The important plot development in the early chapters of Great Expectations occurs at the beginning of Chapter 8 with the introduction of Miss Havisham and Estella. The themes of social class, ambition, and advancement move to the forefront of the novel as Pip explores his feelings for the "very pretty and very proud" young lady. His want for self-improvement compels him to idealize Estella. Her condescension and disdain spurns Pip's desire for self-improvement as he longs to become a member of her social class and entertains fantasies of becoming a gentleman. The unfolding of this fantasy forms the basic plot of the novel, providing Dickens the opportunity to gently satirize the class system of his era and to make a point about the system's capricious nature. Though the introduction of Satis House and Miss Havisham seems to have little to with the basic plot thus far, this section abounds in mystery and foreshadowing, particularly relating to Miss Havisham's character. At this stage of the novel, Dickens does not answer questions, only raises them.
This section covers several months and details with Pip's general development from an innocent boy into an ambitious, young man. The themes of ambition and social advancement nurture this growth as Pip increasingly utilizes his ambiguous relationship with Miss Havisham as a pretext for believing that the old woman intends him to marry Estella. The consequences of Pip's intensifying social ambition deprive him of his innocence and he becomes detached from his natural, sympathetic kindness. In the early chapters of the novel, Pip sympathizes with the convict, despite the threat the man poses to his safety. Now, Pip cannot even sympathize with Joe, the most caring figure in his life. As a result of his love for Estella, Pip has come to value what Estella appears to value. Rough manners and poor clothes begin to seem out of place to the native country boy; a measure of the extent to which he has adapted to life at Miss Havisham's house during his months of regular visits. Pip's adaptation promulgates his hopes for social advancement and romantic success with Estella. With this line of thinking, the first of Pip's "great expectations" slithers into his life.
As Pip enters adolescence, Dickens gradually changes the presentation of the young man's thoughts and perceptions. As a young child, Pip's descriptions emphasized smallness and confusion. As a young man, they begin to reflect his moral and emotional turmoil. After Pip learns of his sudden fortune, his adolescent self-importance causes him to act snobbishly toward Joe and Biddy, a character flaw that Pip will demonstrate throughout Great Expectations. This poor behavior stems from the same character trait that causes Pip to covet self-advancement. A deep-seated strain of romantic idealism lies within Pip, and as soon as he can imagine something better than his current condition, he immediately desires that ideal. His romantic idealism, although inherently unrealistic, lies at the psychological center of the novel's theme of self-improvement. Pip has not yet learned to value human affection and loyalty above his immature vision of how the world ought to be. Behaving in a snobbish, aristocratic manner helps Pip to simplify the complicated, emotional situations in which he find himself as he attempts to impose his immature picture of the world on the complexities of reality.
The characterization of Jaggers further develops in Chapter Twenty as Pip observes hordes of people waiting outside of his office. Jaggers seems to be an important and powerful man and the theme of crime, guilt, and innocence becomes explored through the criminal lawyer and the characters of the convicts. The imagery of crime and criminal justice permeates the novel, developing into an important symbol of Pip's inner struggle to reconcile his own conscience with the institutional justice system....