Great Expectations

by: Charles Dickens

Suggested Essay Topics

1. What significance does the novel’s title, Great Expectations, have for the story? In what ways does Pip have “great expectations”?

2. For much of Great Expectations, Pip seems to believe in a stark division between good and evil, and he tends to classify people and situations as belonging to one extreme or the other: for instance, despite their respective complexities, he believes that Estella is good and the convict is evil. Yet, both socially and morally, Pip himself is often caught between extremes; his own situation rarely matches up to his moral vision. What is the role of moral extremes in this novel? What does it mean to be ambiguous or caught between extremes?

3. Discuss the character of Miss Havisham. What themes does she embody? What experiences have made her as she is? Is she a believable character? How does she relate to Pip and Estella?

4. Think about the novel’s two endings—the “official” version, in which Pip and Estella are reunited in the garden, and the earlier version, in which they merely speak briefly on the street and go their separate ways. Which version do you prefer? Which version seems more true to the thematic development of the novel? Why?