Great Expectations is a novel about a poor boy named Pip, who lives with his cruel sister and her blacksmith husband. After years of helping a wealthy reclusive woman named Miss Havisham, he receives a small fortune from an anonymous benefactor. After learning to live like a gentleman and many attempts to court Miss Havisham's daughter, Estella, Pip learns that his fortune was not from Miss Havisham, as he had assumed, but a convict he had helped save when he was a child.
Now an adolescent, Pip is miserable working as Joe's apprentice, though he does not tell Joe of his feelings. He longs to return to Satis House, and is haunted by visions of Estella , whom he fears will find him doing his coarse, common labor.
Pip transforms from a young boy into an adolescent. He is miserable working as Joe's apprentice, but does not divulge his feelings to Joe out of consideration for Joe's kindness towards him. He yearns to return to Satis House, and is haunted by the image of Estella, whom he fears may suddenly appear and find him doing his coarse, common work, of which he is deeply ashamed.
Pip continues to take lessons from Biddy , and cannot cease daydreaming about his visits to Satis House. He suggests to Joe that he should return for another visit, and though Joe discourages him, Pip goes anyway. At Satis House, Miss Havisham tells him that Estella has gone abroad.
Dolge Orlick , Joe's disagreeable forge worker, gets into an argument with Mrs. Joe when he mentions taking a holiday leave. Mrs. Joe calls on her husband, Joe, to defend her, and Joe punches Orlick to the ground. Mrs. Joe faints upon witnessing the spectacle.
On his way home from Miss Havisham's, Pip encounters Mr. Wopsle , who takes him to Pumblechook's , where Pip has a miserable time. Afterward, Pip sees Orlick on the street, and returns home to find his sister badly beaten, reportedly by escaped convicts.
Pip's desire for knowledge is undeterred by his apprenticeship, and he continues to learn from Biddy outside of school. Patiently, he tries to teach Joe to read. Pip cannot shirk constant thoughts of Miss Havisham and Estella, and one day suggests to Joe that he should visit them again at Satis House, to thank Miss Havisham for all she has done for him. Joe does not give Pip a definitive answer, but urges him not to go. Pip, however, ignores Joe's advice.
An altercatation between Joe and Dolge Orlick, Joe's bumbling, venomous forge worker, breaks out when Mrs. Joe berates Orlick for taking a holiday from work. She and Orlick engage in a nasty verbal battle, and she calls on Joe to defend her. When Joe defeats Orlick in the fight for Joe is a very deft boxer Mrs. Joe faints to the floor.
Pip cannot bear to be away from Satis House any longer, and he goes without an appointment. Miss Sarah Pocket, not Estella this time, comes to the gate and lets him in. Miss Havisham, somewhat surprised to see him, tells Pip to come again on his birthday. She notices him looking around for Estella, and tells him that she has gone abroad to be educated. Again, she delights in taunting him with Estella's unreachable beauty. Do you feel you have lost her? she asks him, breaking into laughter. When Pip leaves Miss Havisham's, he feels more inferior, and more ashamed of his humble upbringing, than ever before.
Loitering on High Street after his visit to Satis House, Pip coincidentally encounters Mr. Wopsle, who insists that Pip go with him to Pumblechook's. There, Pip has a miserable time. On his way home that night, walking though a thick mist, Pip sees Orlick lurking discreetly by the roadside. Orlick calls attention to the guns being fired from the prison ships, warning that a convict has escaped. Pip returns home to find that his home has been broken into, supposedly by convicts, and that his sister, Mrs. Joe, has been severely beaten. Consequently, she is bed-ridden and badly brain-damaged.
A leg iron, sawed through with a file, is found at the scene of Mrs. Joe's attack. Pip is convinced that the leg iron belongs to the convict he aided in the marshes many years ago. Detectives arrive from London, but cannot discern the identity of the attacker. Mrs. Joe, now mute and severely brain-damaged, repeatedly draws the letter T on her slate, which she now must use to communicate. Biddy thinks the letter indicates Orlick's hammer, incriminating him as the attacker, but when Orlick is brought in to see Mrs. Joe, she is delighted by his presence.
Pip is preoccupied by the attack on his sister, supposedly by escaped convicts, and is especially unnerved by a single piece of evidence found in the wake of the crime: a single leg iron, the shackle filed through. Pip believes, beyond a doubt, that it is the leg iron that had belonged to his convict, the man whose escape he aided in the marshes many years before. He is also certain that the crime was committed not by unknown convicts, but by Orlick, or by the strange man who had shown him the file in the Pub some years before. Detectives from London arrive to investigate, but cannot discern the identity of the criminal.
The debilitated Mrs. Joe, now severely crippled and unable to speak, repeatedly draws the letter T on her chalk slate, perhaps, they think, to reveal her attacker. Pip surmises that she is drawing a hammer, which Biddy connects to Orlick. They call Orlick in to see Mrs. Joe, but, to their surprise, Mrs. Joe is delighted to see him, and continues to request his company almost every day.
Pip continues to despise his common work as Joe's apprentice. Biddy moves in to help care for Mrs. Joe, and Pip seems to be attracted to her. He knows she is more common than Estella, but admires her goodness. He confides in Biddy his love for Estella, yet grows jealous when Orlick makes romantic advances toward her.
Pip continues to work as Joe's apprentice in the smithy. He is ashamed by his common occupation, and utterly dissatisfied with his trade. Biddy moves into the Joe's house to help care for Mrs. Joe after her attack, and Pip notices a marked change in her. Biddy, he notes, is not an extraordinary beauty like Estella; she is common, though he finds her pleasant and wholesome and sweet-tempered. Pip admires Biddy for her tenacity and capability, and confides in her his disgust with his humble trade, and his desire to become a gentleman. As they walk together, Pip seems to find Biddy attractive, though he tells her of his heartache for Estella. Biddy discourages Pip's fancies, but is glad he took comfort in her confidence. She advises Pip to stay away from Estella, which angers him slightly. Biddy believes that Orlick is romantically interested in her, and Pip is upset by jealousy when Orlick makes advances toward her.
Chapters 14-17 emphasize Pip's acute paranoia and feelings of guilt, two essential elements of his character. He struggles inwardly, as he does for the duration of the novel, conflicted by his strong moral conscience and opposing ambitions for greatness. Other conflicts also emerge during this section, all of which are generally encompassed by the opposing forces of good and evil.
Pip is again stricken by guilt when a convict is said to have attacked Mrs. Joe, and feels largely responsible for the incident. Although it was, of course, never his intention to harm Mrs. Joe, Pip blames himself for instigating the attack, having associated with the convict , and even having provided the weapon used to strike his sister the leg irons the convict had sawed through with Pip's file, stolen from Joe's smithy.
Orlick is the physical embodiment of evil. He is massive in stature, oafish, bumbling, and unnecessarily cruel. Pip dislikes and distrusts him from the start, and, with Biddy, suspects that it is he who attacked Mrs. Joe, after she indicates him with the drawing of his hammer. Although it is not revealed until later in the novel, it was indeed Orlick who attacked Mrs. Joe with the leg irons.
Joe's tussle, in defense of the honor of Mrs. Joe, with the dastardly Orlick pits good against evil in a literal sense. Joe, who is kind, honest, and caring, represents ultimate goodness, whereas Orlick, who is sly, vicious, and cruel, represents quite the opposite. There is a distinct violence about Orlick's character, for he is loud and nasty. By contrast, Joe is quiet and careful, with a gentle presence. Joe and Orlick's fisticuffs serve as a real representation of Pip's inner struggle between good his kindness and compassion and evil his greed and self-important ambition.
Similar to the stark contrast between Orlick and Joe is that between Estella, Pip's cold-hearted beloved, and Biddy, his wholesome, caring confidant and tutor. Pip seems undoubtedly attracted to Biddy, who he sees in a new light, now that she has come to live with his family, following his sister's attack. For the first time, Pip sees Biddy as a woman. Though she does not posses Estella's extraordinary beauty, Pip finds her sweetness and honesty endearing. Despite his attraction to Biddy, he tells her of his love for Estella, who, by contrast, is neither sweet nor honest, but cruel and beautiful. Although it seems he has no intention of pursuing his attraction to Biddy (which is unspoken and understated, especially in comparison to his passion for Estella), he grows jealous and protective when Orlick makes advances toward her. Pip's reaction foreshadows forthcoming events, when, at the end of the novel, he intends to return home and marry Biddy, but finds she has married Joe.