February 19, 2024

#08-838: Great Expectations

Miss Havisham, Pip, and Joe (Wikipedia)

Note: I first read Great Expectations in 8th grade, and again in adulthood; it was stunning both times.

Get Ready: What (if anything) is the "secret of success" in this world?

Charles Dickens's Great Expectations is one of the very greatest of his many great novels. It is complex, with dozens of characters and relationships; here we have room only for the main details.

Philip Pirrip, called "Pip," is a seven-year-old orphan. He lives with his sister and her husband, a kind blacksmith named Joe Gargery. On Christmas Eve Pip goes to visit his parents' graves and meets an escaped convict who demands of him food and tools to cut off his shackles.

Pip steals and delivers the food and tools, but the man is caught anyway. He lies to protect Pip, saying he stole those things himself.

A few years later a wealthy, mad old woman, Miss Havisham, hires Pip to play with her adopted daughter, a pretty girl named Estella. Miss Havisham was left at the altar by her fiancé, and still wears her wedding dress. Because of her experience, she encourages Estella to be cruel to Pip--who naturally falls in love with her.

When Pip is old enough, Miss Havisham pays for him to become an apprentice blacksmith to Joe. Four years later, a lawyer, Mr. Jaggers, tells Pip that another benefactor has left him a large sum of money, making it possible for him to become a gentleman. He assumes this money has also come from Miss Havisham.

He goes to London where he rises in the world of business, and makes friends and enemies. He learns of Miss Havisham's aborted wedding, and eventually goes back to visit her. Later he learns that Estella is married to one of his enemies.

Eventually he is told that his benefactor is not the old woman, but Able Magwitch, the convict whom he had helped in the graveyard. After being transported to Australia as a convict, and later set free, Magwitch has become a rich man and set up a fund for Pip.

Shocked, Pip stops taking the money, but he and a friend move to Cairo, Egypt for eleven years, where they make their fortune. He returns to England and meets Estella, now widowed. At the end of the story it is unclear whether they will get married.


Practice: Match the term to its definition:

Term Definition
  1. aborted
  2. apprentice
  3. benefactor
  4. blacksmith
  5. convict
  6. left at the altar
  7. orphan
  8. shackles
  9. transported
  10. widowed
  1. a young person whose parents have died
  2. a person who works with iron
  3. metal restraints on arms and/or legs
  4. prevented from happening
  5. an assistant who learns a trade
  6. a person who gives money to another
  7. left without a husband
  8. sent way to prison in another country
  9. a person who is going to prison
  10. discovered that a new husband or wife is not coming to the wedding

Answers are in the first comment below.

Submitted to the Shenzhen Daily for February 23, 2024

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