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Great Expectations

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Oprah picked Great Expectations for her Book Club in December 2010. You may read it for free here on our website.

First published between 1860-1861.

Great Expectations is a very old story, so interesting. From the cover you think "what's the point of reading this?" then when you look at the pages you think I will never finish this. Well for a matter of fact this story has words that will improve your literature skills to a very high level; it may have some high standard words but that is only to help improve your English. Great Expectations is about love, family, and rejection as Pip and Miss Havisham have both been rejected in certain ways. Pip is the main character, a boy around 13 years old, easy to fright, and goes through his life suffering lots of sadness. He is in love with a girl named Estella and wants her to find his love, but for him being shy and not showing himself to her, it makes it very hard for him.

Pip meets an escaped convict, Magwitch, and gives him food, in an encounter that is to haunt both their lives. When Pip receives riches from a mysterious benefactor he snobbishly abandons his friends for London society and his 'great expectations'. He grows through misfortune and suffering to maturity in the theme of Dicken's best-loved novels. Dickens blends gripping drama with penetrating satire to give a compelling story rich in comedy and pathos: he has also created two of his finest, most haunting characters in Pip ans Miss Havisham.--Submitted by Louis Kisitu

This is the story of Pip, an orphan boy adopted by a blacksmiths family. Pip learns how to find happiness. He learns the meaning of friendship and the meaning of love and he becomes a better person for it.--Submitted by Anonymous

This novel is about a boy named Pip. He is an orphan who lives with his sister and his father-in-law Joe, his best friend. Joe is the local blacksmith who may not be the sharpest crayon in the box, but he is kind to Pip. The story begins at a graveyard and the reader sees Pip looking at the gravestones of his mother and father. Then suddenly a convict appears and tells Pip to steal food and a file to free him. The story only gets crazier from there. After Pip gets apprenticed to Joe, a mysterious benefactor comes and gives Pip the chance to become a gentleman, which he accepts in order to impress Estella, a noble young girl.--Submitted by Anonymous

Great Expectations is one of the most important novels of its time. It follows the life of young Pip, from his awakening to life. This first chapter is worth memorizing for you or to impress your friends. Great literature! It goes on to tell the story of a young working class lad in England, who inherits a fortune from an unknown source and becomes a gentleman. In this process, he meets the beautiful Estelle and falls in love. The fact that he feels unworthy and the truth about his benefactor loom large. It is the answers to these questions that leave us thinking about this novel, these characters and what it means to have status. The great author Dickens wrote this such a long ago, yet it rings true; though I wonder how many self-made men can call themselves gentlemen?--Yours Truly, Lisa Hobbs

Great Expectations is a dramatic novel; we are prepared for this by the drama of the opening chapter. Charles Dickens uses an advanced language that plants a clear insight of the setting, the character profiles, and the novels' historic aspects. Pip, the main character of this novel is orphaned from the start. The opening chapter shows this vulnerable child visiting his family; cold and alone standing in front of the seven graves of his mum, his dad, and his five brothers. Pip's situation is desperate, like his view on life, and challenged. This creates a dramatic entrance for Magwich, the escaped convict who threatens Pip with his life for the return of three unimportant items of food, water, and a file for his irons. By the end of this chapter Pip is left fleeing for his life in dramatic blur.--Submitted by Nikki Howick

This may be one of the most impressive books I have ever read. It tells the story of a young boy who becomes a man; it shows our Pip (his name) as he truly was. I mean, the author never justified his behaviour, not even when he was weak and offensive. Pip is not a hero, he is just human being. He is not a criminal either, you can say he didn't do anything extraordinary such as save the world nor invent the light bulb. In change, he grew in compassion and gratitude. With him we learn the "worst sides of the human nature"; he loses his fortune, but at the end he accomplishes his "Great Expectations".--Submitted by Anonymous

This was for me a study book for GCE exams in about 1960. I didn't like it. Ten years later and in my own time I read it again and again and loved it. I still do. I must read it again.--Submitted by Bernard Gajewski

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Chapter 1
I give Pirrip as my father's family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister - Mrs. Joe Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones. The shape of the letters on my father's, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair. From the character and turn of the inscription, "Also Georgiana Wife of the Above," I drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sickly. To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine - who gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle - I am indebted for a belief I religiously entertained that they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trousers-pockets, and had never taken them out in this state of existence. Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. At such a time I found out for certain, that this bleak place overgrown with nettles was the churchyard; and that Philip Pirrip, late of this parish, and also Georgiana wife of the above, were dead and buried; and that Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias, and Roger, infant children of the aforesaid, were also dead and buried; and that the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond, was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea; and that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip. "Hold your noise!" cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among the graves at the side of the church porch. "Keep still, you little devil, or I'll cut your throat!" A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg. A man with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his head. A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; who limped, and shivered, and glared and growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin. "O! Don't cut my throat, sir," I pleaded in terror. "Pray don't do it, sir." "Tell us your name!" said the man. "Quick!" "Pip, sir." "Once more," said the man, staring at me. "Give it mouth!" "Pip. Pip, sir." "Show us where you live," said the man. "Pint out the place!" I pointed to where our village lay, on the flat in-shore among the alder-trees and pollards, a mile or more from the church. The man, after looking at me for a moment, turned me upside down, and emptied my pockets. There was nothing in them but a piece of bread. When the church came to itself - for he was so sudden and strong that he made it go head over heels before me, and I saw the steeple under my feet - when the church came to itself, I say, I was seated on a high tombstone, trembling, while he ate the bread ravenously. "You young dog," said the man, licking his lips, "what fat cheeks you ha' got." I believe they were fat, though I was at that time undersized for my years, and not strong. "Darn me if I couldn't eat em," said the man, with a threatening shake of his head, "and if I han't half a mind to't!" I earnestly expressed my hope that he wouldn't, and held tighter to the tombstone on which he had put me; partly, to keep myself upon it; partly, to keep myself from crying. "Now lookee here!" said the man. "Where's your mother?" "There, sir!" said I. He started, made a short run, and stopped and looked over his shoulder. "There, sir!" I timidly explained. "Also Georgiana. That's my mother." "Oh!" said he, coming back. "And is that your father alonger your mother?" "Yes, sir," said I; "him too; late of this parish." "Ha!" he muttered then, considering. "Who d'ye live with - supposin' you're kindly let to live, which I han't made up my mind about?" "My sister, sir - Mrs. Joe Gargery - wife of Joe Gargery, the blacksmith, sir." "Blacksmith, eh?" said he. And looked down at his leg. After darkly looking at his leg and me several times, he came closer to my tombstone, took me by both arms, and tilted me back as far as he could hold me; so that his eyes looked most powerfully down into mine, and mine looked most helplessly up into his. "Now lookee here," he said, "the question being whether you're to be let to live. You know what a file is?" "Yes, sir." "And you know what wittles is?" "Yes, sir." After each question he tilted me over a little more, so as to give me a greater sense of helplessness and danger. "You get me a file." He tilted me again. "And you get me wittles." He tilted me again. "You bring 'em both to me." He tilted me again. "Or I'll have your heart and liver out." He tilted me again. I was dreadfully frightened, and so giddy that I clung to him with both hands, and said, "If you would kindly please to let me keep upright, sir, perhaps I shouldn't be sick, and perhaps I could attend more." He gave me a most tremendous dip and roll, so that the church jumped over its own weather-c**k. Then, he held me by the arms, in an upright position on the top of the stone, and went on in these fearful terms: "You bring me, to-morrow morning early, that file and them wittles. You bring the lot to me, at that old Battery over yonder. You do it, and you never dare to say a word or dare to make a sign concerning your having seen such a person as me, or any person sumever, and you shall be let to live. You fail, or you go from my words in any partickler, no matter how small it is, and your heart and your liver shall be tore out, roasted and ate. Now, I ain't alone, as you may think I am. There's a young man hid with me, in comparison with which young man I am a Angel. That young man hears the words I speak. That young man has a secret way pecooliar to himself, of getting at a boy, and at his heart, and at his liver. It is in wain for a boy to attempt to hide himself from that young man. A boy may lock his door, may be warm in bed, may tuck himself up, may draw the clothes over his head, may think himself comfortable and safe, but that young man will softly creep and creep his way to him and tear him open. I am a-keeping that young man from harming of you at the present moment, with great difficulty. I find it wery hard to hold that young man off of your inside. Now, what do you say?" I said that I would get him the file, and I would get him what broken bits of food I could, and I would come to him at the Battery, early in the morning. "Say Lord strike you dead if you don't!" said the man. I said so, and he took me down. "Now," he pursued, "you remember what you've undertook, and you remember that young man, and you get home!" "Goo-good night, sir," I faltered. "Much of that!" said he, glancing about him over the cold wet flat. "I wish I was a frog. Or a eel!" At the same time, he hugged his shuddering body in both his arms - clasping himself, as if to hold himself together - and limped towards the low church wall. As I saw him go, picking his way among the nettles, and among the brambles that bound the green mounds, he looked in my young eyes as if he were eluding the hands of the dead people, stretching up cautiously out of their graves, to get a twist upon his ankle and pull him in. When he came to the low church wall, he got over it, like a man whose legs were numbed and stiff, and then turned round to look for me. When I saw him turning, I set my face towards home, and made the best use of my legs. But presently I looked over my shoulder, and saw him going on again towards the river, still hugging himself in both arms, and picking his way with his sore feet among the great stones dropped into the marshes here and there, for stepping-places when the rains were heavy, or the tide was in. The marshes were just a long black horizontal line then, as I stopped to look after him; and the river was just another horizontal line, not nearly so broad nor yet so black; and the sky was just a row of long angry red lines and dense black lines intermixed. On the edge of the river I could faintly make out the only two black things in all the prospect that seemed to be standing upright; one of these was the beacon by which the sailors steered - like an unhooped cask upon a pole - an ugly thing when you were near it; the other a gibbet, with some chains hanging to it which had once held a pirate. The man was limping on towards this latter, as if he were the pirate come to life, and come down, and going back to hook himself up again. It gave me a terrible turn when I thought so; and as I saw the cattle lifting their heads to gaze after him, I wondered whether they thought so too. I looked all round for the horrible young man, and could see no signs of him. But, now I was frightened again, and ran home without stopping.

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