Study Questions & Essay Topics
1. Discuss Pip as both a narrator and a character. How are different aspects of his personality revealed by his telling of his story and by his participation in the story itself?
2. What role does social class play in Great Expectations? What lessons does Pip learn from his experience as a wealthy gentleman? How is the theme of social class central to the novel?
3. Throughout the novel, Pip is plagued by powerful feelings of guilt and shame, and everywhere he goes he tends to encounter symbols of justice—handcuffs, gallows, prisons, and courtrooms. What is the role of guilt in the novel? What does it mean to be “innocent”?
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?
by mdd07c, September 16, 2012
So do Pip and Estella end up marrying each other? The language seems ambiguous and there is no mention of whether they do or not in this sparknotes!
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by shoomate, September 18, 2012
In the original ending, they did not get together. Estella got remarried after Dummle died, and thought Joe and Biddy's son was Pip's son, and Pip didn't correct her. In the second and final ending, Estella and Pip reunite in the garden, and it says "there was no shadow of another parting from her", basically meaning they got together. It doesn't tell the reader 100% that they got married or anything, but it is highly likely they did in this ending.
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