Published between 1860 and 1861, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is among the most famous novels in English literature. Many times adapted for stage and screen, Great Expectations is always a delight.
Pip is an orphan living with his cruel sister and Joe, her husband, a blacksmith. His life changes when an escaped convict threatens to kill him if he doesn`t bring him food. Pip steals food from his sister`s and helps the convict who is soon caught.
Pip is requested to go to Miss Havisham`s house to play card with Estella, her adopted girl. Miss Havisham is a strange spinster who still wears her wedding dress and lives in a creepy house where all clocks are stopped at 20 minutes to nine. In addition, she has not seen sunlight for 20 years, when she was left at the altar.
Miss Havisham raised Estella to be manipulative and cold to men, as a sign of revenge against them. Pip starts loving Estella, but the girl is emotionally unavailable and plays with his feeling. Pip wishes he were more educated in order to conquer Estella, so he does his best to learn good manners.
One day, a messenger sent by the convict gives Pip money. Pip gets into a fight with other boy at Miss Havisham`s mansion and Estella, happy that the two boys are fighting for her, kisses Pip. The visits become rarer.
Pip finds out he has a benefactor during the next few years working as an apprentice to Joe. Eventually, Pip is sent to be educated and becomes a gentleman. During all this time he thinks Miss Havisham is his benefactor and is sure that he will eventually be with Estella.
Now Pip is a real gentleman and feels very comfortable with his new luxurious life. He even abandons his family and friends thinking the Estella would be proud of him. He lives thinking to his future with Estella, but is terribly disappointed when he finds out his benefactor is not Miss Havisham. Meanwhile, Estella marries another man and Pip`s heart is broken as he realized he has been manipulated all his life.
Alone, ill and with many debts, Pip is helped by Joe and finally realizes how ungrateful he has been to good Joe. Pip asks Joe for forgiveness and becomes a businessman.
Themes and Style
Great Expectations, a bildungsroman, is written in the first person, as Pip is the narrator. The main themes of the book are social class, crime, ambition, self-improvement, innocence and guilt.