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A. Pip - The narrator of the novel, Pip is extremely vulnerable for love and desire, as he lacks confidence in himself to achieve them. His dynamic character begins as a poor innocent boy in the marshes, but ends up being a wealthy proud gentleman in London. Although Pip may be portrayed as arrogant, his pure and sympathetic persona seems to remain in him, regardless of his newfound fortune.
Innocent - Pip displays his innocent mind thoroughly throughout the novel. In the beginning, when Pip's a mere child, the guilt of stealing several food items - for the convict - from his sister's pantry haunts him everywhere. His purity even causes Pip to believe that a constable is waiting outside the kitchen, awaiting to arrest him for theft. Also, Pip is very persistent on loving Estella, despite of her snobbish attitude. Pip's innocence and Estella's beauty foolishly blinds him.
Irresolute - Pip is very easily wavered. Pip's initial dream to become an apprentice - the holy trail to his manhood, as believed by Pip himself - changes quickly after a single visit to Miss Havisham. When Pip becomes an adult, he determines himself to ask Biddy to marry him. However, after realizing that Joe has already taken her as his wife, Pip swiftly alters his life plan, rather than making efforts to take Biddy from him.
B. Estella - Forever loved by Pip, Estella has great pride in herself for the beauty she cherishes. Raised by a wealthy lady with a painful past, Estella is trained to be cold toward men, including Pip. However, Estella often brings out a rather kind side of her to Pip. Estella is also involved in a puzzling parentage, as Magwitch turns out to be her father, whereas Molly turns out to be her mother.
Cynical - Ever since Pip first meets Estella, her cynical mindset can be seen through the way she acts. Estella cruelly insults Pip as a "coarse and common" boy by pointing out his dirty hands and thick boots. Refusing to be any kinder, she throws Pip outside the house and feeds him like a dog. Showing no sign of humanity, Estella continues to thrash Pip emotionally. However, she seems amazingly softened toward the end, as she allows Pip to grab her hands and kiss it.
Sly - Due to her extravagant attractiveness, Estella confronts many suitors who ask to return their love for her. This includes Pip as well, and just like those other men, Pip fails to receive love back. Estella makes a clear point that she does not have any affections toward Pip, however, when Pip wins a pale young gentleman in front of her, Estella allows him to kiss her. This leaves Pip's emotions mixed, confused from Estella's true feelings toward him.
C. Joe - Described as "a mild, good-natured, sweet-tempered, easy-going, foolish, dear fellow" by Pip, Joe is evidently a character without flaws in personality. Under the title of a blacksmith, he begins to lose Pip's respect; regardless, Joe continues to love him unconditionally. Joe gives a great deal of friendship toward Pip, which he begins to realize toward the end.
Loyal - Joe and Pip have always been friends, "fellow-sufferers" before they were a brother-in-laws. They have never parted until Miss Havisham and Estella came into the scene. Joe also shows his loyalty when Pip receives his great expectations, and was required to leave his apprenticeship. Joe lets him go despite the indentures, and wishes him the best of luck. Joe remains to keep devoted for Pip after have not seeing him for years, by paying off the bank debt.
Awkward - Being a common blacksmith for all his life, Joe looks helplessly foolish and awkward when he's out of his nature. When Joe puts himself in a well-made holiday clothes, Pip can only describe him as a "scarecrow." Also, when Joe visits the Satis House to talk to Miss Havisham, he feels highly uncomfortable and out-of-place.
D. Herbert Pocket - As the "pale young gentleman" Pip once confronts at the Satis House in a fight, Herbert reunites Pip as students of his father, Matthew Pocket. The jovial character Herbert cherishes allows him to aid Pip through thick and thin.
Loyal - Although he first met Pip in a fight, Herbert offers his friendship to him eventually after the reunion. Dubbing Pip Handel, he allows Pip to confess everything to him as his trustworthy. Herbert Pocket supports Pip even when his life is in risk, like transporting a wanted convict out of the country. Herbert also offers Pip to move with him to Egypt, when Pip falls in misfortune.
Passionate - Herbert is very passionate towards his fiancÃ©e, Clara. He is devoted to marry her, however, his debt and social rank hinders the process. At the end, he commits to join the law firm - unknowingly helped by Pip - of Clarriker & Co. in Cairo, Egypt, and take responsible of her and her father for life.
E. Wemmick - Wemmick works as a clerk at Jagger's office located in London, and lives at a castle-like house with his Aged Parent. Wemmick also provides great support to Pip as his friend, and welcomes him whenever.
Changing - Wemmick shows a complete diverse persona in between the two settings that take the majority of his life: the office and home. At the office, he is a cold apathetic clerk that shows no desire to be friendly. On the other hand, at the "castle," Wemmick is extremely cheerful and bright, as he enjoys to maintain his beloved house and his Aged Parent.
Faithful - The home Wemmick befriends Pip and shares a great deal of information Pip inquires. When Pip is in danger, Wemmick silently becomes the knight to save his life by warning him. Wemmick sends a note to Pip advising him to stay home, for an unknown convict is chasing after him. Although he does not directly help him by attacking the follower, he succeeds to protect Pip from jeopardy.
F. Miss Havisham - She is trapped in her past and does not bother to make a change in her life, or rather refuses to. Miss Havisham often shows cruelty and arrogance toward Estella and Pip, but ultimately begs for forgiveness.
Lifeless - Miss Havisham displays a dead image, as Pip compares her to a "skeleton in the ashes of of a rich dress" that he has once seen. Wearing a faded wedding dress for an ancient amount of time, Miss Havisham seems mentally disturbed and troubled. As revealed later, Miss Havisham has been abandoned by a man she loved. Ever since, she has remained the same for years, trapped in the Satis House with clocks stopped at twenty minutes to nine.
Regretful - Miss Havisham begins to realize the consequences she caused due to her selfishness toward Estella and Pip. Tortured by regret, Miss Havisham even attempts to kill herself by lighting her dress on fire. Luckily, she survives, however, fails to bring hopes to her life ever again.
G. Abel Magwitch, or Provis - He is a big burly man who once escaped from the prison ship, but shortly gets captured again. Magwitch does not forget the grace Pip showed while he was a convict, and anonymously donates all the fortunes he made with labor to the boy. Under the alias of Provis to avoid being arrested, Magwitch reunites with Pip as a friend and a father.
Sympathetic - Magwitch at first shows the brutal side of him as he threatens Pip to commit theft for his own good. However, when Magwitch ends up being captured, he hides the guilt of Pip and lies that he has stolen the items, and not Pip. Later, unforgettable mercy of Pip causes Magwitch to provide him with fortune so he could become a gentleman.
Love-deprived - Ever since young, Magwitch was an orphan with no family. His robbery was necessary for survival, as he had no one to support him at the time. His marriage with Molly faces a great downfall as Molly murders a woman Magwitch loved. Due to the incident, Magwitch loses his daughter, his wife, and his lover, and ends up having nothing but himself. After seeing the kind actions of Pip, he makes a decision to commit to his life as his second father, even if Magwitch barely knows him.
H. Mrs. Joe - As Pip's sister and the only biological family member remaining, she always emphasizes the sufferings she had undergone to raise her brother. Mrs. Joe often displays a grumpy and hostile image in contrary to her husband. Later, she becomes a life-time patient after being blown by a leg iron, and eventually passes away.
Aggressive - Mrs. Joe constantly shows her aggressive personality at home, and seems to be uncontrollable of her behavior. Orlick asks for a holiday to match Pip, however Mrs. Joe solemnly says no. Furious, Mrs. Joe argues harshly and gets in a verbal fight with Orlick.
Desperate - She desires many things, including wealth and a better life. Miss Havisham invites Pip with no intentions of anything but to play with her child, however, Mrs. Joe takes it a step further and translates the message as an invitation to a new life of the upper-classmen.
I. Biddy - Biddy is not as beautiful as Estella, however, cherishes a kind and understandable personality throughout. She teaches ignorant Pip how to read and write, as well as Joe. Despite her contributions, she does not get appreciated.
Obligated - Even when his friend, Pip leaves home to become a gentleman, Biddy stays at the sluice-house to continue to look after Mr. and Mrs. Joe. She feels responsible for her duty, although she is capable of escaping it.
Satisfied - Although she is also common, Biddy never shows a sign of envy toward Pip, who has now become fortunate. Biddy is satisfied with her position in society, and gets offended when she is treated sympathetically by Pip at the funeral.
J. Uncle Pumblechook - Uncle of Joe, and a close family member of the Gargery's, Pumblechook is perhaps the most deceitful and devious character in the novel.
Selfish - When Pip does not have any fortune on him, Pumblechook treats him poorly and is ignorant of him. However, when Pip becomes fortunate with the expectations, Pumblechook's attitude changes greatly.
Conniving - Pumblechook has provided nothing to contribute to Pip's success, however, he advertises to the village that he was the secret benefactor. He even hires an Imposter to act it out with him, misleading the villagers.
K. Jaggers - A prominent lawyer in London, Jaggers acts as the middle man between the benefactor and Pip. He also knows the truth of everything, including the identity of the benefactor, as well as Estella's parentage.
Hygenic - When Pip first encounters Jaggers, Pip notices a strong scent of soap from his hands first. Jaggers washing his hands can be seen throughout Pip's stay at his house, and the smell never seems to go away.
Intelligent - Pip sees a crowd of people waiting in front of Jaggers' office, asking for his help. This infers that Jaggers is wanted by many due to his high fame in the lawyer industry. His intelligence also successfully defended Molly in court, where she was clearly in guilt.
L. Molly - Working as a housemaid at Jaggers' house, she seems depressed and spiritless. Molly was suspected for a commit of murder, but successfully gets proven innocent, thanks to Jaggers. Pip later finds out that she is the birth mother of Estella.
Miserable - Even when his friend, Pip leaves home to become a gentleman, Biddy stays at the sluice-house to continue to look after Mr. and Mrs. Joe. She feels responsible for her duty, although she is capable of escaping it.
Obedient - Molly obeys Jaggers with fidelity, as he once saved her life for committing murder. When Jaggers commands her to show her wrist, Molly attempts to defend herself, however, ends up flashing it.
M. Drummle - "An old-looking young man of a heavy order of architecture," Drummle is a student of Mr. Pockets alongside Pip, Herbert, and Startop; however, is not in good terms with them. His evilness often torments Pip, as he later marries Estella.
Wicked - Drummle's snobbish attitude actually derived from his fortunate background, as "he came of rich people down in Somersetshire." Drummle boasts of his social rank, that is high enough to marry Estella, to poor Pip.
Abusive - Although warned by Pip, Estella marries Drummle anyway. However, it has been heard that Estella has lived a terrible life under his abuse. Despite of Estella's dazzling beauty, Drummle's vulgarity and cruelty do not seem to go away.
N. Orlick - A day laborer of Joe's forge, Orlick often causes trouble to the Gargery's. He has a very simple mind, and cannot let anyone be happier than he is.
Vengeful - Orlick lacks self-control, and refuses to give mercy on anyone. Orlick gets irritated by Mrs. Joe after a quarrel they had, and attempts to slaughter her with a leg iron. Also, after being kicked out of his work position at the Satis House because of Pip's report, he does not let go of the grudge for years. He once again tries to kill Pip, but fails.
Selfish - Orlick has a very selfish mindset, as shown through his foolish actions.When Joe grants Pip a half-holiday in order to meet Miss Havisham, Orlick gets furious from jealousy and argues how he deserves one as well.
5. Major Settings:
I. The Satis House:
The Satis House is an aged manor where Miss Havisham and Estella reside at. Built with "old brick" and surrounded by "great many iron bars," the readers can feel the strong aura of isolation the house radiates. Inside, darkness engulfs the passageways with a single candle lighting the path. With "no glimpse of daylight to be seen," the interior of the house contains finely made furniture. Oddly, all clocks including Miss Havisham's watch are frozen at twenty minutes to nine. Also, a bug-infested wedding cake is seen, laying on the table untouched. The entrapped and ancient state suggests the readers that something is stopping them from making a change in their life.
II. The Forge
"Adjoined [to Pip's] house, which was a wooden house, as many of the dwelling in our country were," the forge is where Joe works at as a blacksmith. Before receiving the fortune, he believes the forge to be the "portal of Temple of State." After, however, the forge is perceived as a shameful place by Pip. Pip's social rank is portrayed by the forge, for it is Pip's fate to work in there as an apprentice.
III. The Misty Marshes
"Intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it," the marshes often set as the main setting of the story. The marshes is where Magwitch and Pip meet for the very first time, ultimately resulting in a dramatic change in Pip's life. The misty marshes also served as the meeting location of Orlick and Pip, as Orlick writes, "If you are not afraid to come to the old marshes to-night..." Every time the marshes appear in the plot, readers can foresee the danger approaching Pip.
Pip is raised by his abusive sister, Mrs. Joe, and her blacksmith husband, Joe, as long as he could remember. Living each and every day at the sluice-house in the marshes, Pip pursues his dream of becoming an apprentice of his brother-in-law. One day, his life dramatically makes a turn as he encounters an escaped convict tied to a leg iron, asking Pip to provide him "a file and some wittles." Committing his very foremost crime, Pip delivers the stolen items from the pantry; however, the convict shortly gets arrested by the policemen in the marshes, alongside another man whom convict was fighting with.
With guilt conquering Pip's daily life, Mrs. Joe and Uncle Pumblechook brings an unexpected news that Miss Havisham, a prosperous lady in the uptown, has invited the boy to play with her young girl, Estella. Inflated hopes fill in the atmosphere of the family. Accepting the invite, Pip dons himself in a luxurious attire, and visits the Satis House. However, instead of sweet jolly welcoming Pip has expected to receive, he gets treated poorly for being "a common laboring boy," as called by Estella. Nonetheless, Estella's radiant beauty drowns Pip in love, despite of her cruelty. Struck with the realization that Pip is nothing but coarse and common, he torments himself from his helpless status quo. To feed the despair, Mrs. Joe becomes an invalid after being attacked by the unknown, and Estella leaves to France for abroad studies.
Few years later at the Jolly Bargemen, Pip is summoned by a familiar-looking lawyer named Jaggers. He bring a news that a mysterious benefactor, whose name cannot be mentioned, has gifted Pip with dumbfounding amount of fortune. Therefore, Pip, with great expectations in his hands (supposedly given by Miss Havisham, according to Pip's speculation) , decides to escape his fate of being an apprentice by leaving to London to learn to become a gentleman. Pip goes under the supervision of Mr. Matthew Pocket alongside his fellow students, including Herbert Pocket, Startop, and Drummle. Pip also befriends Wemmick, a clerk at Jaggers' office, and treats him dearly.
Several years pass, and Pip gets closer to being a gentleman with the help of Herbert and Mr. Matthews. He is now ashamed of Joe, Mrs. Joe, and Biddy, for he believes he is in much of a high position in society to consider them as friends and family. Pip makes a visit to his hometown after hearing the news that his sister has been deceased, and learns that even Biddy is disgusted by him. Time passes by again, and Pip ages enough to be freed from the tied terms and receive all the fortune in the bank; however, the identity of the benefactor remains as secret. One stormy night at the Temple, where Herbert and Pip reside independently from Jaggers, Pip greets a strange visitor. The visitor is none other than the convict Pip supported a decade back, named Abel Magwitch. In contrary to Pip's belief, Magwitch reveals that all the fortune Pip received was actually of his, as he was the benefactor all along. Stunned by the truth, Pip makes an ultimate decision to aid him through. As the story progresses, Pip digs up the truth on Estella's parentage which suggests that Magwitch, also known as Provis, is her father. However, during an attempt to make an escape from the country, Magwitch confronts Compeyson, a long-time foe, and ends up dying in prison.
After the death of Magwitch, and Pip becomes ill. Joe visits London to tender him, and leaves a bank note verifying that he has compensated the debt for Pip. Pip then plans to return home and marry Biddy. When Pip arrives at the sluice-house, he finds out that Biddy and Joe were now married, thus destroying Pip's plan. Instead, he boards to Cairo, Egypt to become a clerk alongside Herbert and his fiancÃ©e, and returns eleven years later. He sees that Joe has begotten a child named Pip, and Estella has been living a miserable life. Pip reunites with his loved one at where Satis House used to be in, and promises eternal friendship under the glowing moonlight.
7. Major themes of the work
A. Misfortune of Fortune
Pip loses the important ones in his life due to the fortune he receives.
Estella lives a miserable life after getting adopted to a rich lady.
Compeyson swindles money from Miss Havisham, later imprisoning him for the crime. Miss Havisham becomes mentally disturbed from the loss of her love.
Such paradox Charles Dickens creates in the novel serves a great deal of purpose in terms of the theme. Although the meaning of 'fortune' originally reflects happiness, Dickens proves through the characters in Great Expectations that that is not always the case. Pip's newfound fortune was supposedly the key to success for Pip, however, it only leads to downfalls. Same goes for Miss Havisham, whose immense fortune only attracts unfortunate events.
B. Importance of Friendship
Joe pays off the debt Pip owed, even though he was ignored by Pip.
Biddy keeps her promise of taking care of Joe and Mrs. Joe.
Herbert Pocket guides Pip to become successful and even risks his life for it.
Dickens heightens the value and importance of friendship well throughout the story, as Pip constantly goes through events that remind him. If Pip did not have any companionship with others and went on his journey alone, his life would have been altered greatly. Dickens implies that no friendships can fade away, as shown through Joe's kindness after years of no contact.
C. Social Rank
Pip's transition from a peasant in the lower class to a gentleman in the upper class brings significant changes.
Although Magwitch belongs to the lowest of the social class system, Pip connects to him more than he does to the ones in his own class.
Drummle of the higher class is inhumane and cold, whereas Startop of the lower class is sweet and warm.
The social rank is perhaps the core element of Great Expectations, as Pip's life revolves solely around his cass in society. From a poor villager to a rich gentleman, then back to a peasant, Pip learlns that social status should not be valued more than his own companionship and love. Dickens purposely degrades the inner worth of the characters in the upper class to emphasize that one's social position should not be the criteria of affections.
A. Rotting bridal cake at the Satis House
The bridal cake, rotten and cobweb-infested, always grabs Pip's attention whenever he visits the Satis House. The wedding cake symbolizes the wasted life Miss Havisham had to undergo after being abandoned by a man whom she loved and trusted. When the cake was freshly-baked, Miss Havisham was in the happiest moment of her life, awaiting for her fiancÃ© to sweep her off the spot to the ceremony. However, the lover does not show up, and remains missing for the rest of her life. As the cake continues on decaying, Miss Havisham's life dies out as well. When the cake burns into flames with Miss Havisham during her suicide attempt, Miss Havisham becomes completely lifeless as an invalid.
B. Leg Iron
Leg iron plays a significant role in Great Expectations as it appears frequently throughout. In the very beginning, Pip notices a leg iron shackled to the strange man. The iron allows Pip to realize that he is none other than an escaped convict. Also, when a leg iron is found next to the body of Mrs. Joe, the detectives automatically put the escaped convicts, or Magwitch, under speculation. The leg iron serves as an identification of the convicts, and no matter how much he tries to split away from it (with a file), the shackle remains. In other words, leg iron is not something Magwitch can break away from, metaphorically. The title of "criminal" will always follow his name regardless.
Pip does not have any family besides the Gargery's, as they are the only ones he could ever remember. Unable to recall the image of his parents and brothers, he often visits the churchyard and observes the motionless tombstones. As he reads the epitaphs - "Late of this Parish for his father, "Georgiana Wife of the Above" for his mother - of the gravestones, Pip falls into a strange fantasy of what they would look like. The tombstones symbolize the lonely state Pip is in, as he feels uncomfortable and out-of-place at home. Looking at the tombstones in the churchyard is Pip's own way to break out from home where Mrs. Joe is at, as they give a strange feeling of comfort to him.
I. "It was a rimy morning, and very damp. I had seen the damp lying on the outside of my little window, as if some goblin had been crying there all night, and using the window for a pocket-handkerchief. Now I saw the damp lying on the bare hedges and spare grass, like a coarser sort of spiders' webs, hanging itself from twig to twig and blade to blade. On every rail and gate, wet lay clammy, and the marsh-mist was so thick that the wooden finger on the post directing people to our village - a direction which they never accepted, for they never came here - was invisible to me until I was quite close under it." (Chapter 3, p. 15)
Expressed in somewhat comical and immature manner, Pip's comparison of damp windows to goblin's handkerchief highlights the innocence Pip cherished then. Yet to be blinded by reality of the world, Pip takes even the slightest things around him to his attention. Also, this passage vaguely explains the insignificance of the marshes where Pip lives at through describing the useless direction post.
II. "It was a dark night, though the full moon rose as I left the enclosed lands, and passed out upon the marshes. Beyond their dark line there was a ribbon of clear sky, hardly broad enough to hold the red large moon. In a few minutes she had ascended out of that clear field, in among the piled mountains of cloud." (Chapter 53, p. 425)
This passage illustrates the night sky over the marshes by bringing life to the moon as if it is animate. Clueless of danger ahead of Pip, he nonchalantly admires the beauty of nature as he walks to the marshes. However, he does not realize that like the moonlight hidden by the clouds, an ominous cloud is about to cast over Pip's life. Thankfully, like the clear ribbon of the sky, Pip gets saved by his friends, avoiding his death.
III. "Bentley Drummle, who was so sulky a fellow that he even took up a book as if its writer had done him an injury, did not take up an acquaintance in a more agreeable spirit. Heavy in figure, movement, and comprehension, - in the sluggish complexion of his face, and in the large awkward tongue that seemed to loll about in his mouth as he himself lolled about in a room."
Although no words on Bentley's actual background information are given, the readers can picture the image and character of Drummle through the diction used in this passage. The detailed descriptions of his outer appearance give us the insight of his character, assumingly a stuck-up spoiled blockhead. It enables the readers to feel how Pip feels toward Drummle and understand his character completely.
10. Significance of title of work
The title, Great Expectations has a quite literal meaning, as the whole novel focuses on various expectations made by and for Pip. The phrase itself appears for the first time when Jaggers engage in a conversation with Pip at the Jolly Bargemen about his endowment of "great expectations" by a mysterious benefactor. From then on, Pip successfully escapes his shameful apprenticeship in the forge, and leaves to London with inflated hopes. Pip is expected to become
a gentleman with fortune provided, carrying the great expectations on his shoulders.
11. Author's techniques
"... my sister was leading the way in a very large beaver bonnet, and carrying a basket like the Great Seal of England in plaited straw..." (Chapter 13. p. 98)
"The rhapsody welled up within me, like blood from an inward wound, and gushed out." (Chapter 44, p. 365)
"With my heart beating like a heavy hammer of disordered action, I rose out of my chair..." (Chapter 39, p. 320)
Dickens often uses a rather unique comparison to emphasize the mood of the situation. By providing the image, the readers are able to grasp the imagery better by associating the two descriptions.
"A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; who limped, and shivered, and glared, and growled..." (Chapter 1, p. 2)
"I've been carted here and carted there, and put out of this town and put out of that town, and stuck in the stocks, and whipped and worried and drove." (Chapter 42, p. 345)
Polysyndetons are used to combine a series of clauses into a sentence. using multiple conjunctions. The readers are able to take in a large amount of information at once through Dickens' usage of this stylistic technique, as shown in the examples above.
"I got up and went downstairs; every board upon the way, and every crack in every board, calling after me, "Stop thief!" and "Get up, Mrs. Joe!"" (Chapter 2, p. 13)
"The gates and dikes and banks came bursting at me through the mist, as if they cried as plainly as could be, "A Boy with somebody else's pork pie! Stop him!" The cattle came upon me with like suddenness, staring out of their eyes, and steaming out of their nostrils, "Halloa, young thief!"" (Chapter 3, p.15)
Dickens blows in life to these inanimate objects and gives an insight of what's going on in Pip's mind. His heart, swollen with guilt for stealing, is expressed through his imagination of animals calling out his name.