Great Expectations

by: Charles Dickens

Foreshadowing

Foreshadowing is used prominently in Great Expectations. Foreshadowing pairs naturally with the novel’s retrospective narration (where events from the past are described by a character looking back and reflecting upon them) and long time span. Pip narrates events from a perspective where he can see how one thing led to another, and he will often give the reader hints that something is going to be important, thereby foreshadowing later plot events. For example, after describing his first visit to Satis House, Pip pauses to reflect that “That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me.” In looking back on this event from later in his life, Pip foreshadows future events that will stem from his fateful encounter with Miss Havisham and Estella.

The Fog in the Marsh

On the day that Pip meets Magwitch the convict, “wet lay clammy and the marsh-mist was so thick.” This unpleasant weather foreshadows the frightening encounter Pip will have with the other convict, as well as the uncomfortable secret he will carry after this encounter. This bad weather also foreshadows the violent storm taking place when Magwitch shows up in London years later: “It was wretched weather, stormy and wet.”

Pip’s Encounter with the Man at the Pub

Sometime after Pip’s encounter with the convicts, he encounters a strange man at the local pub who has the file Pip gave to Magwitch. The man gives Pip money, which makes Pip very uneasy because of “the guiltily coarse and common thing it was, to be on secret terms of conspiracy with convicts.” This event foreshadows the later discovery that Magwitch has been Pip’s benefactor all along, and the horrible shame and guilt this discovery unleashes in Pip.

Miss Havisham’s Wedding Dress

Ever since she was jilted on her wedding day, Miss Havisham has been wearing her wedding dress to memorialize her heartbreak and loss. The dress foreshadows the unhappy love lives both Pip and Estella will lead. Estella ends up in an unhappy and abusive marriage, and Pip ends up unmarried. The ending hints that there may be a possibility of a happier relationship between the two of them, but only after both of them have suffered. Miss Havisham’s wedding dress foreshadows that neither of the two young people will have easy love lives ahead of them.