An unforgettable tale of fate and a chance encounter between two strangers that radically and arbitrarily alters the lives of everyone around them.
Great Expectations begins on Christmas Eve, 1812, when a 7-year-old orphan named Pip has a terrifying encounter with an escaped convict in a graveyard on the wild Kent marshes, and it ends with a grown-up Pip in a familiar garden in the winter of 1840. Over the course of nearly three decades, we follow as a series of events—a summons to meet the bitter, decaying Miss Havisham and her beautiful, cold-hearted ward Estella; the sudden generosity of a mysterious benefactor—seem to conspire to change Pip's life forever.

Pip eagerly abandons his humble origins to begin a new life as a gentleman—a task that carries the many twists, turns and cliffhangers that Charles Dickens is known for.

Originally published a few chapters at a time in a magazine, each installment in this suspenseful novel adds another layer to Pip's education about love and the world around him and depicts the adversity he faces as he discovers the true nature of his "great expectations."

Great Layers of Great Expectations

Narrated by a middle-aged Pip, Great Expectations can be read on many levels—as a morality play of a young boy's coming of age and his unexpected rise from the lower to the leisure class, or as an ironic commentary and social critique on how money affects everyone around it. It can also be enjoyed as a suspense-filled mystery complete with secrets, shady characters, thieves and murderers of all shapes and sizes.

Considered by many critics to be Charles Dickens' most psychologically acute self-portrait, Great Expectations is without a doubt one of Dickens's most fully realized literary creations.

Spoiler alert: Keep reading if you want to learn more about the parallels between Dickens' and Pip's lives
Penguin Books and Penguin Classics wish to thank and credit the following writers and books for information used in creating this Reading Group Guide:

Janice Carlisle (editor), Charles Dickens, Great Expectations: Case Studies in Contemporary Criticism, New York, Bedford Books of St. Martin's Press, 1996

Edmond Jabes, The Book of Questions (Volume 1), Middletown, CT., Wesleyan University Press, 1976

Fred Kaplan, Dickens: A Biography, New York, William Morrow & Co., Inc., 1988

Norman Page, A Dickens Chronology, Boston, MA., G.K. Hall & Co., 1988


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