Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations

Starts out with introducing a young boy called Pip whom meets a convict that enters a cycle of people who are interlocked throughout the novel. Philip Pirrip, Pip, grows up living with his sister and this is the start of where his guilt begins. The guilt that Pip experiences in his everyday life intensifies when he meets this mysterious convicts and when his sister, Mrs. Joe, is killed and only develops further as the story progresses. This recurrent theme is one of the main sources of anguish he feels aside from the other emotions like envy of the rich that he labors for the finer things in life which led to other problems that estranged him even further from the few family members he has left.

In the novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens the guilt from Pips childhood secrets causes him to make poor decisions beginning in his troubles in becoming a young adult, and a gentleman in London.

Pip has felt guilt throughout his life whenever he recounts past events.

Pip’s main source of guilt roots from when he was a child; he had an unusual encounter with a convict on the run. In chapter two in Great Expectations Pip states, “For the fugitive out on the marshes with the ironed leg, the mysterious young man, the file, the food, and the dreadful pledge I was under to commit a larceny on those sheltering premises rose before me in the avenging coals” (Dickens 8). He is feeling guilty for having helped this dangerous convict out even though he was mostly forced to do it out of fear.

Get quality help now
Prof. Finch

Proficient in: Conscience

4.7 (346)

“ This writer never make an mistake for me always deliver long before due date. Am telling you man this writer is absolutely the best. ”

+84 relevant experts are online
Hire writer

For all Pip knows, he could be out on the streets hurting people and now Pip has to live with a guilty conscience.

The next quote pertains to what Pip is having to deal with from meeting this convict, “Conscience is a dreadful thing when it accuses man or boy, but when, in the case of a boy, that secret burden cooperates with another secret burden down the leg of his trousers,it is a great punishment”(10). He is feeling guilty for having lied to everyone who loves him. Pip’s conscience is tormented with guilt and is carrying a burden of lying on his shoulders. He feels as though he is protecting them and does not want to change the way they look at him. Chapter four’s quote explains more of what led to Pip’s heavy guilt feeling, “I fully expected to find a constable in the kitchen, waiting to take me up. But not only was there no constable there, but no discovery had yet been made of the robbery”(20). Stealing food from his sister’s house makes him feel even more.

As Pip underwent adulthood, he faced the reality that his bad decisions impacted the lives that surrounded him. He worried what his guilt and bad decision making affected negatively on Herbert and how he could be bringing him down in life. In the first quote in chapter thirty-four Pip thinks, “Their influence on my own character I disguised from my recognition as much as possible, but I knew very well that it was not all good”(273). Pip fears what his life choices has been affecting his character and how the expectations that have been bestowed upon him throughout his life have begun to feel suffocating. Pip started to doubt the actions he has taken in his short time of life, “…The figure of my sister in her chair by the kitchen fire haunted me night and day”(279). When Pip’s sister dies, this amounts Pip into extreme guilt and causes him to have a severe reaction with regret since he didn’t talk to her as much as promised. When Pip left Joe and Biddy after Mrs. Joe’s funeral, he knew he was never going to visit them again. He walked away with confusion and regret but knew that they were always bringing him down which leads into my next quote. In chapter 35, Pip thinks “…But I suppose there is a shock of regret which may exist without much tenderness”(279). Pip truly does regret not taking in what he had around him more. I don’t think he likes the young adult he’s turned into.

The guilt from his childhood gravitated to Pip’s journey into becoming a gentleman. For Pip’s whole life since the scene between him and the escaped prisoner, it has been back and forth with his conscience for Pip with guilt and anger at having a life that he did not desire. In chapter forty-five Pip states, “Miss Havisham, if you could spare the money to do my friend Herbert a lasting service in life, but which from the nature of the case must be done without his knowledge, I could show you how”(361). Pip has always tried to spare the people that he considers true friends. Pip receives some bad news and finds out he cannot aid Herbert like he had been doing for the last two years. This shows he has deep compassion and also would give up his pride when it comes to a friend.

Pip’s fear for the unknown shows in chapter forty-six, “In short, I was always full of fears for the rash man who was hiding”(382). Not only does Pip have to worry about himself and Herbert, he has felt like Magwitch’s pursuers are after him and is in a constant state or worry that shows how caring he is for other people. In chapter forty-seven, Pip refuses to take anymore money from Magwitch, “But I had quite determined that it would be a heartless fraud to take more money from my patron in the existing state of uncertain thoughts and plans”(383). From being a child terrified of the prisoner that Pip does whatever he says to helping said convict in escaping arrest, Pip’s journey to becoming a gentleman has manifested to great lengths since his life has only gotten more complicated as he guilts from his childhood catches up to him. Even through the mess of wanting something different from the life he was born into, Pip has not lost his heart to help people his feels indebted to.

In Great Expectations, Pip has fought guilt and fear his entire life. It began from keeping secrets from his family as a child that caused him to make poor decisions as a young adult and as a gentleman in London. Beginning with the encounter with the convict which led him into guilt and uncertainty, having an unbalanced childhood by learning from Mrs. Joe and learning to grow on his own in London was all so impactful on Pip. Pip, in the end, chose to learn from those mistakes and chose to grow from it all.

Cite this page

Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations. (2022, Feb 07). Retrieved from

Let’s chat?  We're online 24/7