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Important Quotes from Great Expectations

written by: Trent Lorcher • edited by: Noreen Gunnell • updated: 2/13/2012

Get a better understanding of Great Expectations by analyzing some of the important quotes from the novel. At least one of these quotes is sure to make it on a test or be discussed in class!

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    Part I

    Study these quotes from Great Expectations to enhance your enjoyment and understanding of the novel.

    Quote: I give Pirrip as my father's name on the authority of his tombstone (Chapter 1).

    Analysis: We discover immediately that Pip is an orphan and one with whom we sympathize.

    Quote: But I loved Joe--perhaps for no better reason than because the dear fellow let me love him (Chapter 6).

    Analysis: Pip gives us a tender look at the only man who cared for him when he was a child, making Pip's snobbishness later on even more reprehensible.

    Quote: Miss Havisham's house, which was of old brick and dismal, and had a great many iron bars to it. Some of the windows had been walled up; of those that remained, all the lower were rustily barred.

    Analysis: Satis house resembles a prison. It's made of brick and is dismal and dark, has few windows, and many bars (Chapter 8).

    Quote: I thought I heard Miss Havisham answer--only it seemed so unlikely, "Well? You can break his heart." (Chapter 8).

    Analysis: Pip learns early on what Estella and Miss Havisham's plans are, yet he continues to pursue her. This introduction to the two shows the reader immediately what Estella and Miss Havisham are like.

    Quote: The felicitous idea occurred to me a morning or two later when I woke that the best step I could take towards making myself uncommon was to get out of Biddy everything she knew.

    Analysis: Pip is not one to accept failure. Ironically, Biddy is just as common as he.

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    Pip's House Quote: It was spacious and I dare say had once been handsome, but every discernible thing in it was covered with dust and mold, and dropping to pieces (Chapter 11).

    Analysis: Satis house and its rooms are symbolic of Miss Havisham, dismal on the outside--rotten on the inside.

    Quote: I could hardly have imagined dear old Joe looking so unlike himself or so like some extraordinary bird, standing as he did, speechless, with his tuft of feathers ruffled, and his mouth opened as if he wanted a worm (Chapter 12).

    Analysis: Joe's description is the epitome of Dickensian characterization.

    Quote: It is a most miserable thing to feel ashamed of home (Chapter 14).

    Analysis: Pip's desire to impress Estella makes him ungrateful and blind to the things that once made him happy.

    Quote: I promised myself that I would do something one of these days, and formed a plan in outline for bestowing a dinner of roast beef and plum pudding, a pint of ale, and a gallon of condescension upon everybody in the village (Chapter 19).

    Analysis: The reader sees Pip's snobbishness developing shortly after inheriting his money and his social status.

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    Part 2

    Quote: So throughout life our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for the sake of the people whom we most despise (Chapter 27).

    Analysis: Pip regretfully expounds on a universal truth after scorning Joe in order not to look bad in front of a fellow student whom he hates.

    Quote: All other swindlers on Earth are nothing to the self swindlers (Chapter 28).

    Analysis: The prodigal Pip understands the only person that harmed him was himself.

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    Pip and Ms Havisham 

    Quote: I'll tell you what real love is. It is blind devotion, unquesitoning self humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and against the whole world, giving up your whole heart and soul to the smiter--as I did (Chapter 29).

    Analysis: This treatise on love, given by Miss Havisham, could just as well as been stated by Pip. Miss Havisham raised Estella to be the smiter, and she succeeded.

    Quote: We spent as much money as we could, and got as little for it as people made up their minds to give us. We were always more or less miserable, and most of our acquaintance were in the same condition. There was a gay fiction among us that we were constantly enjoying ourselves, and a skeleton truth that we never did. To the best of my belief, our case was in the last aspect a rather common one (Chapter 34).

    Analysis: Pip's materialism stems from his immaturity and having set his sights on the superficial. He has scorned those who love him and replaced them with objects and status. These very lines could be written by millions of modern day spenders who find their lives empty and without foundation. Poor Pip.

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    Quote: I did really cry in good earnest when I went to bed, to think that my expectations had done some good to somebody (Chapter 37).

    Analysis: Pip finally figures out the secret to happiness, serving others. This serves as the turning point of Pip's life.

    Quote: But, sharpest and deepest pain of all--it was for the convict, guilty of I knew not what crimes, and liable to be taken out of those rooms where I sat thinking, and hanged at the Old Bailey door, that I had deserted Joe (Chapter 39).

    Analysis: Pip realizes he has been anything but a gentleman. The knowledge that his benefactor is a criminal forces Pip to acknowledge that Miss Havisham is not his benefactor, Estella and he are not betrothed, and he has turned his back on all that is good.

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    Part 3

    Quote: It would have been cruel of Miss Havisham, horribly cruel, to practice on the susceptibility of a poor boy, and to torture me through all these years with a vain hope and an idle pursuit, if she had reflected on the gravity of what she did. But I think she did not. I think that in the endurance of her own trial, she forgot mine, Estella (Chapter 44).

    Analysis: Pip displays his maturity as he forgives Miss Havisham for all her wrongs and cruelties against him. Pip realizes he is not the only tormented soul and can actually empathize with the eccentric jilted lover.

    Quote: I want to pursue that subject you mentioned to me when you were last here, and to show you that I am not all stone. But perhaps you can never believe, now, that there is anything human in my heart. (Chapter 49).

    Analysis: The old freak finally does something kind. Her penitence, although late, shows Ms. Havisham to be a dynamic character, one who changes during the novel. Both Pip and Ms. Havisham's first kind act involve establishing Herbert in business.

    Quote: "Oh," she cried despairingly, "What have I done! What have I done!" (Chapter 49).

    Analysis: Ms. Havisham's wasted life is the subject of her rant, a hard repentance for a hard heart.

    Quote: But that, in shutting out the light of day, she had shut out infinitely more; that, in seclusion, she had secluded herself from a thousand natural healing influences; that, her mind, brooding solitary, had grown diseased, as all minds do and must and will that reverse the appointed order of their Maker (Chapter 49)

    Analysis: Pip learns from Ms. Havisham's mistake how not to react to Estella's rejection. He must continue to live and associate himself with that which is good. He must love again. He must not reverse the appointed order. Pip's attempt to reverse the natural order of his society--to become a gentleman out of the working class--has also made him diseased.

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