Essay Plan: How does Dickens explore Pip’s characterisation throughout ‘Great Expectations’?

Link to previous work and extracts on:

  • Young Pip
  • Transition points: Pip begins his journey as a gentleman
  • London and Pip’s new life
  • Returning to the Forge & Satis House
  • Cyclical plot structure – back to the marshes and young Pip. Reconciliation and resolution.
  • Revise use of serialisation in the novel for effect.


  1. Start with the introduction to Pip: Chapter 1-6. Consider the use of pathetic fallacy to highlight Pip’s fears. Use examples of Magwitch, Pumblechook and Mrs Joe’s speech towards Pip. Stretch and Challenge: How does Pip’s vivid imagination come into play and how is this reinforced later on in the book?


  1. Chapter 8: Pip meets with Miss Havisham. How is the weather described? How does this represent Pip’s emotions? How does this spark interest in the reader?

“To be sure it was a deserted place… no pigeons in the dovecot, no horses in the stable, no pigs in the sty, no malt in the store-house, no smells of grains and beer in the copper or the vat… In a by-yard, there was a wilderness of empty casks.”

How is the setting used: Ruined; deserted; bereft; a place of death, ghosts and decay; the setting directly reflects its owner: an empty shell, devoid of life. Compare and contrast Pip’s reaction to both the initial Chapters; Chapter 8 and his later reactions in the book. He has grown up much more.


  1. Chapter 19: Pip leaves for London and undergoes change. How is the structure important? How does this represent Pip’s emotions? How does this spark interest in the reader? Include Mr Trabb’s shop scene as well as his internal thoughts with regards to the low marshes and the bleak existence of those who live there.


  1. Stretch and Challenge: Chapter 39: Magwitch reveals himself. How is the structure important? How does this represent Pip’s emotions? How does this spark interest in the reader? Link to the Victorian Gothic genre and serialisation for impact.


  1. Chapter 49: Pip’s reactions to discovering Estella is married. Consider how Pip develops and changes OR does he in fact remain the same young boy desperately in love with Estella?


  1. Chapter 49: Fire at Satis House. How is the structure important? How does this represent Pip’s emotions? How does this spark interest in the reader? Miss Havisham apologises and is set on fire. The fire and Miss Havisham’s burning, is this symbolic of her guilt? Pathetic Fallacy? Is her setting alight a symbolic of her being freed from not only her guilt but her hatred and her past? A phoenix rising from the ashes. How does this set Pip free from his childhood to some extent?


  1. Resolution and Pip’s maturity: in the culmination of the Bildungsroman Pip develops a morality, maturity and a better sense of self as he begins to accept himself and therefore be accepted by others including Estella. Chapter 57: Pip’s introspection about his earlier treatment of Joe Gargery, reinforcing the cyclical structure of the novel as he returns to an innocent cared for and protected by Joe. Pip’s retrospective thoughts dwell upon his own cruelty as a result of his prosperity.


“My penitent remonstrance with him and there to relieve my mind and heart of that…the purpose was, that I go to Biddy, that would show her how humbled and repentant I came back, that I would tell her how I had lost all I once hoped for, that I would remind her of our old confidences in my first unhappy time.”

“If you can like me only half as well once more, if you can take me with all my faults and disappointments on my head, if you can receive me like a forgiven child.. I hope I am a little worthier of you than I was”


  1. Stretch and Challenge: Chapter 59 Cyclical structure and a poetic ending as Pip meets Joe and Biddy’s child whom they have named after him. They return to the grave of his parents as in Chapter 1 with a sense of completion and acceptance. This is mirrored in Pip’s final meeting with Estella:

“I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape. Be as considerate and good to me as you were, and tell me we are friends”





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