Great Expectations

A novel by Charles Dickens (1812-1870), which first appeared in All the Year Round in 1860–61, and in book form (three volumes) in 1861. While living with his abusive sister and her genial husband, the novel’s protagonist Pip Pirrip briefly encounters and assists an escaped convict, Abel Magwitch. When the boy is summoned to the mysterious Satis House by reclusive Miss Havisham, he falls in love with her cold-hearted ward, Estella. Pip aspires to social advancement, and assumes the eccentric old lady is his sponsor. Reunited with Magwitch, he becomes conscious of darkness at the heart of his supposed rise in fortunes. Great Expectations is a Bildungsroman, tracing the development of its protagonist. Ultimately Pip's values are shattered, as he reassesses the meaning of being a ‘gentleman’.

Charles Dickens
Victorian Literature
Literary period:

Related articles

Charles Dickens, Victorian Gothic and Bleak House

Article by
Greg Buzwell
London, The novel 1832 - 1880, The Gothic

Focussing on Bleak House, Charles Dickens's ninth and longest novel, Greg Buzwell explores how the novelist incorporates and evolves Gothic imagery, settings and plot devices.

The Gothic in Great Expectations

Article by
John Bowen
The novel 1832 - 1880, The Gothic

Professor John Bowen considers how Dickens uses the characters of Magwitch and Miss Havisham to incorporate elements of the Gothic in Great Expectations.

Gothic motifs

Article by
John Bowen
The Gothic, The novel 1780-1832

What does it mean to say a text is Gothic? Professor John Bowen considers some of the best-known Gothic novels of the late 18th and 19th centuries, exploring the features they have in common, including marginal places, transitional time periods and the use of fear and manipulation.

Related collection items

Related people

Related works

A Christmas Carol

Created by: Charles Dickens

A Christmas book by Charles Dickens (1812-1870), published in 1843. Dickens was prompted to write this morality tale ...

Adam Bede

Created by: George Eliot

Adam Bede is George Eliot’s first full-length novel, and embodies the realist aims she would continue to ...

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland

Created by: Lewis Carroll

This fantasy novel of 1865 was originally entitled Alice’s Adventures Under Ground. It was written by the ...

Aurora Leigh

Created by: Elizabeth Barrett Browning

Elizabeth Barrett Browning (1806-1861) completed this controversial nine-book novel in blank verse form in 1856. It ...