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.
Joe visits Pip in London. Although Pip is eager to see Joe, he dreads his visit, fearing that Joe will expose his humble history and draw criticism from his peers, namely the unsavory Drummle . Joe's visit is awkward, Joe acting formally, and Pip treating Joe with disdain. Joe tells Pip that Estella has returned to Satis House and wishes to see him, then departs. Pip feels guilty for treating Joe harshly, but it is too late to apologize.
Pip receives a letter from Biddy , informing him that Joe will soon come to London. He anxiously awaits Joe's arrival, fearing that Drummle will berate him and his humble background. Joe's meeting with Pip at Barnard Inn is awkward, uncomfortable for both men. Joe tells Pip nothing has changed at home, except that Wopsle has left the church to become an actor in London. Pip is impatient with Joe, particularly because Joe addresses him formally, as Sir. Pip continues to act irritably until Joe mentions that Estella has returned to Satis House and wishes to see him. Just as Joe leaves, Pip feels remorse for treating Joe so harshly, and for being ashamed of their relation. As he goes, Pip realizes that Joe possesses a simple dignity.
The next day, Pip goes to see Estella at Satis House. Coincidentally, he must travel home in the same coach with two convicts, one of whom he recognizes as the man who gave him money in the pub many years ago. Pip is overcome with terror as he listens to the man tell this story to the other convict, revealing that the convict in the marshes, who Pip had aided, had requested the man deliver the money to Pip. In town, Pip reads in a newspaper that Pumblechook is taking credit for his rise in social status.
Pip goes home the next day to see Estella at Satis House, and to make amends with Joe for his rude behavior during his visit to London. Coincidentally, he must travel home in a coach with two convicts, one of whom he recognizes as the mysterious man who gave him money in the pub many years before. Though the man sits just behind him, breathing down his neck, the man does not recognize Pip, who tries his best to hide from view. Pip overhears the man relate the story of how he had given the boy, young Pip, two one pound notes in the pub, and that the money was delivered by request of the convict who Pip had helped in the marshes. Pip is filled with dread upon hearing this, and disembarks the coach as soon as it enters town. He goes to his hotel, and discovers, while reading a newspaper over dinner, that Pumblechook has taken credit as Pip's earliest patron and founder of [his] fortunes.
Pip is upset to find Orlick manning the gate at Satis House. He is stunned upon seeing Estella, who is even more beautiful as a young woman than she was as a girl. Miss Havisham taunts Pip, pestering his desire for Estella, urging him to Love her! He and Estella stroll through the garden, and Estella tells reminds him that her heart is cold. Pip is upset by her admission, but refuses to believe her. He feels inadequate and clumsy in her presence. Jaggers joins them for dinner and further intimidates Pip.
Pip wakes early the next day, excited to see Estella. On his way to Satis House, he imagines himself a knight, on a mission to rescue a beautiful Princess, Estella. He is surprised, and somewhat disturbed, to find Orlick serving as the porter at Miss Havisham's gate. Pip is speechless upon seeing Estella, who is utterly composed and more beautiful than ever. Miss Havisham taunts Pip, as she did when he was a boy, urging on his passion for Estella, who reminds him that she has no heart. Repeatedly, Miss Havisham shouts at Pip, Love her, love her! Despite his newfound fortune, Pip feels grossly inadequate in Estella's presence, and becomes clumsy and inarticulate. Pip and Estella stroll through the garden, which is lush with blooms, where she reminds him of her unfeeling heart. Pip is disturbed by her admissions, but refuses to believe them. He thinks that Estella reminds him of someone, though he cannot remember who. Jaggers joins them for dinner, which feels tense and awkward. Pip is uncomfortable in Jaggers' intimidating presence. That night, Pip declares his love for Estella by shouting it into his pillow, and wonders when he shall awaken the feeling in her heart.
Jaggers fires Orlick from his post as Miss Havisham's porter after Pip divulges the man's murky history. As Pip walks in the street, the tailor's apprentice mocks him, and he leaves London feeling downtrodden and disgraced. In London, Herbert attempts to comfort Pip, but cautions that although Miss Havisham may be his benefactor, she has not intended Estella for him. Herbert reveals that he is also in love, but that he cannot marry his fianc because he is too poor.
Pip tells Jaggers that he does not think Orlick a trustworthy enough man to serve as Miss Havisham's porter, and explains Orlick's murky history. Consequently, Jaggers fires Orlick from the job. As he walks the street through town, the tailor's apprentice mocks Pip, and he leaves for London feeling downtrodden and disgraced. Back in the city, Herbert tries to comfort Pip, but impresses upon him that although Miss Havisham may be his secret benefactor, she does not intend for him to marry Estella. He urges Pip to detach himself from Estella and his obsession with her, but Pip claims that would be impossible. Herbert tells Pip that he is also in love. He is engaged to a woman named Clara , but is too poor to marry her. Pip finds the playbill Joe had given to him on his visit, which features Wopsle's play, which is being performed that evening. Pip and Herbert resolve to see the show, a performance of Hamlet.
Pip and Herbert see Woplse perform in a laughable rendition of Shakespeare's Hamlet, and go out to dinner with him after the show. Pip is still miserable after his visit to Satis House, and is overwhelmed by thoughts of Estella.
Pip and Herbert see Wopsle play Hamlet in a laughable rendition of the revered Shakespearian play. Without success, Pip tries to avoid Wopsle after the show, but goes to dinner with him upon Wopsle's request. Still miserable after his visit to Satis House, Pip is overwhelmed by thoughts of Estella, and has nightmares his expectations were all cancelled.
Pip receives a note from Estella, which asks that he pick her up at the train station in London the next day. Eager to see Estella, he arrives early and sees Wemmick , who takes him on a tour of Newgate prison, which Pip finds dank and depressing.
Pip receives a note from Estella, which asks that he pick her up at the train station in London the next day. Eager to see Estella, he arrives at the station very early. There, he sees Wemmick, who takes him on a tour of Newgate prison, which Pip finds dank and depressing. The eery atmosphere of the prison adds to Pip's mounting anxiety. Wemmick, however, seems oddly comfortable, and introduces Pip to a man sentenced to be hanged. Estella arrives at the station, and waves at Pip from her coach window.
Pip escorts Estella to Richmond, where she is staying, and though she treats him with disdain, is thrilled when Estella mentions the orders she and Pip must follow. Pip interprets this remark as a reference to their destiny, that they are intended for one another.
Pip finds Estella more beautiful than ever as she steps from the coach in her traveling dress. She demands that Pip to take her to Richmond, where she is staying, and refers to the orders they must follow, saying we are not free to follow our own devices. This remark reignites Pip's hope that they are destined to be married, intended for one another by Miss Havisham. Estella treats Pip with disdain, and tortures him with her cruel flirtations. Pip, his heart aching, returns to the Pockets' home in Hammersmith after he has escorted Estella to Richmond
As Pip and Herbert calculate the debts they have accrued, a letter arrives announcing Mrs. Joe's death.
Pip is harangued with guilt for feeling superior to Joe and Biddy, and for treating them with such condescension. He also feels guilty for spending his inheritance so carelessly, and for his bad influence on Herbert. As he and Herbert try to calculate their debts, Pip receives a letter notifying him of Mrs. Joe's death.
Pip is surprised by the sorrow he feels at his sister's death, and goes home for the funeral. He promises to return home often, but Biddy doubts his good intentions will be realized. Pip is hurt by her skepticism, but leaves intending to fulfill his promise.
Pip is deeply upset by his sister's death, and is surprised his own feelings of loss and sorrow. He goes home for the funeral, and tries to rekindle the trust and closeness he once had in his relationships with Biddy and Joe. Pumblechook irks Pip with his disingenuine friendliness and compliments. Pip talks with Biddy about his intentions to visit Joe more often, but Biddy doubts the truthfulness of Pip's promise. Pip feels hurt by Biddy's skepticism, but leaves intending to fulfill his promise.
This section of the novel calls attention to Pip's difficult transition from a poor country boy to a wealthy urban gentleman. Although his greatest boyhood expectation (to become a gentleman) has been realized, it is not as simple or glorious in actuality as it was in Pip's rosy imagination.
Despite his improved status, Estella still treats Pip as cruelly as she did when he was merely a poor orphan. Estella's continued condescension of Pip in the wake of his social improvement hints that Pip will always struggle, unsuccessfully, to attain Estella, and that he is not intended for her, as he hopefully believes (though it is an unfounded belief). Back in the small marsh town of his birth, Pip is treated just as he was before he inherited his fortune. The final insult to his already injured pride comes when Trabb, the tailor's boy, taunts him as he walks the street after his unsuccessful visit to Satis House. Pip's excursion home to apologize to Joe and visit Satis House is, overall, disheartening, and, ironically, Pip leaves feeling more humiliated and ashamed of himself than ever before.
Dickens intends Mr. Wopsle's bizarre transformation from clergyman to actor as a comical parody to Pip's own awkward transformation from pauper to prince. The purpose of Chapter 31 is to mirror Pip's feelings of shame and discomfort with Wemmick's laughable performance in Shakespeare's Hamlet. Pip feels equally absurd in his role as a gentleman as Wemmick looks onstage in a ridiculous costume.
Pip's sudden fortune has not only changed him from a pauper to a gentleman, but has changed his character from compassionate to cruel and condescending. Suddenly, he has adopted the characteristics in Estella which she uses to torment his aching heart. This change in Pip is best evidenced in Chapter 27 by his awkward visit with Joe, who comes to London to visit Pip at his residence. Pip dreads Joe's visit as soon as he receives notification from Biddy; I should have liked to run away, he says. Pip thinks that if he could have, he would have paid Joe to keep away from him, emphasizing the powerfulness and superiority Pip feels over Joe now that he possesses wealth. Throughout Joe's visit, Pip treats him with thinly-veiled hostility. He is irritated and distant, paranoid that his association with Joe, a poor blacksmith, will tarnish his budding reputation as a gentleman. Joe, though he is never unkind, also holds Pip at a new distance, referring to him formally as Sir, a reference which further irritates Pip.
As Joe departs, Pip suddenly recalls that Joe's unparalleled kindness, and is stricken with guilt for treating him so poorly. Pip's guilt is compounded by the death of his sister in Chapter 35, whom he grieves for more than he had anticipated he would. Although her death is expected, given her long illness, Pip is somewhat surprised by it, and realizes at the funeral how much of his success he owes to Joe and Biddy, who raised him.