As concluded in the last week, here is Part II which deals with the characters and their characteristics in Charles Dickens famous GREAT EXPECTATIONS and then general remarks on the topic.
Pip and his family]
Philip Pirrip, nicknamed Pip, an orphan and the protagonist and narrator of Great Expectations. In his childhood, Pip dreamed of becoming a blacksmith like his kind brother-in-law, Joe Gargery. At Satis House, about age 8, he meets and falls in love with Estella, and tells Biddy that he wants to become a gentleman. As a result of Magwitch’s anonymous patronage, Pip lives in London and becomes a gentleman. Pip assumes his benefactor is Miss Havisham; the discovery that his true benefactor is a convict shocks him.
Joe Gargery, Pip’s brother-in-law, and his first father figure. He is a blacksmith who is always kind to Pip and the only person with whom Pip is always honest. Joe is disappointed when Pip decides to leave his home to live in London to become a gentleman rather than be a blacksmith in business with Joe. He is a strong man who bears the shortcomings of those closest to him.
Mrs Joe Gargery, Pip’s hot-tempered adult sister, Georgiana Maria, called Mrs Joe, 20 years older than Pip. She brings him up after their parents’ death. She does the work of the household but too often loses her temper. Orlick, her husband’s journeyman, attacks her, and she is left disabled until her death.
Mr Pumblechook, Joe Gargery’s uncle, an officious bachelor and corn merchant. While not knowing how to deal with a growing boy, he tells Mrs Joe, as she is known, how noble she is to bring up Pip. As the person who first connected Pip to Miss Havisham, he claims to have been the original architect of Pip’s expectations. Pip dislikes Mr Pumblechook for his pompous, unfounded claims. When Pip stands up to him in a public place, after those expectations are dashed, Mr Pumblechook turns those listening to the conversation against Pip.
Miss Havisham and her family
Miss Havisham, a wealthy spinster who takes Pip on as a companion for herself and her adopted daughter, Estella. Havisham is a wealthy, eccentric woman who has worn her wedding dress and one shoe since the day that she was jilted at the altar by her fiancé. Her house is unchanged as well. She hates all men, and plots to wreak a twisted revenge by teaching Estella to torment and spurn men, including Pip, who loves her. Miss Havisham is later overcome with remorse for ruining both Estella’s and Pip’s chances for happiness. Shortly after confessing her plotting to Pip, she dies as the result of being badly burned when her dress accidentally catches fire.
Estella, Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter, whom Pip pursues. She is a beautiful girl and grows more beautiful after her schooling in France. Estella represents the life of wealth and culture for which Pip strives. Since Miss Havisham ruined Estella’s ability to love, Estella cannot return Pip’s passion. She warns Pip of this repeatedly, but he will not or cannot believe her. Estella does not know that she is the daughter of Molly, Jaggers’s housekeeper, and the convict Abel Magwitch, given up for adoption to Miss Havisham after her mother was arrested for murder. In marrying Bentley Drummle, she rebels against Miss Havisham’s plan to have her break a husband’s heart, as Drummle is not interested in Estella but simply in the Havisham fortune.
Matthew Pocket, Miss Havisham’s cousin. He is the patriarch of the Pocket family, but unlike her other relatives, he is not greedy for Havisham’s wealth. Matthew Pocket tutors young gentlemen, such as Bentley Drummle, Startop, Pip and his own son Herbert.
Herbert Pocket, the son of Matthew Pocket, who was invited like Pip to visit Miss Havisham, but she did not take to him. Pip first meets Herbert as a “pale young gentleman” who challenges Pip to a fistfight at Miss Havisham’s house when both are children. He later becomes Pip’s friend, tutoring him in the “gentlemanly” arts and sharing his rooms with Pip in London.
Cousin Raymond, a relative of Miss Havisham who is only interested in her money. He is married to Camilla.
Georgiana, a relative of Miss Havisham who is only interested in her money. She is one of the many relatives who hang around Miss Havisham “like flies” for her wealth.
Sarah Pocket, the sister of Matthew Pocket, relative of Miss Havisham. She is often at Satis House. She is described as “a dry, brown corrugated old woman, with a small face that might have been made out of walnut shells, and a large mouth like a cat’s without the whiskers.”
From Pip’s youth]
The Convict, who escapes from a prison ship, whom Pip treats kindly, and who in turn becomes Pip’s benefactor. His name is Abel Magwitch, but he uses the aliases “Provis” and “Mr Campbell” when he returns to England from exile in Australia. He is a lesser actor in crime with Compeyson, but gains a longer sentence in an apparent application of justice by social class.
Mr and Mrs Hubble, simple folk who think they are more important than they really are. They live in Pip’s village.
Mr Wopsle, clerk of the church in Pip’s village. He later gives up the church work and moves to London to pursue his ambition to be an actor, adopting the stage name “Mr Waldengarver.” He sees the other convict in the audience of one of his performances, attended also by Pip.
Biddy, Wopsle’s second cousin and near Pip’s age; she teaches in the evening school at her grandmother’s home in Pip’s village. Pip wants to learn more, so he asks her to teach him all she can. After helping Mrs Joe after the attack, Biddy opens her own school. A kind and intelligent but poor young woman, she is, like Pip and Estella, an orphan. She acts as Estella’s foil. Orlick was attracted to her, but she did not want his attentions. Pip ignores her affections for him as he pursues Estella. Recovering from his own illness after the failed attempt to get Magwitch out of England, Pip returns to claim Biddy as his bride, arriving in the village just after she marries Joe Gargery. Biddy and Joe later have two children, one named after Pip. In the ending to the novel discarded by Dickens but revived by students of the novel’s development, Estella mistakes the boy as Pip’s child.
Mr Jaggers and his circle.
Mr Wemmick and “The Aged P.”, illustration by Sol Eytinge Jr.
Mr Jaggers, prominent London lawyer who represents the interests of diverse clients, both criminal and civil. He represents Pip’s benefactor and Miss Havisham as well. By the end of the story, his law practice links many of the characters.
John Wemmick, Jaggers’ clerk, who is Pip’s chief go-between with Jaggers and looks after Pip in London. Wemmick lives with his father, “The Aged Parent”, in a small replica of a castle, complete with a drawbridge and moat, in Walworth.
Molly, Mr Jaggers’ maidservant whom Jaggers saved from the gallows for murder. She is revealed to be Magwitch’s estranged wife and Estella’s mother.
Compeyson (surname), a convict who escapes the prison ship after Magwitch, who beats him up ashore. He is Magwitch’s enemy. A professional swindler, he was engaged to marry Miss Havisham, but he was in league with Arthur Havisham to defraud Miss Havisham of part of her fortune. Later he sets up Magwitch to take the fall for another swindle. He works with the police when he learns Abel Magwitch is in London, fearing Magwitch after their first escapes years earlier. When the police boat encounters the one carrying Magwitch, the two grapple, and Compeyson drowns in the Thames.
Arthur Havisham, younger half brother of Miss Havisham, who plots with Compeyson to swindle her.
Dolge Orlick, journeyman blacksmith at Joe Gargery’s forge. Strong, rude and sullen, he is as churlish as Joe is gentle and kind. He ends up in a fistfight with Joe over Mrs Gargery’s taunting, and Joe easily defeats him. This sets in motion an escalating chain of events that leads him secretly to assault Mrs Gargery and to try to kill her brother Pip. The police ultimately arrest him for housebreaking.
Bentley Drummle, a coarse, unintelligent young man from a wealthy noble family. Pip meets him at Mr Pocket’s house, as Drummle is also to be trained in gentlemanly skills. Drummle is hostile to Pip and everyone else. He is a rival for Estella’s attentions and eventually marries her and is said to abuse her. He dies from an accident following his mistreatment of a horse.
Clara Barley, a very poor girl living with her gout-ridden father. She marries Herbert Pocket near the novel’s end. She dislikes Pip at first because of his spendthrift ways. After she marries Herbert, they invite Pip to live with them.
Miss Skiffins occasionally visits Wemmick’s house and wears green gloves. She changes those green gloves for white ones when she marries Wemmick.
Startop, like Bentley Drummle, is Pip’s fellow student, but unlike Drummle, he is kind. He assists Pip and Herbert in their efforts to help Magwitch escape.
Charles Dickens, c. 1860
As Dickens began writing Great Expectations, he undertook a series of hugely popular and remunerative reading tours. His domestic life had, however, disintegrated in the late 1850s and he had separated from his wife, Catherine Dickens, and was having a secret affair with the much younger Ellen Ternan. The introduction of the 1984 Penguin English Library edition suggests that the reluctance with which Ellen Ternan became his mistress is reflected in the icy teasing of Estella in Great Expectations.
In his Book of Memoranda, begun in 1855, Dickens wrote names for possible characters: Magwitch, Provis, Clarriker, Compey, Pumblechook, Orlick, Gargery, Wopsle, Skiffins, some of which became familiar in Great Expectations. There is also a reference to a “knowing man”, a possible sketch of Bentley Drummle. Another evokes a house full of “Toadies and Humbugs”, foreshadowing the visitors to Satis House in chapter 11. Margaret Cardwell discovered the “premonition” of Great Expectations from a 25 September 1855 letter from Dickens to W. H. Wills, in which Dickens speaks of recycling an “odd idea” from the Christmas special “A House to Let” and “the pivot round which my next book shall revolve.” The “odd idea” concerns an individual who “retires to an old lonely house…resolved to shut out the world and hold no communion with it.”
In an 8 August 1860 letter to Thomas Carlyle, Dickens reported his agitation whenever he prepared a new book. A month later, in a letter to John Forster, Dickens announced that he just had a new idea.
Publication in All the Year Round]
Advertisement for Great Expectations in All the Year Round.
Dickens was pleased with the idea, calling it “such a very fine, new and grotesque idea” in a letter to Forster. He planned to write “a little piece”, a “grotesque tragi-comic conception”, about a young hero who befriends an escaped convict, who then makes a fortune in Australia and anonymously bequeaths his property to the hero. In the end, the hero loses the money because it is forfeited to the Crown. In his biography of Dickens, Forster wrote that in the early idea “was the germ of Pip and Magwitch, which at first he intended to make the groundwork of a tale in the old twenty-number form.” Dickens presented the relationship between Pip and Magwitch pivotal to Great Expectations but without Miss Havisham, Estella, or other characters he later created.
As the idea and Dickens’s ambition grew, he began writing. However, in September, the weekly All the Year Round saw its sales fall, and its flagship publication, A Day’s Ride by Charles Lever, lost favour with the public. Dickens “called a council of war”, and believed that to save the situation, “the one thing to be done was for [him] to strike in.” The “very fine, new and grotesque idea” became the magazine’s new support: weeklies, five hundred pages, just over one year (1860–1861), thirty-six episodes, starting 1 December. The magazine continued to publish Lever’s novel until its completion on 23 March 1861, but it became secondary to Great Expectations. Immediately, sales resumed, and critics responded positively, as exemplified by The Times’s praise: “Great Expectations is not, indeed, [Dickens’s] best work, but it is to be ranked among his happiest.”
Dickens, whose health was not the best, felt “The planning from week to week was unimaginably difficult” but persevered. He thought he had found “a good name”, decided to use the first person “throughout”, and thought the beginning was “excessively droll”: “I have put a child and a good-natured foolish man, in relations that seem to me very funny.” Four weekly episodes were “ground off the wheel” in October 1860, and apart from one reference to the “bondage” of his heavy task, the months passed without the anguished cries that usually accompanied the writing of his novels. He did not even use the Number Plans or Mems; he only had a few notes on the characters’ ages, the tide ranges for chapter 54, and the draft of an ending. In late December, Dickens wrote to Mary Boyle that “Great Expectations[is] a very great success and universally liked.”
Charles Dickens, Jr. (in 1874), possibly the model for Herbert Pocket
Dickens gave six readings from 14 March to 18 April 1861, and in May, Dickens took a few days’ holiday in Dover. On the eve of his departure, he took some friends and family members for a trip by boat from Blackwall to Southend-on-Sea. Ostensibly for pleasure, the mini-cruise was actually a working session for Dickens to examine banks of the river in preparation for the chapter devoted to Magwitch’s attempt to escape. Dickens then revised Herbert Pocket’s appearance, no doubt, asserts Margaret Cardwell, to look more like his son Charley. On 11 June 1861, Dickens wrote to Macready that Great Expectations had been completed and on 15 June, asked the editor to prepare the novel for publication.
Following comments by Edward Bulwer-Lytton that the ending was too sad, Dickens rewrote it prior to publication. The ending set aside by Dickens has Pip, still single, briefly see Estella in London; after becoming Bentley Drummle’s widow, she has remarried. It appealed to Dickens due to its originality: “[the] winding up will be away from all such things as they conventionally go.” Dickens revised the ending for publication so that Pip meets Estella in the ruins of Satis House, she a widow and he single. His changes at the conclusion of the novel did not quite end either with the final weekly part or the first bound edition, because Dickens further changed the last sentence in the amended 1868 version from “I could see the shadow of no parting from her.” to “I saw no shadow of another parting from her”. As Pip uses litotes, “no shadow of another parting”, it is ambiguous whether Pip and Estella marry or Pip remains single. Angus Calder, writing for an edition in the Penguin English Library, believed the less definite phrasing of the amended 1868 version perhaps hinted at a buried meaning: ‘…at this happy moment, I did not see the shadow of our subsequent parting looming over us.'
In a letter to Forster, Dickens explained his decision to alter the draft ending: “You will be surprised to hear that I have changed the end of Great Expectations from and after Pip’s return to Joe’s … Bulwer, who has been, as I think you know, extraordinarily taken with the book, strongly urged it upon me, after reading the proofs, and supported his views with such good reasons that I have resolved to make the change. I have put in as pretty a little piece of writing as I could, and I have no doubt the story will be more acceptable through the alteration.”
This discussion between Dickens, Bulwer-Lytton and Forster has provided the basis for much discussion on Dickens’s underlying views for this famous novel. Earle Davis, in his 1963 study of Dickens, wrote that “it would be an inadequate moral point to deny Pip any reward after he had shown a growth of character,” and that “Eleven years might change Estella too.” John Forster felt that the original ending was “more consistent” and “more natural” but noted the new ending’s popularity. George Gissing called that revision “a strange thing, indeed, to befall Dickens” and felt that Great Expectations would have been perfect had Dickens not altered the ending in deference to Bulwer-Lytton.
In contrast, John Hillis-Miller stated that Dickens’s personality was so assertive that Bulwer-Lytton had little influence, and welcomed the revision: “The mists of infatuation have cleared away, [Estella and Pip] can be joined.” Earl Davis notes that G.B. Shaw published the novel in 1937 for The Limited Editions Club with the first ending and that The Rhinehart Edition of 1979 presents both endings.
George Orwell wrote, “Psychologically the latter part of Great Expectations is about the best thing Dickens ever did,” but, like John Forster and several early 20th century writers, including George Bernard Shaw, felt that the original ending was more consistent with the draft, as well as the natural working out of the tale. Modern literary criticism is split over the matter.
Dickens and Wills co-owned All the Year Round, one 75%, the other 25%. Since Dickens was his own publisher, he did not require a contract for his own works. Although intended for weekly publication, Great Expectations was divided into nine monthly sections, with new pagination for each. Harper’s Weekly published the novel from 24 November 1860 to 5 August 1861 in the US and All the Year Round published it from 1 December 1860 to 3 August 1861 in the UK. Harper’s paid £1,000 for publication rights. Dickens welcomed a contract with Tauchnitz 4 January 1861 for publication in English for the European continent.
Publications in Harper’s Weekly were accompanied by forty illustrations by John McLenan; however, this is the only Dickens work published in All the Year Round without illustrations.
Robert L Patten identifies four American editions in 1861 and sees the proliferation of publications in Europe and across the Atlantic as “extraordinary testimony” to Great Expectations’s popularity. Chapman and Hall published the first edition in three volumes in 1861, five subsequent reprints between 6 July and 30 October, and a one-volume edition in 1862. The “bargain” edition was published in 1862, the Library Edition in 1864, and the Charles Dickens edition in 1868. To this list, Paul Schlicke adds “two meticulous scholarly editions”, one Clarendon Press published in 1993 with an introduction by Margaret Cardwell and another with an introduction by Edgar Rosenberg, published by Norton in 1999. The novel was published with one ending, visible in the four on line editions listed in the External links at the end of this article. In some 20th century editions, the novel ends as originally published in 1867, and in an afterword, the ending Dickens did not publish, along with a brief story of how a friend persuaded him to a happier ending for Pip, is presented to the reader (for example, 1987 audio edition by Recorded Books.
In 1862, Marcus Stone, son of Dickens’s old friend, the painter Frank Stone, was invited to create eight woodcuts for the Library Edition. According to Paul Schlicke, these illustrations are mediocre yet were included in the Charles Dickens edition, and Stone created illustrations for Dickens’s subsequent novel, Our Mutual Friend. Later, Henry Mathew Brock also illustrated Great Expectations and a 1935 edition of A Christmas Carol, along with other artists, such as John McLenan, F. A. Fraser, and Harry Furniss.
Those who are interested further will do well to read the entire novel which is bound to be quite interesting.
Coming back to our original thoughts on the caption of the Sunday Story, ideal thing is to resort to Lord Krishna’s Geethopadesa -“ACTION IS THY DUTY, FRUIT IS NOT THY CONCERN” I know it is pretty difficult to follow yet worth the trial, lest we only suffer!
Normally I don’t reproduce from other sources. This was so interesting I was tempted to. Kindly enjoy. We shall meet tomorrow.