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Free Study Guide for Great Expectations by Charles Dickens-Book Summary

 

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LITERARY ELEMENTS


SETTING

The action of Great Expectations takes place in a limited geography between a small village at the edge of the North Kent marshes, a market town in which Satis House is located, and the greater city of London. The protagonist, Pip, grows up in the marsh village. Eventually he becomes a frequent visitor to Satis House, located in the market town. Upon inheriting a good deal of money, he moves to London, where he is taught to be a gentleman. Throughout the novel, Pip travels between these three locations in pursuit of his great expectations.


LIST OF CHARACTERS


Major Characters


Pip - Philip Pirip
He is the narrator and hero of the novel. He is a sensitive orphan raised by his sister and brother-in-law in rural Kent. After showing kindness to an escaped convict, he becomes the beneficiary of a great estate. He rejects his common upbringing in favor of a more refined life in London, unaware that his benefactor is actually the convict. By the end of the novel he learns a great lesson about friendship and loyalty, and gives up his “great expectations” in order to be more true to his past.


Joe Gargery
A simple and honest blacksmith, and the long-suffering husband of Mrs. Joe. He is Pip’s brother-in-law, as well as a loyal friend and ally. He loves and supports Pip unconditionally, even when Pip is ashamed of him and abandons him. By the end of the novel, Pip realizes the true worth of Joe’s friendship.


Miss Havisham
A bitter and eccentric old lady who was long ago jilted on her wedding day. She continues to wear her faded wedding gown, though it is old and yellowed. The cake, rotted after all these years, still adorns her dining room table. Twisted by her own hatred and resentment, she lives in cobwebbed darkness with her adopted daughter Estella, whom she has raised to be a man-hater.



Estella
The beautiful adopted daughter of Miss Havisham. Haughty and contemptuous, she is a girl with a very cold heart. She has been brought up to wreak revenge on the male sex on Miss Havisham's behalf. She is honest with Pip when she tells him she is incapable of returning his love.


Magwitch
(also known as Provis and Campbell)
An escaped convict who initially bullies Pip into bringing him food and a file. Unbeknownst to Pip, the convict later rewards him by bequeathing him a large amount of money anonymously. He comes back into Pip’s life when Pip is an adult, revealing himself as the donor, and asks for help in escaping the death sentence he has been given as a result of his life of crime.


Minor Characters


Mrs. Joe Gargery
Pip’s sister. She is a short-tempered woman who resents Pip because he is a burden to her. She is attacked with a leg-iron and spends the rest of her life unable to communicate because of a brain-injury. She learns to be patient and forgiving as a result of the attack.


Biddy Wopsle
Pip's confidante and teacher. As a child, she develops a crush on Pip. She runs the house after Mrs. Joe’s accident and later marries Joe.


Mr. Wopsle
A parish lay clerk who had formerly wanted to be a clergyman. He leaves his church to become a not-so-successful actor in London. His “great expectations” are in comic parallel to Pip’s.


Mr. Pumblechook
Joe's uncle. He joins Mrs. Joe in bullying and resenting Pip, then takes some credit for Pip's good fortune.


Mr. and Mrs. Hubble
Friends of Mrs. Joe.


Orlick
Joe's employee. He is an evil character who attacks Mrs. Joe and also attempts to take Pip's life. Later he robs Mr. Pumblechook and ends up in jail.


Mr. Jaggers
A criminal lawyer in London. He is well respected in his own dubious social circle, and is most well known for his ability to defend even the dregs of society. He is the administrator of Pip’s inheritance.


Wemmick
Jaggers' confidential clerk. He is a good-natured man in his personal life, but is incredibly stern and officious in his professional life. Pip often remarks that Wemmick has two personalities. He becomes an advisor and friend to Pip.


Herbert Pocket
Pip's elegant and artlessly optimistic best friend. Though living in genteel poverty, he is an example of an uncommon gentleman.


Mr. Matthew Pocket
Pip’s teacher and Herbert’s father. He is a thoroughly educated gentleman under whom Pip is to learn. He is the only member of the family who does not flatter Mrs. Havisham; as a result, she is not happy with him.


Bentley Drummle
A sulking brute who eventually marries Estella then mistreats her.


Startop
A tenant of Mr. Pocket and a friend of Pip.


Molly
Jaggers’ housekeeper. She was once accused of murder but acquitted. She turns out to be Estella’s mother.


Miss Skiffins
Wemmick’s girlfriend and later, bride.


Clara
Herbert Pocket’s girlfriend and later, bride.


Mrs. Brandley
The old widow with whom Estella lives in Richmond.


Mrs. Whimple
An elderly woman at whose house Pip and Herbert lodge Magwitch in order to hide him.


Compeyson
Magwitch's onetime partner in crime. It is his fault Magwitch is sentenced to prison. He becomes an informant to the police and helps recapture Magwitch.


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