Great Expectations | Charles Dickens

Summary of: Great Expectations
By: Charles Dickens

Introduction

Embark on a journey with young Pip in Charles Dickens’ classic, ‘Great Expectations’, as he navigates through life’s adversities, transformative experiences, and relationships. From his humble beginnings to an unexpected rise as a gentleman, this book summary will connect you to the pivotal moments and themes in Pip’s story. Watch as interactions with a diverse range of characters shape his world view, from his childhood encounters with convicts, and his visits to the eccentric Miss Havisham’s decaying manor, to his growing admiration for the elusive Estella. Delve into a tale that exposes the complexity of human emotions and morality, while illustrating the resilience and profound personal growth found within the human spirit.

The Secret Encounter

Young Pip grows up in his abusive sister’s household near a marshland, close to decommissioned ships converted into floating prisons for England’s worst criminals. His encounter with a dangerous escaped inmate, Abel Magwitch, leaves him feeling guilty and afraid. On Christmas Day, Pip embarks on a pursuit of two prison escapees, including Magwitch, alongside soldiers and his kind-hearted brother-in-law. Despite capturing Magwitch and the other escapee, the encounter remains their secret forever.

A New World Beckons

Pip, an orphan, attends a village school where the teacher sleeps through the lesson. He then meets Miss Havisham, who lives in an old brick manor. Miss Havisham orders him to play with her charge Estella and even directs Estella to break Pip’s heart. Pip becomes ashamed of his manners. Despite his humiliation, he agrees to return.

Pip’s Guilt and Ambition

Upon realizing his connection with a convict, Pip’s guilt increases as he frequently visits Satis House where he is subject to humiliation and Estella’s cruelty. Miss Havisham gives a bag of gold coins to Joe to apprentice him, which Pip is ungrateful for as he aspires to be a gentleman.

Pip’s Contrivance

Pip finds a way to see Estella, but Miss Havisham informs him that she’s left. Upon returning home, he finds that his sister has been attacked, and Biddy joins the household to help. Pip continues his apprenticeship and visits Satis House only on his birthdays. As he spends more time with Biddy, Pip’s admiration begins to waver between Estella and Biddy, and the worlds each woman represents.

Pip’s Great Expectations

After being told of his anonymous and wealthy benefactor, Pip moves from his village to London to become a gentleman, leaving his close friends behind. While in London, he becomes friends with Herbert and learns proper manners. He also learns that Mr. Jaggers, the lawyer who announced Pip’s inheritance, is also Miss Havisham’s lawyer. Through Herbert, Pip uncovers the mystery behind Miss Havisham’s ruined life. Pip has also become friends with Matthew Pocket and his two gentleman pupils, Startop and Drummel, but Drummel is unintelligent and brutish. One night, while dining at Mr. Jaggers’s home, Jaggers shocks his guests by revealing the scars on the wrists of his housekeeper, Molly. Later, Joe visits Pip in London and informs him that Estella is home and wants to see him.

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