Great Expectations Study Guide

Great Expectations By Charles Dickens

Christmas Eve, young Pip meets a criminal who convinces him to steal some food and a file with which to remove his leg irons. Pip feels guilty, but complies.

Back at his sister's house, Pip gets beaten around by Mrs. Joe, Blacksmith Joe's mean wife. Pip is expected to be a blacksmith like Joe, and everything seems static until pip gets invited to visit a rich old woman named Mrs. Havisham. She's a strange woman who was abandoned on her wedding day and has never gotten over it. She still wears her wedding gown, and keeps her house in the same order it was on that day. Miss Havisham has an adopted daughter, Estella, whom Pip desires. Unbeknownst to Pip, Miss Havisham is raising Estella to be a cruel heart-breaker, because she hates men.

One day, Miss Havisham tells Pip never to return again, because it's time for Pip to apprentice with Joe. Pip thinks this sucks, but life plods along until one day Mrs. Joe has an attack that renders her incapacitated, but much nicer. Biddy, a girl about Pip's age, moves in to take care of Mrs. Joe. Life goes on.

Shortly, Jaggers, an attorney, comes to Pip with a staggering bit of news: Pip has received a sum of money from an anonymous benefactor, but he must leave for London and learn to be a gentleman to receive it. Pip leaves immediately.

In London, Pip moves in with Herbert, and they become friends. He also meets Bentley Drummle, who has his eye on Estella. Pip believes that Miss Havisham is his benefactor, and that she is 'training' him to be able to marry Estella, but learns that it is in fact Magwitch -- the convict that he aided years ago. The news crushes him. Magwitch wants to be with Pip, because Pip reminds him of his dead son, but he is still wanted in England.

They plan to escape to mainland Europe, but are caught by Magwitch's nemesis Compeyson. Along the way, they learn that Compeyson was the man who jilted Miss Havisham. Meanwhile, Estella married Bentley, but is unhappy. Just before Pip is going to flee with Magwitch, he visits Miss Havisham one last time, and finds her repentant. She accidentally ignites her dress, and Pip saves her -- but she still dies from the injuries.

Magwitch gets captured because of Compeyson and goes to jail. Pip learns that Magwitch is Estella's father, and admits to Magwitch that he loves Estalla. Magwitch dies soon after. Pip falls ill, and only Joe, who is now happily married to Biddy, will care for him. Pip recovers, and goes into business with Herbert, taking a long trip overseas.

When he returns, Joe and Biddy have many children, one named Pip. He revisits Miss Havisham's house and finds Estella, who has divorced Bentley, has children of of her own, and wants Pip's friendship. It seems there might be hope for Pip and Estella after all.

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