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


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Pip visits Miss. Havisham on his birthday, having been encouraged by the reception he received last time. The old lady gives him a guinea, which he invests in buying books. These visits to Miss Havisham’s house only serve to make Pip more aware of his discontentment with his present life; he becomes increasingly frustrated. One day Pip confesses to Biddy that he wants to become a gentleman in order to win Estella’s love. Biddy wisely replies that if it is necessary to change in order to win a woman’s love, then the woman is not worth it. Pip says things would be so much simpler if he were in love with Biddy instead of Estella.


This chapter is solely dedicated to Pip’s struggle for contentment. He finds himself longing for things he cannot or does not have. Biddy is a faithful friend, pragmatic and honest with Pip. She reminds him that one should not have to change to be loved. Even Pip, in his lovesick discontent, realizes that things could be so perfect if he could love Biddy and enjoy working with Joe. Instead, he is consumed by thoughts of Estella and by the knowledge of his own inability to please her, since he is not her kind of person.



In the fourth year of his apprenticeship to Joe, the lawyer, Mr. Jaggers, presents himself and tells Joe and Pip that an anonymous patron wants to bestow his huge property on Pip; as a result, Pip will be trained to become a gentleman. At present, the patron of this phenomenal gift wishes to remain anonymous. Jaggers goes on to say that Pip will live in London and receive his education under the tutelage of Mr. Matthew Pocket. The news is shocking, and Pip is overwhelmed. At first, he is torn between leaving Joe and Biddy; but his “great expectations” overwhelm him and he decides to go.


Although Pip’s ambition of becoming a gentleman is about to be fulfilled, he feels guilty about leaving Joe and Biddy. This guilt leads to a struggle in Pip’s mind. He realizes that Mr. Jaggers, the lawyer, is the same man whom he had seen in Miss Havisham’s house and he had heard about Matthew Pocket from a relative of Miss Havisham. He deduces that his patron is none other than the old lady and is honored by the thought. As well, he thinks it is a sign that his dreams of being with Estella will be fulfilled. Joe and Biddy despair that they are losing Pip; but they are kind-hearted and generous to a fault and would never deny Pip the opportunity to become uncommon.



Joe and Biddy prepare themselves for the heartbreaking day of Pip’s departure. He promises to write often and to help out as much as he can. Then he busies himself shopping for clothes, shoes, hosiery, hats and so on. Before leaving for London he pays a visit to Miss Havisham, who already knows about his good fortune. Joe and Biddy bid him a tearful good-bye.


The attitudes of people toward Pip begin to change once they learn of his grand inheritance. Even Mr. Pumblechook, who has always commented on Pip as a burden, waxes eloquent on his good fortune and prime position in life. For the first time, Pip tastes the power and respect of money. He is confident he can finally meet Estella’s expectations, and indebted to Miss Havisham, whom he believes is his benefactor

This chapter represents a turning point for young Pip. His fate changes course, but the irony is in which direction it turns.

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