Apr-98 Great Expectations review materials
What did Pip mean when he said, “Think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold or thorns or flowers that would
never have bound you but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.”
Why did Dickens call Ms. Havisham’s house “Satis House”? What did he want his readers to think about when
reading the name?
When Dickens has Joe say, “Lies ain’t the way to get out of being common,” what was he saying about the society that
he saw around him and about the way that a human should live?
Comment on Ms. Havisham’s statements (foreshadow) concerning the feast table of her wedding day: “This is where I
shall be laid when I am dead…Now you all know where to take your stations when you come to feast on me.”
What did Dickens means through Pip’s comment of “feeling it very strange that this first night of my bright fortunes
should be the loneliest I had ever known.”
Be able to detail Pip’s growing awareness and obsession with his great expectations, his social standing, and Estella.
What were his expectations?
Dickens goes to great lengths to detail the differences between the once-great Satis (sated = enough) House and
Wemmick’s “cottage, Walworth (wall + worth). In which location did Dickens’ sympathies reside? Why? What did
he want his Victorian readers to learn?
Don’t you find it strange that Magwitch was deported as an undesirable convict and forbidden under pain of death to
return to England only to come back as the successful Provis (Provider). What did Dickens want to say about a
nation’s utilization of the abilities of the individual? What got in the way of Victorian England’s ability to see the
worth of its whole population?
Consider that dickens has Joe provide a blessing for Pip much as a priest would when he leaves Pip’s apartments at
Barnard’s Inn. Dickens has, though this action, enlarged Joe’s character way past that of a blacksmith! How does this
view of Joe, whose ways are embarrassing to Pip, fit in with the statement from the next chapter that “All other
swindlers upon earth are nothing to the self-swindlers.”
Herbert and Pip’s own judgement indicate that Pip’s love for Estella is a dead-end street. Pip himself says, “I knew to
my sorrow often … if not always … that I loved her against reason, promise, peace, hope, happiness.” What did Pip
find in Estella to love?
What did Dickens want his readers to understand about their own lives when he had Estella say, “We have no choice …
but to obey … We are not free to follow our own devices, you and I.” Pip assumed that she spoke the truth. Did she?
By the end of the Book II, Pip has finally begun to do some good in his life, even realizing that “after all, there was no
fire like the forge fire.” Estella also indicates that she sees herself and Ms. H. very clearly. What is the incident and
how does it affect Pip?
The convict returns and, like many, feels that $ is the great leveler. He feels that he has made a gentleman of Pip. Did
he? He feels that whatever woman Pip desires, Provis can buy her. Will $ buy Estella? He feels that Pip is his son;
Pip sees not a provider but a convict to be loathed. Dickens has made Pip the butt of a cruel joke. What did Dickens
want his audiences to understand?
Pip also realizes that Ms. H, his “benefactress,” has used him as he has watched Estella use him. He is hurt but he
doesn’t hate. Why not?
Comment on the actions of this uneducated, crude convict. Indicate all actions not those of a gentleman.
What did Dickens want to say to his readers when he had Provis tell his story? What did Dickens want to say to his
readers when he had Orlick relate HIS side of the life to Pip while he had Pip tied to the stairs?
What are Pip’s obsessions now? Knowing that he cannot have Estella as his, what does he beg of her? How does he
view Provis now? How does he view his “great expectations”?
There is a saying that “As a man thinkest, so is he.” The convict says to Pip, “God bless you! You’ve never deserted
me, dear boy.” Pip says to the reader, “I could not forget that I had once meant to desert him.” According to Dickens,
which should people judge, thoughts or actions? Remember that, although the convict doesn’t ever know of Pip’s one-
time feelings for him, Pip’s conscience has quite a time coming to grips with how he should feel toward a convict.
Compare Ms. H’s statement of “You made your own snares” to “Is there nothing I can do for you yourself?” Why did
Pip go to Satis House anyway?
Which ending is more logical, the original or the published? Why?
Near the end of G.E., we have a Pip who realizes that he is “bred to no calling…fit for nothing.” What did Dickens
have to tell us with a book that had a statement and a title like those two?
Thoughts: It is often said that Joe is the only one who saw clearly and could only speak incoherently. Was
respectability a prison without walls? What were the other prisons with and without walls in this novel?
Past Test Questions
1. See “Thoughts” above and any of the questions in the Book review material.
2. Considering the “expectations” of Pip, Joe, and Magwitch, what lessons did Dickens want his readers to
understand about “living a good life”? What lessons did these characters learn and/or teach, and what evidence
leads you to your conclusions? In place of the three men, you may use the parallel characters of Estella, Biddy,
and Ms. H. Don’t forget to indicate the definition of “good life.”
3. Dickens probably felt that there were some necessary constraints to living in a civilized society, but he also dealt
extensively with the various kinds of prisons in which people can live from the physical prisons of the Hulks,
Newgate, or disabilities to the character prisons of hate, envy, or guilt, for instance. What kinds of prisons were
explored in GE and what kind of life in the novel provided the fewest prisons?
4. Discuss with Mr. Dickens his feelings about a “good and happy human.” Be sure to indicate what you feel
Dickens would say about how his “good human” would act and what you feel Dickens would have defined as