Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

Hardcover, 1960

Call number




Dodd Mead (1960)


Classic Literature. Fiction. HTML: Pip is content with his simple life until a bitter gentlewoman employs him as a sometime companion to herself and her adopted daughter. Pip then aspires to become a gentleman himself, though his dreams are unrealistic until the day he mysteriously comes into a fortune and is sent to London to become refined. The story follows Pip's journey into adulthood and emotional maturity and understanding..

Media reviews

The idea of an innocent boy establishing unconsciously an immense influence over the mind of a hunted felon … haunted Dickens’s imagination until he gathered round it a whole new world of characters and incidents

User reviews

LibraryThing member atimco
Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, first published in serial form in 1860–1861, is a semi-autobiographical novel that explores the human side of social status and material wealth in Victorian England, remarking along the way on the country's broken court and correctional systems. The question
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of one's social standing may not be pressing for people today in most parts of our middle-class world, but in Dickens' time it really mattered. Other themes are the victimization of children, the deformities of thwarted love, the power of education, social hypocrisy, guilt, ambition, and what unconditional love really looks like. I listened to this unabridged novel on audiobook read by Simon Vance, and thoroughly enjoyed both the content and narration.

Pip (Philip) Pirrip is destined to become a blacksmith like his uncle Joe until he is singled out by a strange fortune to become a gentleman instead. It's very clear that the two occupations are mutually exclusive, and Pip is delighted with his new station in life. Having had a desire for betterment (read: higher society) awakened by his role as companion to an elderly gentlewoman, Miss Havisham, Pip believes that he has narrowly escaped a life of drudgery and boredom at Joe's forge. He moves to London to take up pursuits more suited to his changed station. But who is Pip's anonymous benefactor? And why would someone lavish riches on a mere blacksmith's apprentice? There is a story here older than Pip, and Dickens sets up his elaborate tangle to slowly tease it loose thread by thread.

As is usual in a Dickens novel, amazing coincidences abound and everyone is connected to everyone else in some way or another. There are one or two scenes that verge on the melodramatically ridiculous and don't fit very well with the overall story (I'm thinking of the scene with Orlick at the abandoned forge in the marshes), but overall the characters and their relationships strike me as true to life. Many of the characters, like Wemmick, are quite comical, but they usually evince a more serious side at some point. I see where P. G. Wodehouse got the inspiration for the abbreviations Bertie Wooster uses with such killing effect when addressing his aunt — Dickens did it first, with Wemmick's father, the Aged Parent ("the Aged P." or just "The Aged" ). Too funny! That whole relationship is brilliant.

Dickens starts you off thinking that several characters in the story are surely villains, through and through, and then he changes your mind because Pip changes his. I was astonished at how my feelings toward the convict Abel Magwitch changed as he was more fully developed. It was the same with Jaggers, though he never becomes quite so accessible as Magwitch. There's still something about Jaggers that makes you want to be careful what you admit around him! But he isn't so bad as he first appears.

Miss Havisham is another character who aroused conflicting reactions in me. On one hand she is certainly villainous, in her active attempts to make Pip fall in love with Estella and so break his heart as revenge for her own betrayal. And it's chilling to think of Miss Havisham systematically training the natural impulse to affection out of Estella. Miss Havisham is also a bit daft; I have little patience with people who impose misery on themselves for no useful purpose whatsoever. But she does repent of her misdeeds at the end, and her suffering evokes pity in me. It's easy to see her as just a caricature of thwarted love and she certainly is an extreme example, but I imagine that the tendency toward self-enforced punishment is not so rare as we might think. It just doesn't usually come with all the gloomy trappings of Satis House.

There is never any ambiguity about Joe Gargery. He is the moral center of the novel and his gentle, selfless love permeates every part of Pip's story. He is easily my favorite character in the book because he reminds me so much of my own father. Vance does such a good job voicing Joe, with a believable accent and a sense of the character's comic quality that only enhances his pathos.

I haven't read all of Dickens' works yet, but I found Estella to be somewhat different from his usual heroine. In Estella we have a beautiful young woman who is truly heartless, selfish, and proud. Usually Dickens' females tend to be more angelic (a type I'm not knocking, by the way), so Estella is all the more fascinating. However, I never understood her reasons for marrying that brute Drummle. I suppose it had to be someone more rotten than she was!

Dickens' prose is effortlessly smooth and I love his descriptions:

Much of my unassisted self, and more by the help of Biddy than of Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt, I struggled through the alphabet as if it had been a bramble-bush; getting considerably worried and scratched by every letter. After that I fell among those thieves, the nine figures, who seemed every evening to do something new to disguise themselves and baffle recognition. But, at last I began, in a purblind groping way, to read, write, and cipher, on the very smallest scale.

Wonderful. (And I know exactly how Pip feels about "those thieves"!)

Simon Vance's reading is excellent. I've already mentioned his wonderful interpretation of Joe, and the voice he gives Abel Magwitch is also a stand-out. The only voice I did not like was Estella's; it reminded me of Jonathan Cecil's female voices in his Wodehouse narrations. This gives Estella an element of absurdity that clashes badly with her character.

It's fascinating to watch Pip, who is narrating the story, change and mature as the plot moves forward. Pip is a flawed character who makes irretrievable mistakes and in many ways destroys his own life. We can see the downfall coming long before he can — the irony of the novel is that all Pip's great expectations remain just that: expectations. They never materialize into anything except sorrow. He finally realizes the extent of his error, that he has traded a happy, useful life for a worthless one, that money and social standing can never of themselves produce happiness. He has built all his dreams on an empty lie. But this kind of mistake is almost universal... It isn't enough sometimes to be told that something is true, or even to know it deep down. Sometimes we have to learn the hard way, and this is what makes the story (and its inherent lesson) so powerful.

The ending is ambiguous and Dickens revised it several times before arriving at the final version. I like the final ending best, but it still leaves you with a question. Estella says they will be "friends apart," but then Pip says that he sees no shadow of another parting from her. Hmmmm! This uncertainty strikes a bittersweet note, acknowledging all the suffering while looking to the future with something like hope and hard-earned wisdom.

This is one of Dickens' best — not to be missed!
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LibraryThing member RebeccaAnn
Wow. I can't even begin to explain how good this book was. But I'll try :P

For those who don't know the basic story, Pip is an orphan raised by his sister and her husband. One day at the age of seven, as he discovers the graves of his dead parents and siblings, he is threatened by a
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convict into stealing some food and a file to feed and free the man. Pip, frightened half to death, does as he is told.

Much later in life, he becomes suddenly wealthy at the hands of his benefactor, a person who's name he his not allowed to know. Assuming it to be Miss Havisham, the crazy old lady he's been visiting lately, as a scheme to make him a gentleman for her adopted daughter Estella, he leaves his old life, and the only people who have ever cared for him, thoughtlessly behind in pursuit of the old lady's beautiful daughter.

What a beautifully told story. Dickens's prose is near magical and, though definitely not modern, extremely easy to follow. I loved Pip, despite his horrid faults. He's arrogant and selfish, but that's the point. Dickens wrote about the tragedies he saw every day: people desiring material wealth at the expense of those around them, heartless people wanting only to hurt others, the taking for granted of beautiful friendships, the judgement of good people based on looks or wealth alone (hmm, this kind of sounds like today). Though Pip is the main character and the one who we are supposed to identify with the most, he embodies most of these traits. He is a truly flawed character that reminds me of most people I know. Through him, we make the same mistakes he does but we also learn as he learns. To judge Pip's character is to judge your own.

When Pip comes into his inheritance, he officially rises to a position higher than Joe, his sister's husband and the only one who loved him through most of his childhood. Pip becomes wealthy and educated, he starts to look down upon Joe's simple, blacksmith ways. He disregards Joe's feelings, hurting him terribly, because Joe does not fit into his new society. Joe embarrasses Pip so Pip will not stand his company. How many teenagers/young adults does this remind you of? Though most people treat it as a normal symptom of growing up (and I'll admit to being guilty of it myself), it's a real eye-opener to truly see the effects of one's thoughtless behavior. That's what this entire book is about: thoughtlessness. It is my belief that Dickens wanted people to think about others and to realize what is really important, and that's the people you share your life with. It's nice to have money, but money comes and goes. Your parents, siblings, children, aunts and uncles only have so much time before they're gone, so treasure them.

I admit that I'm a very materialistic person. It's gotten me into a lot of trouble financially and I'm not proud of my situation at the moment. I think it's fantastic that I found this book, focusing so much on moving away from materialistic wealth and towards true riches, at a second hand store for only $.10. Normally, when I finish a book, I put it back on the shelf. This one, however, I'm leaving out on my desk where I will see it everyday. Great Expectations will act as a reminder for me as to what kind of life I want to start living.

I don't think this review did this book justice, but I don't care. At the moment it's late and after finishing this book, I feel I need to have a long heart to heart with my mom.
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LibraryThing member Smiler69
"My father's family name being Pirrip, and my christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip." — First words, Chapter I

"My sister, Mrs Joe Gargery, was more than twenty years older than
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I, and had established a great reputation with herself and the neighbors because she had brought me up "by hand." Having at that time to find out for myself what the expression meant, and knowing her to have a hard and heavy hand, and to be much in the habit of laying it upon her husband as well as upon me, I supposed that Joe Gargery and I were both brought up by hand.

She was not a good-looking woman, my sister; and I had a general impression that she must have made Joe Gargery marry her by hand. Joe was a fair man, with curls of flaxen hair on each side of his smooth face, and with eyes of such a very undecided blue that they seemed to have somehow got mixed with their own whites. He was a mild, good-natured, sweet-tempered, easy-going, foolish, dear fellow,—a sort of Hercules in strength, and also in weakness." — Chapter II

In this great classic of English literature, our boy Pip tells the tale of how he came to have "Great Expectations" from what appears to be a series of most unlikely circumstances. One late afternoon on Christmas eve, as he is visiting the graves of his mother, father and five little brothers, a dangerous escaped convict appears on the scene and bullies our boy into promising he'll come back the next morning to bring 'wittles'—or food to eat—and a file so he can free himself of his leg irons, on the threat that if Pip doesn't do as he's told, an associate, much crueller than he will stalk him down and get at his heart and liver. Scared out of his wits, Pip complies by stealing food from his sister "Mrs Joe"'s pantry. The convict is satisfied with the offerings and lets him go, though Pip is weighed down by a heavy conscience. Not very long after in chapter seven, Pip is summoned to Miss Havisham's, a rich and eccentric old recluse, to play with her niece Estella who is close to Pip's age, a haughty girl, though very pretty. The old lady encourages her charge to become a heartbreaker and even as the girl mocks Pip, calling him "a common, labouring boy" and making fun of his lack of refinement and general appearance "He calls the knaves Jacks, this boy! And what coarse hands he has! And what thick boots!" the old woman prods Pip repeatedly to find out what he thinks of Estella. Pip can't help himself from falling hopelessly in love with her and from that moment on, becomes more disdainful than ever of his unrefined background and of Joe in particular, a blacksmith to whom Pip is fated to be indentured as an apprentice.

By chapter eighteen, Pip is in the fourth year of his apprenticeship to Joe when they are both approached at the local pub by Mr Jaggers, a lawyer who tells Joe he has an offer to make which will greatly benefit the boy, and asks the blacksmith if he is willing to release Pip of his indenture for "the communication I have got to make is, that he has Great Expectations. I am instructed to communicate to him, that he will come into a handsome property. Further, that it is the desire of the present possessor of that property, that he be immediately removed from his present sphere of life and from this place, and be brought up as a gentleman,—in a word, as a young fellow of great expectations." The only condition being that he must always keep his name, Pip, and that his benefactor's name is to remain a secret until that person chooses to reveal it. Once he has been properly outfitted with new clothes, Pip then moves to London and is taught how to behave like a gentleman. Throughout, even as Pip gains a whole new circle of friends and acquaintances, misbehaves and accumulates enormous debt which even his steady large income can't cover, Estella is never far from our boy's mind. He assumes his benefactor to be Miss Havisham and that she has in mind to mould him into an acceptable husband for the love of his life. But as we are only at chapter 34 at that point (out of 59) and that Dickens wouldn't be Dickens if his stories were anything less than epic sagas, and that his fiction, in imitation of life thrives on many twists of fate, it's fair to assume that things are unlikely to turn out as Pip's—or the reader’s—imagination would have it.

I can't help myself from making a bad play on the title, so I'll go ahead and say that I had Great Expectations about this novel, and that as these things go, I was not wholly satisfied on that count. Although Pip goes through inevitable transformations as he grows up, for the better part of the novel he is a proud boy who thinks himself better than most, and certainly than the people he has been brought up with On of his greatest offences to my mind is the shame and abhorrence in which he holds Joe once he has come in contact with Miss Havisham and Estella. Joe is one of my favourite characters in the story; he's a good man of great simplicity with a big heart, and is probably one of Pip's moth dedicated friends, yet Pip feels ashamed of him and neglects him completely over the years even though he knows better. I thought his supposed great love for Estella was puerile, acceptable when he is a child and is more or less manipulated into it, but the fact that he then uses his unrequited love for her as a reason to remake himself in an image he thinks she will approve of, when he knows her own character is wanting, was truly sad and pathetic to me. Because most of Dickens' novels were first published in serialized form (probably one chapter at a time) the author had good reason to keep the story going for as long as was decently possible. Even though I kept this firmly in mind, there were many times while I listened to the audiobook version (very well narrated by Simon Vance) that I grew impatient with the lengths and detours through which Dickens takes us. I was unfortunately all too often reminded of an obnoxious relative who liked hearing the sound of his own voice—and any opportunity to expound on his apparently limitless fount of knowledge—so much that he could and did keep an uninterruptible flow of words going for several hours at a time, while the poor unadvised interlocutor could rarely put in more than a nod and the briefest expressions of acquiescence and was not given the least opportunity to get away. There were quite a few moments like that, but also moments when I was completely taken with Dickens' great skill as a storyteller and his fine observation of human nature which are always accompanied by a fine and subtle irony and humour. All in all it was a jolly good yarn, though I am considering doing the unthinkable and going for the abridged versions of the rest of the great Chuck D's works, though I should hope common decency will prevent me from committing such a travesty.
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LibraryThing member zibilee
Pip is a young orphan living with his austere sister and her gentle blacksmith husband, Joe. Though his sister badgers and throttles him mercilessly, Pip finds affection, acceptance and a measure of happiness in the love of Joe and in the routine of his life. Pip lives an ordinary and simple life,
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believing that he will spend his days both in the forge with Joe, and outrunning his sister's stick. His story truly begins when he has two unusual and life-altering experiences. First, he encounters and aides a convict in his escape from prison, and secondly, he is employed as a companion to the wealthy and disturbed Miss Havisham. When Miss Havisham introduces him to the young Estella, he quickly becomes consumed with her. As Pip grows to understand that he is far from Estella's equal in terms of social class, he becomes distressed and forlorn in realizing that in order to win Estella, he must become a gentleman, a task that seems impossible without an influx of funds and opportunity. Deep in the throes of his disappointment, Pip is suddenly beset by the wonderful and unexpected news that he is to be financed in his cultivation of gentility by a mysterious anonymous benefactor. The one condition on this gift is Pip's agreement to never mention or question the identity of this secret benefactor. Believing that Miss Havisham has done him this great favor in order to level the playing field between him and Estella, Pip begins to nurse the hope that one day he will one day win Estella's hand, and he sets about in his new life with hope and vigor. As Pip begins his new life as a gentleman, he makes a few new friends and a handful of enemies and hangers-on, and begins to spend his way through his great fortune, procuring both his much needed education and his foppish fancies. But Pip will soon be faced with certain revelations about his new fortune and will be beset by the adversity and heartbreak that he thought he left behind. Are Pip's great expectations truly a sham, or, against the odds, can he find his way to become the gentleman the he so wishes to be?

The story of Pip's rise and fall is one that is both extremely moving and perfectly constructed. In this work, Dickens uses some great symbolism and delves deeply into the themes of gratitude, suffering, and shame. Masterful as he is in portraying his themes, they never feel coercive or oppressive. Rather they seem natural consequences of the character's folly. The extensions of these themes carry them throughout the story in interesting and astonishing ways, turning what was once fortune and prosperity into hopelessness and humility. Dickens also shows his great regard for sentiment in this novel. His characters truly embody their love and hate; they are not quiet about their feelings, often losing themselves in their exquisite expressiveness. Pip was especially articulate and expressive in his perceptive discourses, and although at times his feelings were not pleasant, they rang with a truthfulness of spirit and with an unrestrained emotion that is rarely found in a character.

In addition, the character creation in this novel was dazzling. The way Dickens embellished even the most minor players with unique habits, singular qualities and exceptional descriptiveness was something that impressed me on many levels. He found the perfect balance between the stimulating and the unusual, which gave the story individuality and authenticity. Of all the characters in this book, I believe it was Miss Havisham that left the deepest and most lasting impression on me. The tenacity of her animosity towards others and her crafty manipulation of all the other characters in the book left me dumbfounded. In the beginning of the story it was easy to sympathize with her and feel as though she was a woman much wronged, but much to my amazement, she slowly revealed herself to be a truly monstrous woman capable of great injustices and antagonism. And yet, in what I believe to be the beauty of Dickens, at her worst, there existed within me a pity for the woman that was truly undeserved. I knew I should hate her, but she filled me with such sadness that I could not.

My feelings for Miss Havisham were not the only ones that surprised me. Pip, so normally a loving and kind boy, also evinced strong feelings from me. His shame and apathy towards those he left behind in their meagerness astounded and embarrassed me. At times I felt ashamed to be on his side, reading his story with relish, for at times he was so undeserving of the merits placed upon him. That is not to say that I was pleased when he fell from grace or thought that he deserved his fate, for I believe that he did not. It is only to say that these characters had a curious way of entangling me with their circumstances and pitting my emotions against each other. It was interesting to find myself reading and reflecting about characters who were so florid and unbecoming, but were still able to win me to their sides despite my mental protestations.

One of the great things I found out about Dickens was his brilliant comedic flair. His pithy asides and colorful imagery had me smiling and laughing at even the most unexpected of moments, and I am hard pressed to think of another author who has had the same effect on me in the manner he did. His comedy was perfect in tone and scope, oftentimes relieving the pressure that had built up in the narrative with a thought-provoking quip. The plot management was brilliant as well, with not a sour note struck. Many of the twists and turns of the narrative were so unforeseen and shocking that I was completely bound to this book, forever shirking my responsibilities in order to get in just one more page.

Reading this book was a fabulous journey, filled with action, intrigue, romance and humor, and it was so much more than what I was expecting when I picked this book up from the shelf. If you have never read Dickens, this is a great place to start. There are so many interesting aspects of this story that I feel it can be recommended to a wide audience, especially those who love wordplay. I am so glad to have discovered this gem of a book. Highly recommended.
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LibraryThing member eilonwy_anne
I have a problem with Great Expectations. The problem is, I believe I haven't read it. I have, three or four times, but the very first time, I didn't finish it (we were reading it aloud on a class trip, and the trip ended) and somehow, no matter how often I read it, I think I've never finished it.
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It's been my secret shame.

So I'm writing this review to remind me. I have read Great Expectations. The parts of it I cherish are the sidelights: Magwitch, Wemmick and his Aged Parent. Even the Pockets tumbling up. In the introduction to this edition, John Irving mentions that the language shifts when the plot takes off. Perhaps that's why I stop remembering it: the sidelights fade. I've never had too much use for Mr. Pip (as opposed to young Pip, who is rather charming) -- none of his repentance and retrospective self-deprecation was enough for me.

While I see the craft in this book, and the rich imagery that makes it so beloved of English teachers, it is not my favorite Boz. It's well worth reading though, if only for the images -- the ruined wedding feast, the clerk 'posting' bits of toast through his mail-slot mouth, the family of gravestones by the marshes -- that will stick with you, even if the denouement insists on fading.
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LibraryThing member voracious
I felt somewhat obligated to read Great Expectations since many people have suggested I read it, as I have tended toward authors who have been compared to Dickens. I read about 1/3 of the book and started losing interest. Other books around me lured me away. Tempting sirens of novels, wooing me
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away to more exciting storylines...Out of guilt, I got the audio book from the library, thinking that surely I could passively finish it. However, I found this book immensely boring and I couldn't even get through more than 1 CD of the audio. Tedious, overly detailed, unlikeable characters, with pretentious formal language. I did enjoy Dicken's wit, but it was too infrequent to get me through. I'm sorry, I tried. I'm glad I'm using a pseudonym... ;)
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LibraryThing member schmal06
I liked the story but I found it very difficult to get through. (I was 14 when I read it and that might have something to do with it). I have faith upon rereading it, i will enjoy it more. I find Dickens' writing to be very very drawn out but at the same time quirky and distinct and his characters
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are wonderful. I didn't love it, but I would recommend it.
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LibraryThing member jeff.maynes
Great Expectations is many things, but above all it is a reflection on the influence of money, prestige and station on a young person, and a carefully layered and constructed mystery. It is at once delightful to read, utterly engrossing, but also thoughtful and intellectually engaging.

Like much of
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Dickens' work, the prose is wonderfully constructed. Dickens has a popular reputation as wordy and overly descriptive, and this obscures the real pleasure one can get from reading him. Beyond his descriptive prowess, he is a witty writer and there is a lightness, or bounce to his writing. There are a number of scenes (such as the dinner at the Pockets' home, and above all, Wemmick's "walk" with Pip!) which gave me cause to chuckle, something that Dickens does not get enough credit for as a writer.

The moral center of the book is Joe Gargery, a moving character, though one whose role is fairly static in the book. In the first act (the first stage to Pip's expectations), the main character, Pip, lives with Joe and his wife, Pip's sister. As Pip moves on with his life, and into the expectations befitting a gentleman, he moves away from Joe, physically and morally. Pip is the perfect narrator for his own tale. It is hard not to like Pip, he is a generally good and thoughtful person. Yet, we are also privy to the influences that his change in fortune has on his moral character. We never have to see Pip become a villain, or a caricature (like Mrs. Pocket) to know that he has been corrupted. We have instead the ruminations of a good young man wrestling with the changes that he sees in himself. It is moving, all the more so because we, as readers, can identify with Pip, and we move down the same road he does as the novel develops. We may react negatively to some of his actions, but we are also bound to him very tightly. One of the great pleasures of the novel is simply being with Pip, inside his mind, from the first page to the last.

The book also features a number of famous characters who leap from the page. Even those who have never read the book may be familiar with Miss Havisham, still in her wedding dress, with all of the clocks in her large, dark mansion stopped twenty minutes past nine. Or the intense opening passage when Pip meets the convict Magwitch in the graveyard. I've placed the characters in their settings, and in this novel, the characters are so powerful precisely because they are part of their characteristic environments. Miss Havisham and Jaggers, for example, are tightly associated with locations and types of scenes, and they anchor those scenes. This is most clearly represented in Wemmick, who self-consciously takes on very different personas when encountered by Pip in different contexts. While they are great characters in that they are well rounded, they are great characters as parts of the scenes, not that they inhabit, but that they make. It is only Pip who moves, and his journey is enriched by his encounters with these memorable scenes and individuals.

Finally, as I noted at the outset of this review, the book is an expertly crafted mystery. From the outset we are given clues and questions, that Dickens answers at a masterful pace throughout the novel. It gives it a narrative drive to move Pip along, but also to grip the reader. It is likely an artifact of the serial format the novel first appeared in, and it reveals that Dickens was a master of the art.

This may be Dickens' greatest work, and it deserves the highest of praise.
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LibraryThing member mattviews
Probably one of the most memorable Dickens characters, Philip Pirrup is known to most readers as Pip, the 7-year-old boy whom his short-tempered sister raised by hand. Little Pip infers that he has sustained, from as early as his babyhood, a perpetual conflict with injustice. He has known, from the
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time when he can speak and discern his surrounding that his sister, in her fits of caprice and violent coercion, is unjust to him. It seems to poor Pip that all the endearments in life brushes by him or bypasses him altogether. Fate has ineluctably deprived him of the lightsome hours that make our childhood a time to be remembered like a happy dream through all our after life. The bright side of growing up with his sister's fits of spleen is Pip's friendship with his brother-in-law Joe, who not only has taken him into apprenticeship but sanctified the house Pip calls home that is otherwise sullied by his sister's temper.

A chance but terrifying encounter with an escaped convict for whom he brings provisions pilfered from the kitchen cupboard changes the entire course Pip's life. But it is not until he meets the beautiful, cold-hearted and haughty Estella during a summon to a decaying Miss Havisham that he sets his mind to whittle away his coarseness and to become a gentleman, one on Estella's account. The sudden but timely generosity of a mysterious benefactor comes to assist his making of a gentleman and promises a handsome property. The prospect of great expectations not only immediately relieves him from his ordinary sphere of life and frees him from apprenticeship with Joe, but also concurs with his eagerness to abandon his humble origins.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS thus follows Pip's new life under his fortune and depicts his education, new relationships, and development through adversity as he slowly dawns on the true nature of his great expectations. The new life does not come without a catch as he finds himself living in a state of chronic uneasiness respecting his perfidious behavior to Joe, whose interference in his life he now regards as disturbance. The more Pip basks in the favor, privilege, and conviviality that is concomitant of his fortune, the more his is convinced of a happier life derived from simplicity and fidelity that only Joe can offer. As he sidles closer to the truth about his benefactor's identity, a revelation for which he is not prepared struck him.

GREAT EXPECTATIONS is a story of moral redemption with a prodigal son-like protagonist in the orphaned Pip. The tale is extremely straightforward but is woven with substantial issues he has to deal with. Eager to shred his humble roots, he promptly disavows family and friends at the prospect of a fortune. As the fortune loses its luster and eventually dissipates altogether, he confronts his own ingratitude and learns to love the man who both creates and destroys him, figuratively speaking. Dickens deftly validates Pip's redemption by showing that it produces good deeds as well as good works. This is especially worthy of merit because the novel is told in Pip's first person narrative. Mishandling of the narrative might render the whole tale unconvincing.

The proof of Pip's redemption comes laden with good deeds rather than airy words: his clandestine acts of kindness in securing Herbert a partnership in business, and in securing Miss Havisham's respectable opinion of the long-suffering Matthew Pocket, and in his refusing to accept money from Miss Havisham, and most significantly in his love for the man whom has bequeathed him with the fortune.
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LibraryThing member dbsav
I chose to write a review of Great Expectations because I wanted to be able to rate a novel "five-stars" without an ounce of hesitation.

Context: I'm not by any means some sort of an intellect. Like many people who have read Great Expectations, I was assigned this book in high school. I remember
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looking to the end of the book, first, to see how many pages there were. I cringed. Then I began to read that first chapter about a boy named Pip who meets the convict looking for vittles.

I won't give anything away about the plot. I only want to say that this was the first book that I ever read that I had me truly absorbed. I remember a kid in my class who read ahead a few chapters and had us all in wonder as to what twists transpired. He just smiled and said, "you won't believe how this thing turns out."

After reading other Dickens books I realized that his greatest strengths was populating his books with amazing, odd, likeable, and despicable characters who found there way in and out of his stories.

If you haven't read this book, do so.
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LibraryThing member PatrickHackeling13
Great Expectations by Charles Dickens is one of my favorite novels of all time. Not only was it a pleasure to read, but I have had few real life experiences that I have not been able to look back upon this work and apply it to the situation. It is because of this that I say that Great Expectations
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is one of the greatests works of all time.

This novel portrays: love at its finest, obsession at its worst, the pain of losing, and the joy of finding, the cruelness of those who have been mistreated, and the depressions of those who have been acted upon in a cruel manner. This novel was also so real and vivid. Its ending was entirely unpredictable from the get-go and by the time the novel concluded I was stuck there wondering what happened and why. Although I felt truly sorry for Pip and wished that he would rebound somehow and be better off, because he was such a beautiful soul at the beginning of the novel and tried his best (for the most part) up until the very end, it is not easy to say that he was not given every opportunity to succeed.
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LibraryThing member TineOliver
Perhaps the most apt novel title in literature.

Great expectations is, at its most basic level, all about Pip's expectations. What makes it a worthy read, especially without prior knowledge of the plot, is that it's also about the reader's expectations.

One of the things I most appreciate about the
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novel is the development of Pip's character, from the querulous young man who wants more from life than that which seems destined (and of course, he wants more without working for it) and to the endearing repentant man, who aims to make a life for himself. Of course, who wouldn't have empathy for Pip's unrequited love of Estella, fostered by the vindictive Miss Havisham.

Great Expectations is one of my two favourite novels - if only I could read it again for the first time.
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LibraryThing member ed.pendragon
I find it hard to distinguish between the images furnished by my first reading of this and by the BBC serialisation in the 60s. I suspect that the TV version came first and influenced my rather rapid reading of the novel where I omitted all the characterisation, social commentary, landscape
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descriptions and comedy in favour of rooting out the plain narrative. So, Great Expectations for me then was a mix of two themes, the rags-to-riches story of Pip and the boy-meets-girl-but-it-doesn't-go-smoothly tale of Pip's infatuation with Estella, and hang the rich tapestry of life in early 19th-century rural Kent and teeming London which Dickens grew up with.

I'm so glad I've given this a second chance, and that with maturity and experience am able to more fully appreciate the subtleties and nuances of Dickens' story. Yes, the overarching themes are there: Pip's abandonment of the forge to pursue a gentleman's life followed by the eventual Return of the Prodigal Son; and the hopeless obsession with the haughty Estella who almost until the last (and we never find out the whole story) rejects him while leading him on. And yet, of course, you can't spin out a serialised story in three lengthy parts just by dwelling on an individual's rise in the world and an unrequited love.

Anybody else who skims through this novel and finds it wanting may need to put only a little more effort into it if they are to understand the fuss that is made of it. First, there is the cast of wonderful characters, eccentrics, villains, heroes and gentlefolk. The tragic Miss Havisham, Mr Wopsle the actor manqué and the lawyer's clerk Mr Wemmick all fall into the first group; Orlick, Drummle and Compeyson are first-rate villains; Jaggers and Provis are indubitably if unlikely heroes; and Pip's closest acquaintances, some of whom he woefully neglects, come as close as possible to gentlefolk, whatever their station in life.

Dickens' own childhood familiarity with the prime locations in this book, London, Chatham and Rochester, add verisimilitude to Pip's experiences and vividly bring alive the events that happen in these bustling, or gloomy, or dank and foggy places. And in amongst the tragic happenings that percolate Great Expectations we mustn't forget the comic personalities and situations that leaven the disappointments; and even if one or two chapters appear a little indulgent and appear just to bulk out the narrative, that's hardly surprising when the public were devouring the previous installments and Dickens was trying to keep a step or two ahead.

So, I'm pleased to have given a Dickens novel my undivided attention when I completed it a century and a half after his death in 1861, and doubly pleased that I was much more able to appreciate it than my younger self. The Collins Classic edition gave the full text with the revised, more upbeat, ending; granted that this was a budget edition I was still a little disappointed by the shortness of the introduction and by the glossary particularly, which, apparently directed at foreign students, included historic terms and phrases from a number of Victorian novels but very few, it seemed, from this novel itself.
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LibraryThing member br13wivan
This particular Dickensian tale wreaks havoc with the mind, but it was a fun read just the same. It had extremely good usage of dialect, and good details to keep you thinking you were there.
The story goes as follows: There is a boy named Pip who is being raised by his sister and her blacksmith
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husband (whom I had visualized looking like Gaston from Beauty and the Beast with an English accent) in a rural English village because his parents died. So he’s walking around in a graveyard when he is assailed by a convict who has escaped from a “Hulk”, or prison ship. And by threats of a fictitious young man who would find and kill Pip if he didn’t do as the convict commanded, Pip brought him food and a file so he could escape. The convict runs away. Soon after, Pip is hired by an insane rich person to play. For her. Some woman literally hired him to come to her house, and on arrival she said:
And so Pip was given a ton of cash to play cards with the eccentric Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter while she used said daughter, Estella, to toy with his heart, as she had had her heart broken as a young woman and was (as I’ve already said) insane. After a few weeks of this, a mysterious benefactor has just given Pip a huge sum of money and commanded him to go to London where he will be tutored. He does this. This causes him to act like a jerk to his family. After a few years, Pip meets his provider, and good Mr. Dickens betrays you. He led you on! He never said it, but he hinted at it! Nice ol’ Charlie just destroys a mental investment of 300 pages! And for that I can never forgive him. I’m not allowed to spoil your reading of the book, so I won’t. The story kind of ends here, because if I go on, it is impossible not to reveal what could be the biggest twist in any 19th century writing! I’m serious!
Now, as for what I didn’t like... There were too many loose ends. Dickens left a whole bunch of people unaccounted for. They used modern vocabulary, particularly “fashionable crib” and “a cool four thousand”. Even Pip is confused! He thought Joe detected the temperature of the money somehow! And it was difficult figure out how to pronounce the name of Pip’s rival Drummle... Could it be said as: Drumlee? Drummleh? Drummel? At the end of the day, this would bring in maybe 3 out of 5 stars.
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LibraryThing member santhony
I’ve read many, many books throughout the years, in a wide variety of genres. Periodically, I try to stretch myself by taking on works that I might not otherwise gravitate toward. Sometimes I am rewarded; that is how I discovered Hemingway and Vasily Grossman (much to my delight). However, I
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generally read for pleasure and will never be considered an erudite literary critic; in other words, you won’t find me reading Shakespeare.

I recall reading A Tale of Two Cities in high school and to my recollection, enjoying it. With that in mind, I was determined to give Charles Dickens another shot, with the knowledge that if it were to my liking, there would be a wealth of material at my disposal. That is how I came to read Great Expectations.

The novel centers on young Pip, an orphan taken in by his domineering older sister and kind, blacksmith husband. Pip is destined for a life as an apprentice blacksmith, a member of the English lower class, until an encounter with an escaped convict radically changes the course of his life. For you see, young Pip harbors “great expectations” and a life far beyond that set before him. With the help of an anonymous “sponsor”, Pip begins his journey toward life as a gentleman.

When reading Dickens, Tolstoy, and even more so Shakespeare, the first hurdle is becoming familiar with the language, the style of writing and the idioms and terms used by writers of the era; even more so with Dickens, where he routinely spells words phonetically when spoken by Cockney British commoners. Somewhat offputting at first, the reader soon becomes comfortable with the style and is amply rewarded and entertained.

Having read numerous novels from the period, I was well familiar with the British class system on the mid-19th century, but nowhere is its rigidity more apparent than in this work. Within days of attaining a sponsor, young Pip completely removes himself from his former friends and relatives (both geographically and socially), even expressing embarrassment for having been associated with them. There are several story threads that work themselves together nicely near the end of the novel.

Having become reacquainted with Dickens, I fully expect to sample more of his work.
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LibraryThing member blake.rosser
My least favorite of the five Dickens I have read, this one lacks almost anything that make the other ones great, or even enjoyable. The only sympathetic characters are minor ones (Joe, Biddy, Herbert, Wemmick), and underdeveloped. Pip himself is mostly obnoxious, and my ambivalence toward him as
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the narrator made it difficult to even care about the book over the first 100 pages or so. The story was terribly slow until Pip got to London, about 1/3 through 535 pages. There are no memorable villains, unless Ms. Havisham is supposed to occupy that slot. But the book´s later twist makes her and Estella's entire arc almost totally irrelevant. Orlick and Compeyson get about 10 pages devoted to them in total, hardly the stuff of satisfying external conflict (plus Mrs. Gargery's relation with Orlick is never resolved). The twists themselves take Dickens' notorious propensity for contrivance to an entirely new and ridiculous level.

All I knew of the book coming into it was that it featured three of the more memorable characters in pop culture history: Pip, Estella, and Ms. Havisham. By the end, I was left wondering what precise purpose the latter two served, and if the book might indeed have been better overall had they been reduced in importance, or even left out entirely. Better for the reader would be to read either Bleak House or A Tale of Two Cities.
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LibraryThing member knittingfreak
I read the BN classics edition, for which I was truly grateful. This edition contained end notes in addition to explanations of obscure words and phrases, a very nice introduction and an alternate ending. I didn't know this, but Dickens changed the ending at the request of Edward Bulwer-Lytton, a
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friend of his who was also a novelist and literary critic. Though neither the original ending nor the final version can be accused of being a 'happy ending', the final version does allow for some ray of hope, albeit extremely small. It's in this final version that Dickens allows the reader to decide for themselves what the future holds for Estella and Pip.

Dickens fleshes out his characters in such a way as you really begin to feel as if they are real people. I felt sorry for Pip from the first page to the last page. First, he is an orphan being raised by his hateful older sister. The only saving grace here is her husband, Joe, truly cares for Pip and tries (usually unsuccessfully) to shield him from some of the maltreatment he must endure. He tries hard to do the right thing and to please everyone around him. Fear, guilt, and insecurity are his companions throughout his life. When he gets a taste of a different life by going to the eccentric wealthy Miss Havisham's, he becomes obsessed with making a better life for himself. At the time, he believes that a better life is one in which he is a wealthy gentleman as opposed to the blacksmith he will become if he remains with his Uncle Joe.

And then there's Estella. Of course, she plays a huge role in all of this. Pip is immediately smitten with Miss Havisham's adopted daughter the first time he lays eyes on her at a very young age. From that moment on, she is the main reason that he wants to become a gentleman -- to become worthy of Estella. She has been raised by Miss Havisham to be hard and cruel and to neither feel nor show any emotion. Pip admits that he is never happy in her company, but he loves her and longs to be with her forever. I also felt some sympathy for Estella. She was a product of her upbringing and didn't know the meaning of love. Dickens' characters are well-rounded. It's difficult to totally love or hate them. In this way, they are all too real.

Pip believes his dreams will be realized when he is informed of an anonymous benefactor. He is to immediately leave Joe, the only person that has ever cared for him, and the blacksmith apprenticeship behind and go to London. He is given some money and told he must wait until the time is right to find out the identity of his benefactor. He mistakenly presumes that it is Miss Havisham and that she must also intend Estella for him, as well. In London, he mismanages the money he is given, and he turns his back on Joe because he is ashamed of his manners and dress. The reader knows from the moment he leaves his childhood home that things will not turn out well for Pip. It was extremely frustrating at times because I just wanted to shake Pip and tell him to wake up. The reader sees so clearly the mistakes that he's making, but you also understand that he is naive.

There are many twists and turns throughout the story, which add to the drama of the book. However, sometimes the reader is expected to believe extreme coincidences. All in all, that is a small price to pay for such a lovely story.
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LibraryThing member soylentgreen23
One of those books that I had to read at school for my GCSEs. Thankfully I got a good grade.

Actually, Dickens isn't that bad. I'm rather glad that I have a couple of his books in my catalog. "Great Expectations" - sure, it's contrived at times but such is the nature of serialised books sold to a
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generally illiterate publice. Dickens did a huge amount for the literacy cause with his novels.
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LibraryThing member miketroll
One of the best known and best novels in the whole of world literature.
LibraryThing member crossroadsmaura38
Outstanding writing, with superb characterisation aided by the names Dickens' assigns to his characters. Love, terror and self-discovery in social realism -what more could a reader want?
LibraryThing member lyzadanger
I had been rusty on my Dickens, but this book brought several things together for me: My growing knowledge base of English history, the industrial revolution, the timbre of Europe in the early- to mid-19th century. One thing I have continuing difficulty with is the geography. Despite poring over
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maps of London and southern/eastern England, I can no more remember exactly where Cheapside is than pi to 100 digits.

One thing I found I had forgotten about Dickens: he's funny, witty.

A bit of spoiler: I was actually surprised how much of a downer the ending was. But what a page-turner!
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LibraryThing member LibraryLou
One of the few Dickens I have read, and I really enjoyed it. Very atmospheric, Dickens had such a wonderful descriptive ability.
LibraryThing member freddiefreddie
Thank God for Dickens. A tale full of poverty, humor, sadness, and wonder. Made me a Dickens fan for life.
LibraryThing member hotchk155
My first Dickens, and somehow without knowing the plot already (other than the South Park version in which Miss Havisham is building a Genesis Device aided by an army of robot monkeys).

This book can be slow going, the language takes getting used to and can mean a lots of re-reading of paragraphs.
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However the turn of phrase is all part and parcel of the richness and feel of the book. The plot is excellent, with enough twists and turns to keep anyone happy, and there are also a good few laugh-out-loud moments, especially in the first part of the book, where Dickens shows a nice silly sense of humour.

If I had any reservations - I did feel the book was rather long for the story it contains, and I also found myself short of sympathy at times for main character Pip, especially in respect of the way he eagerly dumps his most loyal friends when something better comes along. Still this is all part of the message of the book. A tale about the fiction that wealth brings happiness and remembering who your real friends are.
Heartily recommended.
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LibraryThing member mbmackay
With Great Expectations, I have now read or re-read every Dickens novel in the last year (minus two novels I had read in the last couple of years).
Great Expectations was a book I studied in year 12, too many years ago, so I know the book well. I was pleased to to find some parts of the book were
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very familiar, like a favourite jacket, and a little surprised that other parts seemed to be completely new - like I was reading for the first time.
The benefit of years, and a better knowledge of Victorian England and social conditions of the era made the book more meaningful now. I had enjoyed it years ago, and I enjoyed it a little more now with the benefit of that better context.
At the end of the Dickens marathon, I find it interesting how some authors survive, or thrive, while others, popular in their time, fade away. I find that Dickens is a fine author, but wonder why Trollope, for example, hasn't become the icon of his era?
I also notice that in all his many many pages, there is not one single depiction of a "normal" happy marriage. David Copperfield's marital relationship goes close, the couple are not unhappy, but the wife is painted as a child in an adult role and you could not imagine it as a satisfying relationship for either party. Recent biographies have made it clear that Dickens was, to be generous, a "difficult" husband and father. It is sad to think that he may never have experienced the joy of a fulfilling personal relationship.
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