protagonist and narrator of Great Expectations,
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.
in-depth analysis of Pip.
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.
in-depth analysis of Estella.
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
in-depth analysis of Miss Havisham.
Abel Magwitch (“The Convict”)
- A fearsome criminal, Magwitch escapes from prison
at the beginning of Great Expectations
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
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,
kind, moral, and of Pip’s own social class.
day laborer in Joe’s forge, Orlick is a slouching, oafish embodiment
of evil. He is malicious and shrewd, hurting people simply because
he enjoys it. He is responsible for the attack on Mrs. Joe, and
he later almost succeeds in his attempt to murder Pip.
sister and Joe’s wife, known only as “Mrs. Joe” throughout the novel.
Mrs. Joe is a stern and overbearing figure to both Pip and Joe.
She keeps a spotless household and frequently menaces her husband
and her brother with her cane, which she calls “Tickler.” She also
forces them to drink a foul-tasting concoction called tar-water.
Mrs. Joe is petty and ambitious; her fondest wish is to be something
more than what she is, the wife of the village blacksmith.
- Pip’s pompous, arrogant uncle. (He is actually Joe’s
uncle and, therefore, Pip’s “uncle-in-law,” but Pip and his sister
both call him “Uncle Pumblechook.”) A merchant obsessed with money, Pumblechook
is responsible for arranging Pip’s first meeting with Miss Havisham.
Throughout the rest of the novel, he will shamelessly take credit
for Pip’s rise in social status, even though he has nothing to do
with it, since Magwitch, not Miss Havisham, is Pip’s secret benefactor.
criminal and the former partner of Magwitch, Compeyson is an educated,
gentlemanly outlaw who contrasts sharply with the coarse and uneducated Magwitch.
Compeyson is responsible for Magwitch’s capture at the end of the
novel. He is also the man who jilted Miss Havisham on her wedding
- An oafish, unpleasant young man who attends tutoring
sessions with Pip at the Pockets’ house, Drummle is a minor member
of the nobility, and the sense of superiority this gives him makes
him feel justified in acting cruelly and harshly toward everyone around
him. Drummle eventually marries Estella, to Pip’s chagrin; she is
miserable in their marriage and reunites with Pip after Drummle
dies some eleven years later.
housekeeper. In Chapter 48
, Pip realizes
that she is Estella’s mother.
church clerk in Pip’s country town; Mr. Wopsle’s aunt is the local
schoolteacher. Sometime after Pip becomes a gentleman, Mr. Wopsle
moves to London and becomes an actor.
friend of Pip’s and Herbert’s. Startop is a delicate young man who,
with Pip and Drummle, takes tutelage with Matthew Pocket. Later,
Startop helps Pip and Herbert with Magwitch’s escape.
beloved, and eventual wife.