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similar sentence finishes Chapter 39, indicating the end of Pip's second stage. ... keeps Pip devoted to her until the end, loving her, as he says, "against reason, ...

Name DISCUSSION QUESTIONS Great Expectations 1.

In this novel, Great Expectations, things are often not what they seem. Discuss how the theme of "expectations" is illustrated by and through the various major characters in this book. How are Pip's expectations different and similar from those of Joe, Miss Havisham, Estella, Magwitch? In addition, at the end of Chapter 19, we find the following capitalized sentence: THIS IS THE END OF THE FIRST STAGE OF PIP’S EXPECTATIONS. A similar sentence finishes Chapter 39, indicating the end of Pip’s second stage. What do you think these statements refer to? Discuss the overall meaning of the title, Great Expectations.


Why do you think Miss Havisham manipulates and misleads Pip into thinking she is his secret benefactor? What, if anything, does she derive from this action?

3. Analyze Pip and Estella’s relationship. What drives each of them to continue it over the years? In your opinion, who in the relationship is the greater victim? Given Dickens's portrayal of Estella, what do you think attracts Pip to her in the first place and what, when he learns of her cold-blooded manipulation of men such as her husband, keeps Pip devoted to her until the end, loving her, as he says, "against reason, against promise, against peace?"

4. What do you think makes Pip change his opinion of his benefactor Magwitch from one of initial repugnance to one of deep and abiding respect and love?


Discuss your view of Pip both as the narrator and as a character. Do you find his struggles compelling and forgiveable? Do you think he is completely honest with us as readers? Explain.

6. The definition of a Victorian gentleman would be a man who had a traditional liberal education, was affluent, and was a member of the upper classes of society. Discuss the idea of a “gentleman” with regards to Great Expectations? Do these characteristics fit the “gentlemen” in the novel? Think of the male characters in the novel. Who are the “gentlemen”? How does this idea of a “gentleman” relate to Pip?

7. What do you think are the main themes of Great Expectations? Use the following questions to help you determine 5 major themes of the novel. List the themes at the end of this section, with some notes indicating how Dicken’s develops each theme in the novel. In the final chapter Estella says to Pip: "Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching." Discuss the theme of suffering in this book—specifically how it instructs Pip, Miss Havisham, and Estella.

How are social class differences used by Dickens in Great Expectations? That is, how do you think Dickens viewed disparities in social class and, specifically, how does he impart his message through the novel?

What do you think Dicken’s is saying about the following ideas: gratitude, obsession, prejudice, greed, envy, loneliness.

4. Dickens, like most Victorians, subscribed to the bourgeois construction of femininity and domesticity. He, like most Victorians, imagined men and women as having different, yet complementary, natures. The place where these two natures come together most "naturally" is, of course, the bourgeois home. "This idea of virtuous womanhood as possessed of innate,God-given powers to uplift, regenerate and redeem, which is so ubiquitous in Dickens's writing, is inextricably bound up with his celebrated idealization of the domestic. It is always in terms of personal relationships, especially within a family grouping, that woman, for him as for most Victorians, realized her full moral and spiritual potential."

Based on these characteristics of a Victorian woman, analyze the women in Great Expectations. Do any of the women fit this description? Why or why not? Who in the novel does fit this description? What is Pip’s knowledge of a women? What might be his expectations as to women’s behavior? How does this perception affect the outcome of his relationships with women?

6. In your opinion, what ultimately causes Pip to reconcile with his family–go back to his roots, so to speak?

7. Analyze the major characters of the novel? What is their main function or purpose in the novel? Contrast? Plot development? Humor? Representation of a particular idea?

Mrs. Joe Gargary:




Mr. Wopsle:


Miss Havisham: