Headstrong, persevering, constant, these three words describe Philip Pirrip or Pip, the star protagonist of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations. In the story, Pip, an orphan, is determined to become a gentleman and win the heart of childhood playmate Estella. As a character, Pip’s most significant characteristics are his juvenile romanticism and his surprisingly convicting conscience. In Great Expectations Pip not only plays the main character, but he also takes the role of narrator. Throughout the book, Pip relates his life through his own eyes, from adolescence to adulthood.
Pip was born into the middle class of society, and was brought up by his older sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery, because his parents died before he could remember. Though his sister was unkind, her husband Joe Gargery was a genuine friend to young Pip. One Christmas Eve, while visiting his parent’s graves, Pip runs into an escaped convict. The criminal threatens to slit his throat if Pip does not bring him food and a file for his leg chains. Pip does as he was told and steals the desired objects from his sister. Soon after, the villain is captured. Astonishingly, this man did not turn Pip in for theft, but claimed to have stolen the items himself.
Soon after, Pip meets Miss Havisham and her adopted daughter Estella. Havisham was an odd old woman who “wore an old wedding dress everywhere she went and kept all the clocks in her house stopped at the same time (sparknotes.com).” She adopted Estella to comfort her in her loneliness. Pip thinks that Estella is insulting, but gorgeous. Nonetheless, Pip falls in love with Estella and dreams of being a gentleman. Not long after, Miss Havisham’s lawyer, Mr. Jaggers, brings Pip surprising news, Pip has inherited a fortune and must travel to London to become a gentleman. Pip assumes that his benefactor is Miss Havisham, and believes she intends to marry him to Estella.
While in London, Pip befriends a young man named Herbert Pocket and they become close friends. Pip’s life in London is eventful, and Pip is soon bursting with debts. On his 21st birthday, Jaggers gives Pip a 500-pound annual allowance and tells Pip that his benefactor will soon reveal himself. Pip decides to use his money to help Herbert secure a job. He then discovers that his anonymous benefactor is the convict he met as a child! His name is Abel Magwitch. He had been exiled to New South Wales long ago under strict orders never to return to England. After much meditating, Pip decides to get Magwitch out of the country.
Just before their escape, Estella marries a man Pip dislikes and Pip learns that Estella is Magwitch’s long lost daughter. Unfortunately, in the midst of their escape, they were caught and Magwitch is sentenced to death. The day of his execution Pip comforts Magwitch by telling him that Estella, the daughter he thought dead, was alive and had become a gorgeous lady. Soon after, Pip becomes ill and his brother-in-law Joe travels to London to nurse him. Pip realizes what a true friend Joe is and how he threw that friendship away. Pip enjoyed spending time with Joe and wants him to stay, but Joe does…