Great Expectations: Pip Quotes

Instructor: Terri Beth Miller

Terri Beth has taught college writing and literature courses since 2005 and has a PhD in literature.

Charles Dickens' 'Great Expectations' tells the story of Pip, a poor orphan boy who desires to be a gentleman worthy of the love of the rich and beautiful Estella. This lesson will focus on Pip and some of his important quotes from the novel.

The Future is (Not So) Bright: Pip's Great Expectations

Do you remember when you were young and your parents embarrassed you, really embarrassed you, for the first time? Or maybe that moment when you realized the house you were raised in doesn't quite measure up?

That's precisely how Pip, the protagonist, or lead character of Charles Dickens' 1861 masterpiece Great Expectations feels. Pip is a poor orphan who has been raised by his sister and her husband, Joe Gargery, a blacksmith. Joe is an honest, kind man and loves Pip like his own son.

But Joe is from the wrong side of the tracks and that's where he is raising Pip--in a ramshackle home and hard-scrabble circumstances. However, Pip dreams of the finer things in life. He yearns for a gentleman's education and for a posh life and illustrious career. Only when he has those can he hope to win the prize he truly wants: the hand of the rich and beautiful Estella.

Charles Dickens

Growing Up is Hard to Do: Pip's Life Lessons

Pip's ambitions are extraordinary because he grew up in Victorian England, named for the period between 1837 and 1901 when Queen Victoria reigned. In this period, how and where you were born was foremost in determining your life path. There was not a lot of social mobility, and especially very little upward mobility.

So if you were born rich, you were likely to stay rich and was generally the same deal if you were born poor, but Pip is not an ordinary boy. This novel is a bildungsroman, or novel that follows the protagonist's story from childhood into adulthood, and it reveals the slow, painful process through which Pip pursues his 'great expectations'

The Shame of Home

More than anything, Pip wants to stop being embarrassed about who he is and where he came from. Early in the novel, Pip says, 'It is a most miserable thing to feel ashamed of home. There may be black ingratitude in the thing, and the punishment may be retributive and well deserved;'

Pip recognizes that he is ungrateful and undeserving of the love that Joe has given him. But Pip can't stop himself from wanting more. Worse, he can't deny that his connection with his home and family is a source of shame, especially around the refined and educated Estella.

Pip and Joe at Home

The Knight in Shining Armor

When a boy is ashamed of home, as Pip is, it's not unusual for him to escape into a world of fantasy.

Pip is ripe for the picking, then, when Estella and her sinister guardian, Miss Havisham, decide to play him. Miss Havisham, who was left at the altar as a young bride, has a grudge against all men and selects Pip as a target for revenge. She orchestrates a plan in which the young Pip will fall for Estella with the intent of watching as Estella, time and again, breaks his heart.

Miss Havisham instills a fantasy in Pip's impressionable young mind. Pip says, 'She reserved it for me to restore the desolate house, admit the sunshine into the dark rooms, set the clocks a going and the cold hearths a blazing, tear down the cobwebs, destroy the vermin--in short, do all the shining deeds of the young Knight of romance, and marry the Princess.'

It's quite a long time before Pip realizes that he's been destructively chasing a dream. He says, 'All other swindlers upon earth are nothing to the self-swindlers, and with such pretences did I cheat myself.' Yes, Miss Havisham is a bitter old woman; yes, Estella is a cunning and cruel girl. But Pip walked happily into their trap and pursued their game willingly to the end because he wanted better. Only many years later, after Pip and Estella both endure hardships that make them wiser and kinder, are they able to come together, not as fairy tale figures, but as real, flawed, and newly humbled human beings.

Love at First Sight for Pip

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