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

 

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ESSAY TOPICS / ESSAY IDEAS


1) Is "Great Expectations" like a soap opera?

Comments from readers:

Consider all that Pip went through, or just take parts, like his trial with the girl, at first, she didn't like him, and then later on in his life, she loved him. Also, what are the chances that some poor boy that no one knows ends up inheriting a huge sum of money out of the blue one day, and that the person who leaves it to him is an escaped criminal who Pip just happened to help out one day. All of these things are coincidence, and that's mostly what soap operas are based on.


2) What are the 3 stages in Pip's Expectations?

Comments from readers:

1st-He is going to be apprenticed to Joe.
2nd-He is expecting to be of upper class.... a gentlemen.
3rd-His very much lowered expectations.


3) Many of the characters other than Pip have their own expectations as well. Discuss both Herbert Pocket and Pip's expectatons. Compare and contrast.

Comments from readers:

Herbert's expectations are different to Pips in that he does not raise his expectations, like Pip does. He wants simple things, like for Clara to marry him; a good life; no complications or distractions.


4) Discuss the alternative endings to the novel?

Comments from readers:

In the original ending, Pip learned that it is better to make an honest living and be surrounded by those you love than to have a false fortune and false friends. Here he does not marry Estella and never hears from her again or thinks about her.

In the abridged ending, Pip marries Estella. Here he learns to forgive and forget. Even though Estella has treated him horribly his whole life-used him and then thrown him away-he can still love her and be happy with her.



5) Other characters influence on Pip: Positive or Negative?

Comments from readers:

In most ways, Joe is a positive influence. he is kind, simple and just. However he does inadvertantly affect Pip in a negative way because Pip is so ashamed of him, since he is a blacksmith, that he takes pains to avoid being a simple man himself.

Magwitch had an overall negative affect on Pip. Besides scaring him to death as a boy, Magwitch's giving him his "great expectations" gave him a chance to turn into a greedy little brat that never did anything for himself! On the other hand, there is that saying that you never know what you have until its gone, in which case it was better that Pip found out what being rich is really like BEFORE he spent his life loathing where he came from.

Estella is a NEGATIVE influence on Pip because it is her comments about how coarse and common he is that lead him to act the way he does, and him wanting so badly to be a gentleman. He also falls in love with her to the point where he cannot see clearly the good intentions of those that he should love and listen too, such as Joe and Biddy!

Magwitch is a good influence in the end. He helps Pip to a better life. After his arrival at the temple pip begins to like him and becomes a little kinder because of it.With the money he gives a partnership to Herbert. Overall, at the end of the story, he is Pip's friend.


6) What are the differences and similarities between Pip and a true gentlemen?

Comments from readers:

Pip is the epitome of the phrase "you can take the boy out of the common but not the common out of the boy". Pip is much like a gentleman on the exterior in regard to his skills and manners which were taught to him, yet his innermost person remains a common boy. For example in Chapter 53 in Pip's confrontation with Orlick, Pip reverts back to his boyhood form when being confronted, he screams and cowers in the shed. But before, in chapters 49 and 50, Pip acts much like a gentleman when dealing with Miss Havisham. He comforts her and helps her in her time of need.


7) What does Pip learn from Mr. Jaggers about his "great expectations"? What three conditions are attached?

Comments from readers:

Pip learns that he will come into a handsome property, and that he is to be taken from Joe, Mrs. Joe, and the village and raised as a gentleman. The three conditions are:
1. He must always bear the name of Pip.
2. The name of his benefactor must remain a secret until the benefactor chooses to reveal it.
3. Pip must not try to find out who his benefactor is.


8) How is wealth or money corrupting?

Comments from readers:

- Pip thinks that he is better than Joe because he has more money, and Pip is very greedy, wanting more stuff, causing him to get very deep in debt.

- Pip's morals were truly corrupted by money. He would never have dissed Joe and Biddy if he didn't get all of that money from Magwitch.

- Pip's reasoning was affected by money. We can see this because Pip would never had gone for Estella without his new "gentlemanly figure", which was inspired by money.


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