Great Expectations is a novel written by Charles Dickens and first published in serial form from 1860 to 1861. The story is set in early nineteenth-century England and follows the life of an orphan named Pip who grows up to become a gentleman with great expectations.

Summary: The novel begins with the young Pip living in poverty with his abusive sister and her husband Joe, a blacksmith. One day, he encounters an escaped convict who forces Pip to steal food and a file to remove his chains. Pip delivers the goods but is later captured with the convict. However, the convict protects Pip and takes the blame for the stolen goods.

Pip is soon after summoned by the wealthy and eccentric Miss Havisham to play with her adopted daughter, Estella. Pip falls in love with Estella but is heartbroken when she marries another man. Pip eventually comes into a large sum of money from an anonymous benefactor and moves to London to become a gentleman. He spends recklessly and becomes estranged from Joe and his childhood friend, Biddy.

Pip later learns that his benefactor is actually the convict he helped years ago, and he begins to feel guilty for his behavior. He also discovers that Estella was raised by Miss Havisham to be a heartbreaker, and he tries to rescue her from this fate. In the end, Pip realizes that true happiness is found through love and forgiveness rather than wealth and status.

Key Facts:

  • Great Expectations was first published in serial form in All the Year Round, a magazine owned by Dickens, from 1860 to 1861.
  • The novel is semi-autobiographical, with Dickens drawing on his own experiences growing up poor and later becoming successful.
  • The novel was initially criticized for being too dark and depressing, but it has since become one of Dickens’ most popular and enduring works.

Major Characters:

  • Pip: The protagonist of the novel, who begins as an orphan living in poverty but later becomes a wealthy gentleman with great expectations.
  • Estella: The adopted daughter of Miss Havisham, who is raised to be a heartbreaker and breaks Pip’s heart.
  • Miss Havisham: A wealthy and eccentric spinster who was jilted at the altar and raises Estella to wreak revenge on all men.
  • Abel Magwitch: An escaped convict whom Pip helps and who later becomes Pip’s anonymous benefactor.
  • Joe Gargery: Pip’s kind-hearted brother-in-law who works as a blacksmith.
  • Herbert Pocket: Pip’s friend and fellow gentleman in London who helps him manage his finances.

Minor Characters:

  • Biddy: Pip’s childhood friend who is kind-hearted and intelligent.
  • Jaggers: A powerful and intimidating lawyer who represents many of the novel’s characters.
  • Wemmick: Jaggers’ clerk who has a dual personality, one at work and another at home.
  • Mrs. Joe: Pip’s abusive sister who raises him after his parents die.