Growing up in a dreary and dire environment, Pip develops a very lowly character—often guilty and having almost no self-esteem. All this changes when the ‘eccentric rich’ old lady of the town, Miss Havisham, calls on to him to spend afternoons at her queer mansion to play with her adopted daughter, Estella.
Playing alongside a cultured young girl, Pip starts to feel contempt (almost disgust) over things at home, especially for his brother-in-law Joe, an illiterate but mild mannered stone mason.
Pip falls in love with Estella but she is not capable of loving anyone. Miss Havisham, bitter by her own heartbreak in the past, tries to take revenge on the male population by adopting a beautiful young lady, raised and trained purposely to break the hearts of men.
His sister soon dies and as Pip gets older, he grows an inclination towards the more refined and higher class of things. Later on, he is thrilled to find out that somebody has played the role of his benefactor and given over to him the privilege of moving and working in the city. The mysterious benefactor wishes to remain anonymous. Pip has a strong belief that who else could it be but Miss Havisham herself.
As he gets surrounded by the elite, he turns his back towards his past and feels embarrassed to have Joe around.
He gets the shock of his life when he finds out that his benefactor is Magwitch, an ex-convict who Pip has shown random kindness to when he was younger. Magwitch was able to make a bit of fortune in Australia and remembered the young lad who saved his life years ago.
When Magwitch shows up in London, Pip doesn’t know how to react when he faces the man he owes his glory to.
Pip finds out that Magwitch is actually Estella’s father and that Magwitch himself doesn’t even know he has a child.
Soon, Magwitch is wanted by the authorities and as much as Pip and his friend Herbert tries to hide and smuggle him out of London, Magwitch gets caught, and dies.
Pips days of glory ends when he falls in deep debt and he was forced to sell all his properties. For a time he lived with his best friend Herbert and his wife. Then he reconciles with Joe, who welcomed him warmly and forgave him for his ungratefulness.
Though the main theme of the novel is of ‘deep’ essence –gratitude, forgiveness and man’s development are just among many—the story has an overall light and comical ambience to it. Interesting characters like Mr. Jaggers, the lawyer who has an attitude similar to Jack Sparrow’s (Pirates of the Carribean), and Wemmick, his assistant who seems to have a bi-polar personality make the storyline more interesting.
As a whole, the story and narration are simple but its just a lengthy read because no emotion, thought and action are not dissected and explained. Pip narrates the story in a very human manner which is not hard to relate with. (i.e when he admits to being ashamed of Joe’s manners in front of his rich associates yet he also feels guilty for it)
Movie adaptations of the book have “Hollywood-ized” the story by diverting the central theme to that of love and adoration for beauty, so I recommend reading the book to understand the real essence of Great Expectations.