Great Expectations is one of Charles Dickens’ masterpiece novels, his thirteenth and next-to-last completed work. Originally published in serial form, like many of Dickens’ novels, weekly between December 1860 and August 1861, Great Expectations tells the story of the orphan boy Pip, who grows through numerous adventures.
Set around 1812, young Pip is hired by the reclusive Miss Havisham for various errands. It is at her dilapidated country estate where he first meet Estella, with whom he falls unrequitedly in love. Eventually, Pip is apprenticed to the blacksmith, but is eventually the recipient of an anonymous inheritance. Pip moves to London, where he gains an education but also piles up large debt as a young man about town.
Dickens called Great Expectations a tragic comedy. Pip believes that his money came from Miss Havisham. In fact, the money comes from an escaped convict whom Pip helps at the very start of the novel, a man who later makes a fortune in Australia. Published monthly in All the Year Round magazine, it helped increase the periodicals sales to the 100,000 mark. At its heart, the novel is a Victorian bildungsroman, a coming of age tale. Pip is perceived to have “great expectations” in life, but he ends up squandering his talent and his money. However, Pip’s status as a social outcast leave him hostile to society, despite his potential.