First published in a weekly periodical (December 1860 - August 1861).
The 1946 film of the book starred John Mills as Pip.
The 2012 film starred Ralph Fiennes (as Magwitch) and
Helena Bonham-Carter (Miss Havisham) - the poster is pictured right below.
A 2011 BBC TV adaptation starred Ray Winstone as
Magwitch, pictured right.
Widely considered to be Dickens' best book (although he preferred
Pip, a poor orphan boy who becomes a gentleman.
Joe, his adopted father.
Miss Havisham, an old woman.
Estella, her adopted daughter.
Abel Magwitch, convict.
Pip, a young orphan aged 8 or 9, lives with his unpleasant sister and her blacksmith husband,
Joe, on the Kent marshes in southern England.
There he meets an escaped convict who forces him to bring him a file to saw off his leg
irons. But he also kindly gives him some food before he is re-captured.
Pip is very happy and particularly loves kind Joe. He goes to school, where he is taught by a local girl,
He is invited to the house of Miss Havisham, an old, embittered woman
She sits in a faded wedding dress with other old wedding things around her without any daylight, because her
fiancée failed to turn up for the wedding.
Pip meets her adopted daughter, Estella, beautiful but insulting and snobbish. Miss Havisham
pays Joe to take Pip on as an apprentice blacksmith.
Pip’s sister (and Joe's wife) is attacked and injured so badly she can no longer speak.
A lawyer, Mr Jaggers, then arrives from London who tells Pip he is to inherit
money from a secret benefactor and must go to London to train and educate
himself as a gentleman, leaving Joe and Biddy behind.
He is educated by Matthew Pocket, a relative of Miss Havisham, becoming great friends with his
son, Herbert, with whom he shares rooms (pictured right together in the 1946 film - Herbert, left,
is Alec Guinness).
Pip’s extravagance, and helping Herbert with his career, gets him into debt. He is guilty about leaving Joe,
whom he only sees at his sister’s funeral and once in London.
He believes that Miss Havisham is financing his education so that he can marry Estella,
even when Estella says she has no feelings for him on a trip to London.
Having returned illegally from Australia, the convict reveals himself to Pip (now aged 23) as Abel
Magwitch and his secret benefactor.
This destroys Pip’s dream that he was destined to marry Estella. He discovers that Magwitch's enemy, ex-partner
in crime and fellow convict, is Compeyson, who jilted Miss Havisham.
Pip then learns that Estella is to marry a cruel bully, Bentley Drummle, and
her father is Magwitch. Jaggers saved her mother from hanging .
After deeply regretting her bitterness towards men and discouragement of Pip and Estella’s marriage, Miss
Havisham helps Pip to finance Herbert in business. But she dies from burns in a fire after begging Pip's
forgiveness for keeping him apart from Estella.
Pip is lured to the marshes by Joe's assistant Orlick who nearly kills
him after admitting he attacked Pip’s sister (who has now died).
Magwitch (Ralph Fiennes, pictured right, in the 2012 film) is caught by the police and
sentenced to death after being betrayed by Compeyson who drowns. He dies before his execution. But Pip is able to
tell him he has a beautiful daughter and he, Pip, loves her.
Pip has a long illness but is nursed back to health by Joe. Pip decides to go home and marry Biddy but discovers
she has married Joe instead. He then works for Herbert abroad for 11 years and pays off his debts.
On his return, he finds Estella, now a kind widow, in the grounds of Miss Havisham’s house. Pip feels sure they
will never part again.
Lessons for success, happiness and ethics
1. Be true to yourself and your principles
Pip (John Mills, pictured right in the 1946 film) learns to be a gentleman but forgets what he treasured in his
happy childhood with Joe:
simple living (his extravagance leads to debts).
kindness (see point 2).
humility (see point 3).
Estella also realizes the importance of these virtues after her disastrous marriage.
The book shows how Pip discovers that wanting what you are is much more important than
what you think you should be.
2. Kindness is king
Joe helps Pip in good times and bad (like when he was ill), even after being neglected by him. His kindness
encourages others to be kind to him, particularly Pip and Biddy.
Pip is also rewarded by Magwitch for helping him as an escaped prisoner.
Pip and Estella (pictured right together in the 1946 film) learn that arrogant
superiority leads to unhappiness. She thinks she is too good for Pip, who is most miserable when, as
a gentleman, he snobbishly:
considers himself above the life of a poor blacksmith.
doesn’t see Joe or Biddy on his visits to Miss Havisham and Estella.
The truth about his benefactor (the convict, Magwitch) gives him humility, reminding him of the
happiness he has lost.
4. Have worthwhile but realistic aims
Pip is right to have “great expectations” for his life, working to educate himself.
But he unrealistically thinks that Estella wants to marry him, so forgetting his family.
His discontent begins when he believes Estella’s assertion that he is “common” and not worthy of her.
5. Don’t believe everything people tell you
Pip believes Magwitch, when he tells him a man will tear out his liver while he sleeps, if
he doesn’t help him!
6. Forgive and forget
Miss Havisham’s life is destroyed by bitterness, unable to:
forgive her cruel fiancée.
build a new life with someone else.
She finally becomes distraught with guilt, realizing how her vengeance against men has destroyed Estella and her
relationship with Pip.
Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt) and Estella (Valerie Hobson) are pictured right above in the 1946 film.
7. Lifelong learning
Miss Havisham finally realizes her mistakes (see point 6)
Pip is also happiest when he learns from Joe the importance of
integrity (see point 8).
Miss Havisham (Gill Anderson) and Pip (Oscar Kennedy) are pictured right in the 2012 BBC production.
8. Looks and money aren’t everything
Estella’s beauty blinds Pip to her faults. He must accept them if he is to be happy with
Miss Havisham’s wealth and Pip’s money from Magwitch don’t make them happy.
The happiest people are the poorest and nicest : Joe and Biddy.
9. You need friends
Pip gets much needed help from his friends: Joe, Biddy and Herbert.
10. You need to receive love to give it
Estella says she can’t love, because she was never given it by Miss Havisham or her parents.
Key quotes on learning
Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence, Mr Jaggers
Key quotes on stress and pain
Life is made of ever so many partings welded together, Joe
Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, Estella
Key quote on ethics
There's one thing you may be sure of...namely that lies is lies,
Joe (to Pip)
Key quote on
Live well and die happy, Joe (to Pip)
Key quote on family
It is a most miserable thing to feel ashamed of home, Pip
Key quote on justice
There is nothing so finely perceived, and so finely felt, as injustice, Pip