This article is about the Charles Dickens novel. For other uses, see Great Expectations (disambiguation).
Title page of Vol. 1 of first edition, July 1861
|Published||Serialised 1860-1; book form 1861|
|Publisher||Chapman & Hall|
|Pages||544 (first edition 1861)|
Great Expectations is the thirteenth novel by Charles Dickens and his penultimate completed novel; a bildungsroman that depicts the personal growth and personal development of an orphan nicknamed Pip. It is Dickens's second novel, after David Copperfield, to be fully narrated in the first person.[N 1] The novel was first published as a serial in Dickens's weekly periodical All the Year Round, from 1 December 1860 to August 1861. In October 1861, Chapman and Hall published the novel in three volumes.
The novel is set in Kent and London in the early to mid-19th century and contains some of Dickens's most memorable scenes, including the opening in a graveyard, where the young Pip is accosted by the escaped convict, Abel Magwitch.Great Expectations is full of extreme imagery—poverty, prison ships and chains, and fights to the death—and has a colourful cast of characters who have entered popular culture. These include the eccentric Miss Havisham, the beautiful but cold Estella, and Joe, the unsophisticated and kind blacksmith. Dickens's themes include wealth and poverty, love and rejection, and the eventual triumph of good over evil.Great Expectations, which is popular both with readers and literary critics, has been translated into many languages and adapted numerous times into various media.
Upon its release, the novel received near universal acclaim. Although Dickens's contemporary Thomas Carlyle referred to it disparagingly as that "Pip nonsense," he nevertheless reacted to each fresh instalment with "roars of laughter." Later, George Bernard Shaw praised the novel, as "All of one piece and consistently truthful." During the serial publication, Dickens was pleased with public response to Great Expectations and its sales; when the plot first formed in his mind, he called it "a very fine, new and grotesque idea."
On Christmas Eve, around 1812, Pip, an orphan who is about seven years old, encounters an escaped convict in the village churchyard, while visiting the graves of his parents and siblings. Pip now lives with his abusive elder sister and her kind husband Joe Gargery, a blacksmith. The convict scares Pip into stealing food and a file. Early on Christmas morning Pip returns with the file, a pie and brandy. During Christmas dinner, at the moment Pip's theft is about to be discovered, soldiers arrive and ask Joe to repair some shackles. Joe and Pip accompany them as they recapture the convict who is fighting with another escaped convict. The first convict confesses to stealing food from the smithy.
A year or two later, Miss Havisham, a wealthy spinster who still wears her old wedding dress and lives as a recluse in the dilapidated Satis House, asks Mr Pumblechook to find a boy to visit. Pip visits Miss Havisham and falls in love with her adopted daughter Estella. Pip visits Miss Havisham regularly, until he is old enough to learn a trade.
Joe accompanies Pip for the last visit, when she gives the money for Pip to be bound as apprentice blacksmith. Joe's surly assistant, Dolge Orlick, is envious of Pip and dislikes Mrs Joe. When Pip and Joe are away from the house, Mrs Joe is brutally attacked, leaving her unable to speak or do her work. Orlick is suspected of the attack. Mrs Joe becomes kind-hearted after the attack. Biddy arrives to help with her care.
Four years into Pip's apprenticeship, Mr Jaggers, a lawyer, tells him that he has been provided with money, from an anonymous benefactor, so that he can become a gentleman. Pip is to leave for London, but presuming that Miss Havisham is his benefactor, he first visits her.
Pip sets up house in London at Barnard's Inn with Herbert Pocket, the son of his tutor, Matthew Pocket, who is a cousin of Miss Havisham. Herbert and Pip have previously met at Satis Hall, where Herbert was rejected as a playmate for Estella. He tells Pip how Miss Havisham was jilted by her fiancé. Pip meets fellow pupils, Bentley Drummle, a brute of a man from a wealthy noble family, and Startop, who is agreeable. Jaggers disburses the money Pip needs.
When Joe visits Pip at Barnard's Inn, Pip is ashamed of him. Joe relays a message from Miss Havisham that Estella will be at Satis House for a visit. Pip returns there to meet Estella and is encouraged by Miss Havisham, but he avoids visiting Joe. He is disquieted to see Orlick now in service to Miss Havisham. He mentions his misgivings to Jaggers, who promises Orlick's dismissal. Back in London, Pip and Herbert exchange their romantic secrets: Pip adores Estella and Herbert is engaged to Clara. Pip meets Estella when she is sent to Richmond to be introduced into society.
Pip and Herbert build up debts. Mrs Joe dies and Pip returns to his village for the funeral. Pip's income is fixed at £500 per annum when he comes of age at twenty-one. With the help of Jaggers' clerk, Wemmick, Pip plans to help advance Herbert's future prospects by anonymously securing him a position with the shipbroker, Clarriker's. Pip takes Estella to Satis House. She and Miss Havisham quarrel over Estella's coldness. In London, Bentley Drummle outrages Pip, by proposing a toast to Estella. Later, at an Assembly Ball in Richmond, Pip witnesses Estella meeting Bentley Drummle and warns her about him; she replies that she has no qualms about entrapping him.
A week after he turns 23 years old, Pip learns that his benefactor is the convict he encountered in the churchyard, Abel Magwitch, who had been transported to New South Wales after that escape. He has become wealthy after gaining his freedom there, but cannot return to England. However, he returns to see Pip, who was the motivation for all his success. Pip is shocked, and stops taking money from him. Subsequently, Pip and Herbert Pocket devise a plan for Magwitch to escape from England.
Magwitch shares his past history with Pip, and reveals that the escaped convict whom he fought in the churchyard was Compeyson, the fraudster who had deserted Miss Havisham.
Pip returns to Satis Hall to visit Estella and encounters Bentley Drummle, who has also come to see her and now has Orlick as his servant. Pip accuses Miss Havisham of misleading him about his benefactor. She admits to doing so, but says that her plan was to annoy her relatives. Pip declares his love to Estella, who, coldly, tells him that she plans on marrying Drummle. Heartbroken, Pip walks back to London, where Wemmick warns him that Compeyson is seeking him. Pip and Herbert continue preparations for Magwitch's escape.
At Jaggers's house for dinner, Wemmick tells Pip how Jaggers acquired his maidservant, Molly, rescuing her from the gallows when she was accused of murder.
Then, full of remorse, Miss Havisham tells Pip how the infant Estella was brought to her by Jaggers and raised by her to be cold-hearted. She knows nothing about Estella's parentage. She also tells Pip that Estella is now married. She gives Pip money to pay for Herbert Pocket's position at Clarriker's, and asks for his forgiveness. As Pip is about to leave, Miss Havisham accidentally sets her dress on fire. Pip saves her, injuring himself in the process. She eventually dies from her injuries, lamenting her manipulation of Estella and Pip. Pip now realises that Estella is the daughter of Molly and Magwitch. When confronted about this, Jaggers discourages Pip from acting on his suspicions.
A few days before Magwitch's planned escape, Pip is lured by an anonymous letter into a sluice house near his old home, where he is seized by Orlick, who intends to kill him. Orlick confesses to injuring Pip's sister. As Pip is about to be struck by a hammer, Herbert Pocket and Startop arrive to rescue him. The three of them pick up Magwitch to row him to the steamboat for Hamburg, but they are met by a police boat carrying Compeyson, who has offered to identify Magwitch. Magwitch seizes Compeyson, and they fight in the river. Seriously injured, Magwitch is taken by the police. Compeyson's body is found later.
Pip is aware that Magwitch's fortune will go to the crown after his trial. But Herbert, who is preparing to move to Cairo, Egypt, to manage Clarriker's office there, offers Pip a position there. Pip regularly visits Magwitch in the prison hospital as he awaits trial, and on Magwitch's deathbed tells him that his daughter Estella is alive. After Herbert's departure for Cairo, Pip falls ill in his rooms, and faces arrest for debt. However, Joe nurses Pip back to health and pays off his debt. When Pip begins to recover, Joe slips away. Pip then returns to propose to Biddy, only to find that she has married Joe. Pip asks Joe's forgiveness, promises to repay him and leaves for Cairo. There he shares lodgings with Herbert and Clara, and eventually advances to become third in the company. Only then does Herbert learn that Pip paid for his position in the firm.
After working eleven years in Egypt, Pip returns to England and visits Joe, Biddy and their son, Pip Jr. Then in the ruins of Satis House he meets the widowed Estella, who asks Pip to forgive her, assuring him that misfortune has opened her heart. As Pip takes Estella's hand and they leave the moonlit ruins, he sees "no shadow of another parting from her."
Pip and his family
- Philip Pirrip, nicknamed Pip, an orphan and the protagonist and narrator of Great Expectations. In his childhood, Pip dreamed of becoming a blacksmith like his kind brother-in-law, Joe Gargery. At Satis House, about age 8, he meets and falls in love with Estella, and tells Biddy that he wants to become a gentleman. As a result of Magwitch's anonymous patronage, Pip lives in London and becomes a gentleman. Pip assumes his benefactor is Miss Havisham; the discovery that his true benefactor is a convict shocks him.
- Joe Gargery, Pip's brother-in-law, and his first father figure. He is a blacksmith who is always kind to Pip and the only person with whom Pip is always honest. Joe is disappointed when Pip decides to leave his home to live in London to become a gentleman rather than be a blacksmith in business with Joe. He is a strong man who bears the shortcomings of those closest to him.
- Mrs Joe Gargery, Pip's hot-tempered adult sister, Georgiana Maria, called Mrs Joe, 20 years older than Pip. She brings him up after their parents' death. She does the work of the household but too often loses her temper. Orlick, her husband's journeyman, attacks her, and she is left disabled until her death.
- Mr Pumblechook, Joe Gargery's uncle, an officiousbachelor and corn merchant. While not knowing how to deal with a growing boy, he tells Mrs Joe, as she is known, how noble she is to bring up Pip. As the person who first connected Pip to Miss Havisham, he claims to have been the original architect of Pip's expectations. Pip dislikes Mr Pumblechook for his pompous, unfounded claims. When Pip stands up to him in a public place, after those expectations are dashed, Mr Pumblechook turns those listening to the conversation against Pip.
Miss Havisham and her family
- Miss Havisham, a wealthy spinster who takes Pip on as a companion for herself and her adopted daughter, Estella. Havisham is a wealthy, eccentric woman who has worn her wedding dress and one shoe since the day that she was jilted at the altar by her fiancé. Her house is unchanged as well. She hates all men, and plots to wreak a twisted revenge by teaching Estella to torment and spurn men, including Pip, who loves her. Miss Havisham is later overcome with remorse for ruining both Estella's and Pip's chances for happiness. Shortly after confessing her plotting to Pip, she dies as the result of being badly burned when her dress accidentally catches fire.
- Estella, Miss Havisham's adopted daughter, whom Pip pursues. She is a beautiful girl and grows more beautiful after her schooling in France. Estella represents the life of wealth and culture for which Pip strives. Since Miss Havisham ruined Estella's ability to love, Estella cannot return Pip's passion. She warns Pip of this repeatedly, but he will not or cannot believe her. Estella does not know that she is the daughter of Molly, Jaggers's housekeeper, and the convict Abel Magwitch, given up for adoption to Miss Havisham after her mother was arrested for murder. In marrying Bentley Drummle, she rebels against Miss Havisham's plan to have her break a husband's heart, as Drummle is not interested in Estella but simply in the Havisham fortune.
- Matthew Pocket, Miss Havisham's cousin. He is the patriarch of the Pocket family, but unlike her other relatives, he is not greedy for Havisham's wealth. Matthew Pocket tutors young gentlemen, such as Bentley Drummle, Startop, Pip and his own son Herbert.
- Herbert Pocket, the son of Matthew Pocket, who was invited like Pip to visit Miss Havisham, but she did not take to him. Pip first meets Herbert as a "pale young gentleman" who challenges Pip to a fistfight at Miss Havisham's house when both are children. He later becomes Pip's friend, tutoring him in the "gentlemanly" arts and sharing his rooms with Pip in London.
- Cousin Raymond, a relative of Miss Havisham who is only interested in her money. He is married to Camilla.
- Georgiana, a relative of Miss Havisham who is only interested in her money. She is one of the many relatives who hang around Miss Havisham "like flies" for her wealth.
- Sarah Pocket, the sister of Matthew Pocket, relative of Miss Havisham. She is often at Satis House. She is described as "a dry, brown corrugated old woman, with a small face that might have been made out of walnut shells, and a large mouth like a cat's without the whiskers."
From Pip's youth
- The Convict, who escapes from a prison ship, whom Pip treats kindly, and who in turn becomes Pip's benefactor. His name is Abel Magwitch, but he uses the aliases "Provis" and "Mr Campbell" when he returns to England from exile in Australia. He is a lesser actor in crime with Compeyson, but gains a longer sentence in an apparent application of justice by social class.
- Mr and Mrs Hubble, simple folk who think they are more important than they really are. They live in Pip's village.
- Mr Wopsle, clerk of the church in Pip's village. He later gives up the church work and moves to London to pursue his ambition to be an actor, adopting the stage name "Mr Waldengarver." He sees the other convict in the audience of one of his performances, attended also by Pip.
- Biddy, Wopsle's second cousin and near Pip's age; she teaches in the evening school at her grandmother's home in Pip's village. Pip wants to learn more, so he asks her to teach him all she can. After helping Mrs Joe after the attack, Biddy opens her own school. A kind and intelligent but poor young woman, she is, like Pip and Estella, an orphan. She acts as Estella's foil. Orlick was attracted to her, but she did not want his attentions. Pip ignores her affections for him as he pursues Estella. Recovering from his own illness after the failed attempt to get Magwitch out of England, Pip returns to claim Biddy as his bride, arriving in the village just after she marries Joe Gargery. Biddy and Joe later have two children, one named after Pip. In the ending to the novel discarded by Dickens but revived by students of the novel's development, Estella mistakes the boy as Pip's child.
Mr Jaggers and his circle
- Mr Jaggers, prominent London lawyer who represents the interests of diverse clients, both criminal and civil. He represents Pip's benefactor and Miss Havisham as well. By the end of the story, his law practice links many of the characters.
- John Wemmick, Jaggers' clerk, who is Pip's chief go-between with Jaggers and looks after Pip in London. Wemmick lives with his father, "The Aged Parent", in a small replica of a castle, complete with a drawbridge and moat, in Walworth.
- Molly, Mr Jaggers' maidservant whom Jaggers saved from the gallows for murder. She is revealed to be Magwitch's estranged wife and Estella's mother.
- Compeyson (surname), a convict who escapes the prison ship after Magwitch, who beats him up ashore. He is Magwitch's enemy. A professional swindler, he was engaged to marry Miss Havisham, but he was in league with Arthur Havisham to defraud Miss Havisham of part of her fortune. Later he sets up Magwitch to take the fall for another swindle. He works with the police when he learns Abel Magwitch is in London, fearing Magwitch after their first escapes years earlier. When the police boat encounters the one carrying Magwitch, the two grapple, and Compeyson drowns in the Thames.
- Arthur Havisham, younger half brother of Miss Havisham, who plots with Compeyson to swindle her.
- Dolge Orlick, journeyman blacksmith at Joe Gargery's forge. Strong, rude and sullen, he is as churlish as Joe is gentle and kind. He ends up in a fistfight with Joe over Mrs Gargery's taunting, and Joe easily defeats him. This sets in motion an escalating chain of events that leads him secretly to assault Mrs Gargery and to try to kill her brother Pip. The police ultimately arrest him for housebreaking.
- Bentley Drummle, a coarse, unintelligent young man from a wealthy noble family. Pip meets him at Mr Pocket's house, as Drummle is also to be trained in gentlemanly skills. Drummle is hostile to Pip and everyone else. He is a rival for Estella's attentions and eventually marries her and is said to abuse her. He dies from an accident following his mistreatment of a horse.
- Clara Barley, a very poor girl living with her gout-ridden father. She marries Herbert Pocket near the novel's end. She dislikes Pip at first because of his spendthrift ways. After she marries Herbert, they invite Pip to live with them.
- Miss Skiffins occasionally visits Wemmick's house and wears green gloves. She changes those green gloves for white ones when she marries Wemmick.
- Startop, like Bentley Drummle, is Pip's fellow student, but unlike Drummle, he is kind. He assists Pip and Herbert in their efforts to help Magwitch escape.
As Dickens began writing Great Expectations, he undertook a series of hugely popular and remunerative reading tours. His domestic life had, however, disintegrated in the late 1850s and he had separated from his wife, Catherine Dickens, and was having a secret affair with the much younger Ellen Ternan. The introduction of the 1984 Penguin English Library edition suggests that the reluctance with which Ellen Ternan became his mistress is reflected in the icy teasing of Estella in Great Expectations.
In his Book of Memoranda, begun in 1855, Dickens wrote names for possible characters: Magwitch, Provis, Clarriker, Compey, Pumblechook, Orlick, Gargery, Wopsle, Skiffins, some of which became familiar in Great Expectations. There is also a reference to a "knowing man", a possible sketch of Bentley Drummle. Another evokes a house full of "Toadies and Humbugs", foreshadowing the visitors to Satis House in chapter 11. Margaret Cardwell discovered the "premonition" of Great Expectations from a 25 September 1855 letter from Dickens to W. H. Wills, in which Dickens speaks of recycling an "odd idea" from the Christmas special "A House to Let" and "the pivot round which my next book shall revolve." The "odd idea" concerns an individual who "retires to an old lonely house…resolved to shut out the world and hold no communion with it."
In an 8 August 1860 letter to Thomas Carlyle, Dickens reported his agitation whenever he prepared a new book. A month later, in a letter to John Forster, Dickens announced that he just had a new idea.
Publication in All the Year Round
Dickens was pleased with the idea, calling it "such a very fine, new and grotesque idea" in a letter to Forster. He planned to write "a little piece", a "grotesque tragi-comic conception", about a young hero who befriends an escaped convict, who then makes a fortune in Australia and anonymously bequeaths his property to the hero. In the end, the hero loses the money because it is forfeited to the Crown. In his biography of Dickens, Forster wrote that in the early idea "was the germ of Pip and Magwitch, which at first he intended to make the groundwork of a tale in the old twenty-number form." Dickens presented the relationship between Pip and Magwitch pivotal to Great Expectations but without Miss Havisham, Estella, or other characters he later created.
As the idea and Dickens's ambition grew, he began writing. However, in September, the weekly All the Year Round saw its sales fall, and its flagship publication, A Day's Ride by Charles Lever, lost favour with the public. Dickens "called a council of war", and believed that to save the situation, "the one thing to be done was for [him] to strike in." The "very fine, new and grotesque idea" became the magazine's new support: weeklies, five hundred pages, just over one year (1860–1861), thirty-six episodes, starting 1 December. The magazine continued to publish Lever's novel until its completion on 23 March 1861, but it became secondary to Great Expectations. Immediately, sales resumed, and critics responded positively, as exemplified by The Times's praise: "Great Expectations is not, indeed, [Dickens's] best work, but it is to be ranked among his happiest."
Dickens, whose health was not the best, felt "The planning from week to week was unimaginably difficult" but persevered. He thought he had found "a good name", decided to use the first person "throughout", and thought the beginning was "excessively droll": "I have put a child and a good-natured foolish man, in relations that seem to me very funny." Four weekly episodes were "ground off the wheel" in October 1860, and apart from one reference to the "bondage" of his heavy task, the months passed without the anguished cries that usually accompanied the writing of his novels. He did not even use the Number Plans or Mems;[N 2] he only had a few notes on the characters' ages, the tide ranges for chapter 54, and the draft of an ending. In late December, Dickens wrote to Mary Boyle that "Great Expectations [is] a very great success and universally liked."
Dickens gave six readings from 14 March to 18 April 1861, and in May, Dickens took a few days' holiday in Dover. On the eve of his departure, he took some friends and family members for a trip by boat from Blackwall to Southend-on-Sea. Ostensibly for pleasure, the mini-cruise was actually a working session for Dickens to examine banks of the river in preparation for the chapter devoted to Magwitch's attempt to escape. Dickens then revised Herbert Pocket's appearance, no doubt, asserts Margaret Cardwell, to look more like his son Charley. On 11 June 1861, Dickens wrote to Macready that Great Expectations had been completed and on 15 June, asked the editor to prepare the novel for publication.
Following comments by Edward Bulwer-Lytton that the ending was too sad, Dickens rewrote it prior to publication. The ending set aside by Dickens has Pip, still single, briefly see Estella in London; after becoming Bentley Drummle's widow, she has remarried. It appealed to Dickens due to its originality: "[the] winding up will be away from all such things as they conventionally go." Dickens revised the ending for publication so that Pip meets Estella in the ruins of Satis House, she a widow and he single. His changes at the conclusion of the novel did not quite end either with the final weekly part or the first bound edition, because Dickens further changed the last sentence in the amended 1868 version from "I could see the shadow of no parting from her." to "I saw no shadow of another parting from her". As Pip uses litotes, "no shadow of another parting", it is ambiguous whether Pip and Estella marry or Pip remains single. Angus Calder, writing for an edition in the Penguin English Library, believed the less definite phrasing of the amended 1868 version perhaps hinted at a buried meaning: '...at this happy moment, I did not see the shadow of our subsequent parting looming over us.'
In a letter to Forster, Dickens explained his decision to alter the draft ending: "You will be surprised to hear that I have changed the end of Great Expectations from and after Pip's return to Joe's ... Bulwer, who has been, as I think you know, extraordinarily taken with the book, strongly urged it upon me, after reading the proofs, and supported his views with such good reasons that I have resolved to make the change. I have put in as pretty a little piece of writing as I could, and I have no doubt the story will be more acceptable through the alteration."
This discussion between Dickens, Bulwer-Lytton and Forster has provided the basis for much discussion on Dickens's underlying views for this famous novel. Earle Davis, in his 1963 study of Dickens, wrote that "it would be an inadequate moral point to deny Pip any reward after he had shown a growth of character," and that "Eleven years might change Estella too." John Forster felt that the original ending was "more consistent" and "more natural" but noted the new ending's popularity.George Gissing called that revision "a strange thing, indeed, to befall Dickens" and felt that Great Expectations would have been perfect had Dickens not altered the ending in deference to Bulwer-Lytton.[N 3]
In contrast, John Hillis-Miller stated that Dickens's personality was so assertive that Bulwer-Lytton had little influence, and welcomed the revision: "The mists of infatuation have cleared away, [Estella and Pip] can be joined." Earl Davis notes that G.B. Shaw published the novel in 1937 for The Limited Editions Club with the first ending and that The Rhinehart Edition of 1979 presents both endings.
George Orwell wrote, "Psychologically the latter part of Great Expectations is about the best thing Dickens ever did," but, like John Forster and several early 20th century writers, including George Bernard Shaw, felt that the original ending was more consistent with the draft, as well as the natural working out of the tale. Modern literary criticism is split over the matter.
Dickens and Wills co-owned All the Year Round, one 75%, the other 25%. Since Dickens was his own publisher, he did not require a contract for his own works. Although intended for weekly publication, Great Expectations was divided into nine monthly sections, with new pagination for each.Harper's Weekly published the novel from 24 November 1860 to 5 August 1861 in the US and All the Year Round published it from 1 December 1860 to 3 August 1861 in the UK. Harper's paid £1,000 for publication rights. Dickens welcomed a contract with Tauchnitz 4 January 1861 for publication in English for the European continent.
Publications in Harper's Weekly were accompanied by forty illustrations by John McLenan; however, this is the only Dickens work published in All the Year Round without illustrations.
Robert L Patten identifies four American editions in 1861 and sees the proliferation of publications in Europe and across the Atlantic as "extraordinary testimony" to Great Expectations's popularity. Chapman and Hall published the first edition in three volumes in 1861, five subsequent reprints between 6 July and 30 October, and a one-volume edition in 1862. The "bargain" edition was published in 1862, the Library Edition in 1864, and the Charles Dickens edition in 1868. To this list, Paul Schlicke adds "two meticulous scholarly editions", one Clarendon Press published in 1993 with an introduction by Margaret Cardwell and another with an introduction by Edgar Rosenberg, published by Norton in 1999. The novel was published with one ending, visible in the four on line editions listed in the External links at the end of this article. In some 20th century editions, the novel ends as originally published in 1867, and in an afterword, the ending Dickens did not publish, along with a brief story of how a friend persuaded him to a happier ending for Pip, is presented to the reader (for example, 1987 audio edition by Recorded Books).
In 1862, Marcus Stone, son of Dickens's old friend, the painter Frank Stone, was invited to create eight woodcuts for the Library Edition. According to Paul Schlicke, these illustrations are mediocre yet were included in the Charles Dickens edition, and Stone created illustrations for Dickens's subsequent novel, Our Mutual Friend. Later, Henry Mathew Brock also illustrated Great Expectations and a 1935 edition of A Christmas Carol, along with other artists, such as John McLenan, F. A. Fraser, and Harry Furniss.
First edition publication schedule
|1–5||1, 8, 15, 22, 29 December 1860||1–8|
|6–9||5, 12, 19, 26 January 1861||9–15|
|10–12||2, 9, 23 February 1861||16–21|
|13–17||2, 9, 16, 23, 30 March 1861||22–29|
|18–21||6, 13, 20, 27 April 1861||30–37|
|22–25||4, 11, 18, 25 May 1861||38–42|
|26–30||1, 8 15, 22, 29 June 1861||43–52|
|31–34||6, 13, 20, 27 July 1861||53–57|
|35||3 August 1861||58–59|
Robert L. Patten estimates that All the Year Round sold 100,000 copies of Great Expectations each week, and Mudie, the largest circulating library, which purchased about 1,400 copies, stated that at least 30 people read each copy. Aside from the dramatic plot, the Dickensian humour also appealed to readers. Dickens wrote to Forster in October 1860 that "You will not have to complain of the want of humour as in the Tale of Two Cities," an opinion Forster supports, finding that "Dickens's humour, not less than his creative power, was at its best in this book." Moreover, according to Paul Schlicke, readers found the best of Dickens's older and newer writing styles.
Overall, Great Expectations received near universal acclaim. Not all reviews were favourable, however; Margaret Oliphant's review, published May 1862 in Blackwood's Magazine, vilified the novel. Critics in the 19th and 20th centuries hailed it as one of Dickens's greatest successes although often for conflicting reasons: GK Chesterton admired the novel's optimism; Edmund Wilson its pessimism; Humphry House in 1941 emphasized its social context. In 1974, Jerome H. Buckley saw it as a bildungsroman, writing a chapter on Dickens and two of his major protagonists (David Copperfield and Pip) in his 1974 book on the Bildungsroman in Victorian writing. John Hillis Miller wrote in 1958 that Pip is the archetype of all Dickensian heroes. In 1970, QD Leavis suggests "How We Must Read Great Expectations." In 1984, Peter Brooks, in the wake of Jacques Derrida, offered a deconstructionist reading. The most profound analyst, according to Paul Schlicke, is probably Julian Moynahan, who, in a 1964 essay surveying the hero's guilt, made Orlick "Pip's double, alter ego and dark mirror image." Schlicke also names Anny Sadrin's extensive 1988 study as the "most distinguished."
Great Expectations's single most obvious literary predecessor is Dickens's earlier first-person narrator-protagonist David Copperfield. The two novels trace the psychological and moral development of a young boy to maturity, his transition from a rural environment to the London metropolis, the vicissitudes of his emotional development, and the exhibition of his hopes and youthful dreams and their metamorphosis, through a rich and complex first person narrative. Dickens was conscious of this similarity and, before undertaking his new manuscript, reread David Copperfield to avoid repetition.
The two books both detail homecoming. Although David Copperfield is based on much of Dickens personal experiences, Great Expectations provides, according to Paul Schlicke, "the more spiritual and intimate autobiography." Even though several elements hint at the setting – Miss Havisham, partly inspired by a Parisian duchess, whose residence was always closed and in darkness, surrounded by "a dead green vegetable sea", recalling Satis House, and the countryside bordering Chatham and Rochester – no place name is mentioned,[N 4] nor a specific time period, which is indicated by, among other elements, older coaches, the title "His Majesty" in reference to George III, and the old London Bridge prior to the 1824–1831 reconstruction.
The theme of homecoming reflects events in Dickens's life, several years prior to the publication of Great Expectations. In 1856, he bought Gad's Hill Place in Higham, Kent, which he had dreamed of living in as a child, and moved there from faraway London two years later. In 1858, in a painful divorce, he separated from Catherine Dickens, his wife of twenty-three years. The divorce alienated him from some of his closest friends, such as Mark Lemon. He quarrelled with Bradbury and Evans, who had published his novels for fifteen years. In early September 1860, in a field behind Gad's Hill, Dickens burned almost all of his correspondence, sparing only letters on business matters. He stopped publishing the weekly Household Words at the summit of its popularity and replaced it with All the Year Round.
The Uncommercial Traveller, short stories, and other texts Dickens began publishing in his new weekly in 1859 reflect his nostalgia, as seen in "Dullborough Town" and "Nurses' Stories". According to Paul Schlicke, "it is hardly surprising that the novel Dickens wrote at this time was a return to roots, set in the part of England in which he grew up, and in which he had recently resettled."
Margaret Cardwell draws attention to Chops the Dwarf from Dickens's 1858 Christmas story "Going into Society", who, as the future Pip does, entertains the illusion of inheriting a fortune and becomes disappointed upon achieving his social ambitions. In another vein, Harry Stone thinks that Gothic and magical aspects of Great Expectations were partly inspired by Charles Mathews's At Home, which was presented in detail in Household Words and its monthly supplement Household Narrative. Stone also asserts that The Lazy Tour of Two Idle Apprentices, written in collaboration with Wilkie Collins after their walking tour of Cumberland during September 1857 and published in Household Words from 3 to 31 October of the same year, presents certain strange locations and a passionate love, foreshadowing Great Expectations.
Beyond its biographical and literary aspects, Great Expectations appears, according to Robin Gilmour, as "a representative fable of the age". Dickens was aware that the novel "speaks" to a generation applying, at most, the principle of "self help" which was believed to have increased the order of daily life. That the hero Pip aspires to improve, not through snobbery, but through the Victorian conviction of education, social refinement, and materialism, was seen as a noble and worthy goal. However, by tracing the origins of Pip's "great expectations" to crime, deceit and even banishment to the colonies, Dickens unfavourably compares the new generation to the previous one of Joe Gargery, which Dickens portrays as less sophisticated but especially rooted in sound values, presenting an oblique criticism of his time.
The narrative structure of Great Expectations is influenced by the fact that it was first published as weekly episodes in a periodical. This required short chapters, centred on a single subject, and an almost mathematical structure.
Pip's story is told in three stages: his childhood and early youth in Kent, where he dreams of rising above his humble station; his time in London after receiving "great expectations"; and then finally his disillusionment on discovering the source of his fortune, followed by his slow realisation of the vanity of his false values. These three stages are further divided into twelve parts of equal length. This symmetry contributes to the impression of completion, which has often been commented on. George Gissing, for example, when comparing Joe Gargery and Dan'l Peggotty (from David Copperfield), preferred the former, because he is a stronger character, who lives "in a world, not of melodrama, but of everyday cause and effect." G. B. Shaw also commented on the novel's structure, describing it as "compactly perfect", and Algernon Swinburne stated, "The defects in it are as nearly imperceptible as spots on the sun or shadow on a sunlit sea." A contributing factor is "the briskness of the narrative tone."
Further, beyond the chronological sequences and the weaving of several storylines into a tight plot, the sentimental setting and morality of the characters also create a pattern. The narrative structure of Great Expectations has two main elements: firstly that of "foster parents", Miss Havisham, Magwitch, and Joe, and secondly that of "young people", Estella, Pip and Biddy. There is a further organizing element that can be labelled "Dangerous Lovers", which includes Compeyson, Bentley Drummle and Orlick. Pip is the centre of this web of love, rejection and hatred. Dickens contrasts this "dangerous love" with the relationship of Biddy and Joe, which grows from friendship to marriage.
This is "the general frame of the novel". The term "love" is generic, applying it to both Pip's true love for Estella and the feelings Estella has for Drummle, which are based on a desire for social advancement. Similarly, Estella rejects Magwitch because of her contempt for everything that appears below what she believes to be her social status.
Great Expectations has an unhappy ending, since most characters suffer physically, psychologically or both, or die—often violently—while suffering. Happy resolutions remain elusive, while hate thrives. The only happy ending is Biddy and Joe's marriage and the birth of their two children, since the final reconciliations, except that between Pip and Magwitch, do not alter the general order. Though Pip extirpates the web of hatred, the first unpublished ending denies him happiness while Dickens' revised second ending, in the published novel, leaves his future uncertain.
Orlick as Pip's double
Julian Monayhan argues that the reader can better understand Pip's personality through analyzing his relationship with Orlick, the criminal laborer who works at Joe Gargery's forge, than by looking at his relationship with Magwitch.
Following Monayhan, David Trotter notes that Orlick is Pip's shadow. Co-workers in the forge, both find themselves at Miss Havisham's, where Pip enters and joins the company, while Orlick, attending the door, stays out. Pip considers Biddy a sister; Orlick has other plans for her; Pip is connected to Magwitch, Orlick to Magwitch's nemesis, Compeyson. Orlick also aspires to "great expectations" and resents Pip's ascension from the forge and the swamp to the glamour of Satis House, from which Orlick is excluded, along with London's dazzling society. Orlick is the cumbersome shadow Pip cannot remove.
Then comes Pip's punishment, with Orlick's savage attack on Mrs Gargery. Thereafter Orlick vanishes, only to reappear in chapter 53 in a symbolic act, when he lures Pip into a locked, abandoned building in the marshes. Orlick has a score to settle before going on to the ultimate act, murder. However, Pip hampers Orlick, because of his privileged status, while Orlick remains a slave of his condition, solely responsible for Mrs Gargery's fate.
Dickens also uses Pip's upper class counterpart, Bentley Drummle, "the double of a double", according to Trotter, in a similar way. Like Orlick, Drummle is powerful, swarthy, unintelligible, hot-blooded, and lounges and lurks, biding his time. Estella rejects Pip for this rude, uncouth but well-born man, and ends Pip's hope. Finally the lives of both Orlick and Drummle end violently.
Point of view
Although the novel is written in first person, the reader knows—as an essential prerequisite—that Great Expectations is not an autobiography but a novel, a work of fiction with plot and characters, featuring a narrator-protagonist. In addition, Sylvère Monod notes that the treatment of the autobiography differs from David Copperfield, as Great Expectations does not draw from events in Dickens's life; "at most some traces of a broad psychological and moral introspection can be found".
However, according to Paul Pickrel's analysis, Pip—as both narrator and protagonist—recounts with hindsight the story of the young boy he was, who did not know the world beyond a narrow geographic and familial environment. The novel's direction emerges from the confrontation between the two periods of time. At first, the novel presents a mistreated orphan, repeating situations from Oliver Twist and David Copperfield, but the trope is quickly overtaken. The theme manifests itself when Pip discovers the existence of a world beyond the marsh, the forge and the future Joe envisioned for him, the decisive moment when Miss Havisham and Estella enter his life. This is a red herring, as the decay of Satis House and the strange lady within signals the fragility of an impasse. At this point, the reader knows more than the protagonist, creating dramatic irony that confers a superiority that the narrator shares.
It is not until Magwitch's return, a plot twist that unites loosely connected plot elements and sets them into motion, that the protagonist's point of view joins those of the narrator and the reader. In this context of progressive revelation, the sensational events at the novel's end serve to test the protagonist's point of view. Thus proceeds, in the words of A. E. Dyson, "The Immolations of Pip".
Amongst the narrative devices that Dickens uses, according to Earle Davis, are caricature, comic speech mannerisms, intrigue, Gothic atmosphere, and a central character who gradually changes. Davis also mentions the close network of the structure and balance of contrasts, and praises the first-person narration for providing a simplicity that is appropriate for the story while avoiding melodrama. Davis sees the symbolism attached to "great expectations" as reinforcing the novel's impact.
Great Expectations contains the elements of a variety of different literary genres, including the bildungsroman, gothic novel, crime novel, as well as comedy, melodrama and satire; and it belongs—like Wuthering Heights and the novels of Walter Scott—to the romance rather than realist tradition of the novel.
Complex and multifaceted, Great Expectations is a Victorian bildungsroman, a German literary genre from the eighteenth century, also called an initiatory tale. This genre focuses on a protagonist who matures over the course of the novel. Great Expectations describes Pip's initial frustration upon leaving home, followed by a long and difficult period where he gradually matures. This period in his life is punctuated with conflicts between his desires and the values of established order, that allow him to re-evaluate his life and therefore re-enter society on new foundations.
However, if viewed as a primarily retrospective first-person narrative, the novel differs from the two preceding pseudo-autobiographies, David Copperfield and though only partially narrated in first-person, Bleak House (1852), as it falls within several subgenres popular in Dickens' time, as noted by Paul Davis and Philip V. Allingham.
Great Expectations contains many comic scenes and eccentric personalities, which play an integral part in both the plot and the theme. Among the notable comic episodes are Pip's Christmas dinner in chapter 4, Wopsle's Hamlet performance in chapter 31, and Wemmick's marriage in chapter 55. Many of the characters have eccentricities: Jaggers with his punctillious lawyerly ways; the contrariness of his clerk, Wemmick, at work advising Pip to invest in "portable property", while in private living in a cottage converted into a castle; and the reclusive Miss Havisham in her decaying mansion, wearing her tattered bridal robes.
Great Expectations incorporates elements of the new genre of crime fiction, which Dickens had already used in Oliver Twist (1837), and which was being developed by his friends Wilkie Collins and William Harrison Ainsworth. With its scenes of convicts, prison ships, and episodes of bloody violence, Dickens creates characters worthy of the Newgate school of fiction.
Great Expectations contains elements of the Gothic genre, especially with Miss Havisham, the bride frozen in time, and the ruins of Satis House filled with weeds and spiders. Other characters that can be linked to this genre include the aristocratic Bentley Drummle, because of his extreme cruelty, Pip himself, who spends his youth chasing a frozen beauty, the monstrous Orlick, who systematically attempts to murder his employers. Then there is the fight to the death between Compeyson and Magwitch, and the fire that ends up killing Miss Havisham, scenes that are dominated by horror, suspense, and the sensational, such as are found in gothic novels.
Silver fork novel
Elements of the silver fork novel are found in the character of Miss Havisham and her world, as well as Pip's illusions. This genre, which flourished in the 1820s and 1830s, presents the flashy elegance and aesthetic frivolities found in high society. In some respects, Dickens conceived Great Expectations as an anti silver fork novel, attacking Charles Lever's novel A Day's Ride, publication of which began January 1860, in Household Words. This can be seen in the way that Dickens satirises the pretensions and morals of Miss Havisham and her sycophants, including the Pockets (except Matthew), and Uncle Pumblechook.
Though Great Expectations is not obviously a historical novel Dickens does emphasise differences between the time that the novel is set (c. 1812–46) and when it was written (1860–1).
Great Expectations begins around 1812 (the date of Dickens' birth), continues until around 1830–1835, and then jumps to around 1840–1845, during which the Great Western Railway was built. Though readers today will not notice this, Dickens uses various things to emphasise the differences between 1861 and this earlier period. Among these details—that contemporary readers would have recognised—are the one pound note (in chapter 10) that the Bank Notes Act 1826 had removed from circulation; likewise, the death penalty for deported felons who returned to Britain was abolished in 1835. The gallows erected in the swamps, designed to display a rotting corpse, had disappeared by 1832, and George III, the monarch mentioned at the beginning, died in 1820, when Pip would have been seven or eight. Miss Havisham paid Joe 25 guineas, gold coins, when Pip was to begin his apprenticeship (in chapter 13); guinea coins were slowly going out of circulation after the last new ones were struck with the face of George III in 1799. This also marks the historical period, as the one pound note was the official currency at the time of the novel's publication. Dickens placed the epilogue 11 years after Magwitch's death, which seems to be the time limit of the reported facts. Collectively, the details suggest that Dickens identified with the main character. If Pip is around 23 toward the middle of the novel and 34 at its end, he is roughly modeled after his creator who turned 34 in 1846.
The title's "Expectations" refers to "a legacy to come", and thus immediately announces that money, or more specifically wealth plays an important part in the novel. Some other major themes are crime, social class, including both gentility, and social alienation, imperialism and ambition. The novel is also concerned with questions relating to conscience and moral regeneration, as well as redemption through love.
Edward W. Said, in his 1993 work Culture and Imperialism, interprets Great Expectations in terms of postcolonial theory about of late eighteenth and nineteenth centuries British imperialism
A Stranger Comes to town
Six-year-old Pip and his blacksmith brother-in-law Joe are the best of friends, chilling on the marshes and keeping each other safe from Mrs. Joe's temper tantrums. They go on field trips together on Sundays, and at night they have a bread and butter eating contest. And then two things happen to set us up for some short- and long-term conflict: Pip meets (and helps) a convict, and Pip gets invited to play at the house of resident rich, crazy lady, Miss Havisham.
Just a Small Town Boy
At Miss Havisham's, Pip is scorned, mocked, and treated like a dog, what fun! Still, little Pip falls head over heels for Miss Havisham's little "niece," Estella. She makes fun of his "thick boots" and "coarse hands," so Pip obviously decides that he needs to become a gentleman, stat.
Be Careful What You Wish For
Since becoming a gentleman seems pretty unlikely, Pip tries to get comfy in his blacksmithing gig. Just when he realizes he can envision a life on the marshes after all, a mysterious stranger shows up and announces that—surprise!—he has a mysterious benefactor who has left him a fortune in money and land. Now, Pip gets to—nay, has to—move to London to become a gentleman. Sweet!
Well, not really. Turns out, being a gentlemen comes with a lot of problems, although Pip does meet some nice people and reunites with Estella, who is now totally beautiful and also just as scornful as ever.
On his 23rd birthday, Pip's benefactor unexpectedly arrives. It is … the convict! This means that Pip has not been financed and supported by Miss Havisham, and that he's not destined for Estella after all. His fortune is born out of money earned by an exiled convict—who's acting like he's here to stay.
Whatcha Gonna Do When They Come For You?
Pip and his friend Herbert concoct a plan to get the convict out of the country—he's got a price on his head—but the night before the boys make their great escape, Pip decides to heed a mysterious and threatening letter that tells him to come to the marshes to learn some valuable tidbits about his benefactor. Obviously, it's a trap, and Pip is nearly hammered to death and thrown in the limekiln by town bully Orlick.
Wrinkle #2 comes when Pip & co. embark on a rowboat adventure to the open water where Pip and Magwitch will stow away on an outbound ship. Just before they reach their goal, villain Compeyson brings the police around and the escape is thwarted.
Wedding Day … Not
After Magwitch dies in jail, Pip gets really sick. Joe nurses him back to health, but leaves when Pip recovers. Pip returns home to the marshes to find Joe and Biddy on their wedding day. He begs their forgiveness, eats some cake, and then moves to Egypt.
Pip, Meet Pip
When Pip returns home after eleven years, he finds a mini Pip sitting by the fire with Joe. Pip becomes enamored with the idea of being Uncle Pip. Pip also sees Estella, and he either (1) marries her, or (2) never sees her again. Either way, there's resolution, and we know that Pip's self-destructive, family-ignoring ways are far behind him.