, a London attorney, one day. Jaggers informs Pip that he has acquired wealth and must travel to London in order to uphold a better class lifestyle, become a gentleman, and further his studies. Pip believes himself that Miss Havisham is behind the money, and that this proves that she has romantic ambitions for both him and Estella.

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Pip gains gentlemanly manners

Pip flies to London where Mr. Jaggers, a lawyer, would look after him until he is considered an adult legally. He resides with Herbert Pocket, a young man associated with Miss Havisham, who instructs him on how to conduct himself properly by learning excellent manners, dressing nicely, and speaking more formally. Pip picks things up quickly, so he can quickly mingle with upper-class individuals like Bentley Drummle. Throughout this time, Pip keeps running across Estella and develops a growing romantic attachment to her.

Pip loses his family and develops a snobby attitude

Unfortunately, Pip starts to look down on other people in his attempts to impress others and gain Estella’s affection. He neglects his family as a result of feeling ashamed of his background. Even when he returns to attend the burial of his deceased sister, he feels uneasy. He begins to spend excessively, and he and Herbert quickly find themselves in debt.

Magwitch is back

Pip starts to suspect he is being watched. When a tattered person knocks on his door one stormy night, he answers it to see Magwitch, the ex-convict Pip once saved. Magwitch was forced to be taken from England to Australia on threat of death if he ever returned. He has, however, made a lot of money and taken enormous risks to return and reveal to Pip that he is the unidentified benefactor who gave Pip all of his money. In addition to discovering that his presumptions about Miss Havisham wishing him and Estella to be together were incorrect, Pip is appalled and believes the money is tainted.

Pip devises a scheme to assist Magwitch in escaping

A strategy is developed by Pip, Herbert, and Wemmick (Mr. Jaggers’s clerk) to securely remove Magwitch from the country. They want to row down the river in an effort to board a boat fleeing England.

Miss Havisham has extensive burns

Pip learns that Estella will wed Bentley Drummle at this time. Even if he begs her not to, she is adamant. She rejects Miss Havisham in addition to Pip. Pip urges Miss Havisham to assist Herbert in starting a company since he does not want to utilise Magwitch’s funds. She consents, but in an unfortunate incident, her worn-out wedding dress catches fire, leaving her with terrible burns.

Magwitch is apprehended and sent back to jail

Orlick is identified as Mrs. Joe’s unidentified assailant. Magwitch’s escape strategy is carried out, but they are discovered just in time. Magwitch slips into the river, gets harmed, is apprehended, and is sent back to jail. He is shortly thereafter given the death penalty, but he is already dying. Pip informs Magwitch that he has always loved Estella after figuring out that she is his long-lost daughter.

Pip returns to Estella and his house

Pip no longer has any money because it was taken as a criminal’s profits; he also owes a lot of money. When Pip becomes ill, Joe, who has never failed to be there for him, not only takes care of him but also settles his debts. Pip then returns to the blacksmith’s shop, where he originally resided. He wants to wed Biddy, but it is too late for Joe has already popped the question. Many years later, Pip runs across Estella once more. She is now a widow, and Pip now has free reign to go for his ex-lover once more.

Analysis of Great Expectations

The main character of Great Expectations, Pip, also serves as the book’s narrator. The work serves as a Bildungsroman, or a book about the moral development of its protagonist, in various aspects. The narrative follows Pip from his early years, during which he encounters both abuse and tenderness, through youth, during which he has his first experiences with love, to adulthood. Readers get to watch him discover his identity and goals in life. Even when he makes a lot of errors, it is difficult not to support him.

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Dickens makes extensive use of Gothic romance in his book, including allusions to the paranormal, the enigmatic and thwarted love. Despite being deceived into thinking certain things about his existence because they feel stunningly right, Pip appears to be aware of these clichés. Miss Havisham, the recluse woman who invites him to play with her ward, Estella, in her eerie home, must be the mystery donor who permits him to follow a gentleman’s lifestyle in London. She must have marriage plans for Pip and Estella, right? Reality is frequently messier than fiction, as Pip soon discovers, yet Dickens uses Gothic romanticism to subvert readers’ expectations.

Great Expectations
Estella, Pip and Miss Havisham

Themes in Great Expectations

1) Social criticism

Great Expectations was written by Charles Dickens in the middle of the Victorian era, yet it takes place decades earlier. Dickens criticised both the British judicial and educational systems. Dickens utilised dramatic examples to draw attention to persistent issues, as when he characterised a country school as a site where kids paid to watch the teacher nod off over her textbooks.

Great Expectations also examines the great inequities of the law, starting with the opening scene where the young Pip meets an escaped criminal named Magwitch. Pip, who offers the man some food and a file, is tormented by recollections of his agony. Magwitch cannot recall a moment when he was not the target of punishment, as we discover later. One of the most moving stories in the book is the one about Magwitch.

2) Ambition

The plots and aspirations of Pip and Herbert illustrate the novel’s topic of ambition. Both yearn and work hard to land a job that will allow them to earn honourably. Herbert works very hard to carve out a place in society, whilst Pip receives aid from Magwitch’s funds. However, they support one another and work at Carriker’s, and Herbert helps by encouraging Pip to join him when he secures a nice job in Cairo.

3) Guilt and Redemption

At the conclusion of the narrative, Miss Havisham, Pip, and Estella serve as examples of the theme of guilt. Pip feels guilty because, despite growing up to be a gentleman, he believes that everything he knows comes from the money that a thief gave him. Miss Havisham expresses sorrow over the way she reared Estella and admits that she nurtured her as a heartless girl. Pip first avoided interacting with Joe and Biddy, but he later treats them nicely. Similarly, Miss Havisham tells Pip as she is about to pass away that she has raised Estella in this manner and that is why she has turned down Pip’s advances.

4) Deception

When some characters are unsure about one another, the novel’s topic of deception is brought into play. For instance, Pip believes that Molly’s identity is uncertain, which is why she is being deceived. Estella is given to Miss Havisham to raise, by Mr. Jaggers in this case. Despite having the best of intentions, the lawyer is able to trick Pip and conceal Estella’s and her parents’ past. Estella is eventually revealed to Pip to be the child of Molly and Magwitch.

5) Innocence

Joe, Pip, Estella, and Biddy are all characters that touch on the idea of innocence. Joe is innocent in that he suffers as a result of Mrs. Joe’s conceit and still supports Pip, and Pip is innocent in that he recognises Estella as a person with lofty aspirations. The same may be said for Estella, who considers Drummle to be of a high class yet deems him unworthy of such praise, whereas Biddy is innocent in both her dealings and her speech.


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