The novel Great Expectations is mainly about the great expectations of a boy Pip. It has been divided into three parts that describe his three stages of life and his great expectation in those three stages.
A young boy namely Pip starts the novel telling that he does not know about his parents and is living with his sister Mrs Joe (who is very harsh to him) and her husband Mr Joe who is a blacksmith.
One day while going to the cemetery of his parents, he meets a runaway convict who first assaults him and then asks him to either bring a file and a knife for him the next day or else he will be murdered.
Pip, after being allowed to go, runs away to the home where he is beaten by his sister for being late. Through the conversation with his sister in the evening, he comes to know that some convicts have run away from the prison and he at once recognises the man he met in the day as one of the convicts.
His fear increase and thus he steals some items from his home and goes back to the same place but finds another convict who runs away on seeing him.
Shortly he sees the 1st convict and giving him his required items, he also gives him food and wine which he at once gulps as being very hungry. Pip comes back and is quite sure that his robbery will be exposed soon.
In the evening of Christmas, a number of guests come to Joe’s house who somehow taunt Pip in different ways. Police come adding to Pip’s fear. However, the purpose of the coming of Police is to take Joe to repair some locks.
Soon both the convicts are also arrested by Police. There a quarrel also starts between the two convicts. The 1st convict instead of accusing Pip of stealing things takes the charge himself. Pip is saved.
Pip desires to tell the truth about the robbery to Joe but cannot do so because he fears that he will lose Joe’s trust for eternity. They come back.
Pip who desires to become a gentleman (his great expectations) tries to jot some sentences down on a page with a number of mistakes. Seeing his written letter, Joe becomes very happy with him.
While talking to him Joe narrates his own story. He tells that his father used to beat his mother and they ran away from home many times but were brought back every time. The result was that he could not get a proper education.
He did not want to repeat the habits of his father. This made Joe remain calm towards his wife. Pip is quite impressed by him and starts loving and respecting him more.
Mrs Joe announces that Pip will go to Miss Havisham and the next day he departs for Satis House with Pumblechook, where Mrs Havisham lives. There he meets Estella. Soon he learns that he has been called there to work as a labour boy. One night he sees Miss Havisham in a dark place and when he goes near to her, she vanishes. He is quite frightened by the incident.
Pip comes back and questions are bombarded upon him by his sister. He keeps silent and is severely beaten. Later he tells Joe everything in a private place.
Pip’s mind remains occupied by Estella’s rude behaviour (who considers him to be of low status). Hence he goes to his friend Biddy requesting her to make him a gentleman.
Through their conversation, they reveal the education system that was in their society. The educational courses, that were by name only, were held at Mr Wopsle’s great aunt’s residence.
The condition of her house was worse and the students wasted the whole day doing nothing. After meeting Biddy, Pip, on the order of his sister, goes to the Inn to see Joe, who often visits that place. There he meets a stranger who gives him money. On the way back, Pip’s sister takes away all the money.
Pip goes to Havisham’s residence where her birthday is being celebrated. The visitors ask him a number of questions. Later on, he meets a young pale boy (Herbert) who challenges him to a fight. Pip remains victorious in all the fights yet the boy does not accept defeat several times.
Pip meets Estella and when she says, “Come you! You may kiss me if you like.” he kisses her cheeks, but he does not enjoy it at all. After visiting his sister’s house, Pip is told by Havisham that he is grown up and should choose a profession now. She also asks him to bring his family to her house.
Mr and Mrs Joe come accordingly along with Pumblechook. Havisham appreciates Pip very much in front of Joe and gives him a reward of five and twenty guineas.
In the evening they all go for a party as the amount paid by Havisham to Pip is considerably high. Pip is taunted as usual that makes him quite restless. He also hates the profession of Joe but has no choice.
There is a tremendous change in the behaviour of Pip. He starts feeling ashamed of his status and the thoughts of being taunted by Estella often haunts him.
Pip desires to see Estella and asks Joe for a half-holiday. Seeing him the other worker, Orlick also starts asking for a holiday. Mrs Joe strongly opposes this and is strongly abused by Orlick.
Joe does nothing and ultimately grants both of them leave. Pip goes to see Estella but does not find her there. On the way back, he meets Wopsle and Pumblechook. A little later Orlick also joins them. They find the bar in which Joe used to come, in a ruined condition.
When Pip returns back, he finds his sister badly wounded. Pip fears after recalling the incident with the convicts and suspects that they must have attacked his sister. Mrs Joe shows a little bit of improvement.
She can draw a symbol similar to ’T’ the meaning of which Pip fails to understand. However, Biddy succeeds to understand the mystery of this symbol and brings Orlick, whose appearance pleases Mrs Joe a lot.
Pip goes on a walk with Biddy and expresses his love for Estella, but she does not like it. Though Pip does not love Biddy yet he feels jealous after knowing that Orlick likes her.
Once, while having a drink with Joe he meets a lawyer namely Jaggers who follow them to their home and announces that some person (he keeps his identity secret) has left a large fortune for Pip in London and asks him to accept it.
Joe and Biddy do not like it. However, Pip feels that doors of opportunities have opened for him. Jaggers also give him some money to buy good attire. Pip starts purchasing all the necessary items.
Whenever he tells about his fortune, he is treated like a king. The day of departure comes and he boards the coach that takes him to England. On the way, his mind is occupied with grief (of losing Joe and Biddy) and hope (of London).