By: Charles Dickens
Date of Publication 1861 ( In book form )
Pip - The protagonist and narrator of Great Expectations, Pip begins the story as a young orphan boy being raised by his sister and brother-in-law in the marsh country of Kent, in the southeast of England. Pip is passionate, romantic, and somewhat unrealistic at heart, and he tends to expect more for himself than is reasonable. Pip also has a powerful conscience, and he deeply wants to improve himself, both morally and socially. Read an in-depth analysis of Pip.
Estella - Miss Havisham’s beautiful young ward, Estella is Pip’s unattainable dream throughout the novel. He loves her passionately, but, though she sometimes seems to consider him a friend, she is usually cold, cruel, and uninterested in him. As they grow up together, she repeatedly warns him that she has no heart. Read an in-depth analysis of Estella.
Miss Havisham - Miss Havisham is the wealthy, eccentric old woman who lives in a manor called Satis House near Pip’s village. She is manic and often seems insane, flitting around her house in a faded wedding dress, keeping a decaying feast on her table, and surrounding herself with clocks stopped at twenty minutes to nine. As a young woman, Miss Havisham was jilted by her fiancé minutes before her wedding, and now she has a vendetta against all men. She deliberately raises Estella to be the tool of her revenge, training her beautiful ward to break men’s hearts.
Abel Magwitch (“The Convict”) - A fearsome criminal, Magwitch escapes from prison at the beginning of Great Expectations and terrorizes Pip in the cemetery. Pip’s kindness, however, makes a deep impression on him, and he subsequently devotes himself to making a fortune and using it to elevate Pip into a higher social class. Behind the scenes, he becomes Pip’s secret benefactor, funding Pip’s education and opulent lifestyle in London through the lawyer Jaggers.
Joe Gargery - Pip’s brother-in-law, the village blacksmith, Joe stays with his overbearing, abusive wife—known as Mrs. Joe—solely out of love for Pip. Joe’s quiet goodness makes him one of the few completely sympathetic characters in Great Expectations. Although he is uneducated and unrefined, he consistently acts for the benefit of those he loves and suffers in silence when Pip treats him coldly.
Jaggers - The powerful, foreboding lawyer hired by Magwitch to supervise Pip’s elevation to the upper class. As one of the most important criminal lawyers in London, Jaggers is privy to some dirty business; he consorts with vicious criminals, and even they are terrified of him. But there is more to Jaggers than his impenetrable exterior. He often seems to care for Pip, and before the novel begins he helps Miss Havisham to adopt the orphaned Estella. Jaggers smells strongly of soap: he washes his hands obsessively as a psychological mech-anism to keep the criminal taint from corrupting him.
Herbert Pocket - Pip first meets Herbert Pocket in the garden of Satis House, when, as a pale young gentleman, Herbert challenges him to a fight. Years later, they meet again in London, and Herbert becomes Pip’s best friend and key companion after Pip’s elevation to the status of gentleman. Herbert nicknames Pip “Handel.” He is the son of Matthew Pocket, Miss Havisham’s cousin, and hopes to become a merchant so that he can afford to marry Clara Barley.
Wemmick - Jaggers’s clerk and Pip’s friend, Wemmick is one of the strangest characters in Great Expectations. At work, he is hard, cynical, sarcastic, and obsessed with “portable property”; at home in Walworth, he is jovial, wry, and a tender caretaker of his “Aged Parent.”
Biddy - A simple, kindhearted country girl, Biddy first befriends Pip when they attend school together. After Mrs. Joe is attacked and becomes an invalid, Biddy moves into Pip’s home to care for her. Throughout most of the novel, Biddy represents the opposite of Estella; she is plain,...
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