Pip (Great Expectations)

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Great Expectations character
Pip and Joe on the marshes.jpeg
Pip and Joe sitting on the marshes, by John McLenan
Created by Charles Dickens
Portrayed by Jack Pickford (1917)
Phillips Holmes (1934)
John Mills (1946)
Dinsdale Landen (1959)
Gary Bond (1967)
Simon Gipps-Kent (1974)
Michael York (1974)
Gerry Sundquist (1981)
Todd Boyce (1986)
Anthony Calf (1989)
Ethan Hawke (1998)
Ioan Gruffudd (1999)
Douglas Booth (2011)
Jeremy Irvine (2012)[1]
Nickname(s) Pip
Gender Male
Family Mrs Joe (older sister)
Relatives Joe Gargery (brother-in-law)
Nationality British

Philip Pirrip, called Pip, is the protagonist and narrator in Charles Dickens's novel Great Expectations (1861). He is amongst the most popular characters in English literature, widely portrayed all over the world on stage and screen.

Pip narrates his story many years after the events of the novel take place. The novel follows Pip's process from childhood innocence to experience. The financial and social rise of the protagonist is accompanied by an emotional and moral deterioration, which finally forces Pip to recognize his negative expectations in a new self-awareness.[2]


When the novel begins in the early 1800s, Philip is a seven-year-old orphan raised by his cruel sister, Mrs. Joe, who beats him regularly, and her husband Joe Gargery, a blacksmith and Pip's best friend. He lives in the marsh area of Kent, England, twenty miles from the sea.[3]

Pip never saw either of his parents; he is more than twenty years younger than his sister. Five brothers died in infancy between them: Alexander, Bartholomew, Abraham, Tobias and Roger. He says he was short for his age when he encountered the convicts at age seven, but when is apprentice to Joe, he is taller and becomes very strong to master the work of a blacksmith. He is known to himself and to the world as Pip because his "infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip".[2]

He is destined for, and wants, a career as a blacksmith like his brother-in-law, until an unexpected chain of events thrusts him into a different social class. During the novel Pip goes through many changes in his personality, as he is influenced by various people. As a very young child he is a innocent young boy who does not mind the fact he is relatively low ranking in society. At around the age of eight, he meets a beautiful girl named Estella who is of the upper class, Pip falls in love with her, and becomes ashamed of his background and his relatives because he has such a different life to her. When he is old enough he is bound apprentice to Joe. But he longs to be a gentleman, in a social class very different from a village blacksmith. He suffers guilt for his ungrateful feelings toward Joe, who is a kind friend to him throughout his life.[citation needed]

When four years into his apprenticeship mysterious benefactor enables him to escape the working class, Pip moves to London as a teenager to become a gentleman. In his youth, he believes that his patron is Miss Havisham, Estella's adopted mother, who wants to make him desirable for her daughter. Once he moves to London, though his benefactor is not named, Pip is persuaded it is Miss Havisham, who means him to marry Estella. He is not wise in spending the money he gets before he comes of age at 21, running up debts. His legal guardian is Mr. Jaggers, a lawyer, who points out the difficulties Pip creates, but leaves it to Pip to guide his own life. He does not entirely lose his good character, which is expressed mainly in his relationship with his friend Herbert Pocket.

Two years after Pip comes of age his benefactor appears in person, and it is the convict he met as a boy. Whose name he learns is Abel Magwitch. This deflates his hope that he is meant for Estella and at first disgusts him, as he knows nothing about what sort of criminal the man is. Despite his disgust and disappointment, the sense of duty that compels Pip to help the convict is a mark of his inner goodness, just as it was when Pip first met him at age seven. After Abel Magwitch, the convict, dies and the Crown confiscates his fortune, Pip, aged 23,[4] understands that good clothes, well-spoken English and a generous allowance do not make one a gentleman. Pip falls ill for several weeks; Joe learns of this and comes to care for him until he can walk on his own. A few days after Joe leaves, Pip goes home, to find Biddy has married Joe that very day. Without income or training for any profession, he is at loose ends. Herbert Pocket suggests Pip join the firm where he works, in an office in Cairo. Pip starts as a clerk. Herbert marries his fiancee Clara, and Pip lives with them. There is irony in this, as Pip used his gift at age 21 of 500 pounds to engage Herbert with the new firm. When Pip lost his funds, he asked Miss Havisham to complete the money owed, and she does. Joe ends up paying the rest of the debt that Pip is unable to pay.

Eleven years later, Pip returns to England to see Joe, Biddy and their children. He walks to the land where Satis House once stood and meets Estella there. Both have changed much from their experience of life. After they reconcile, they hold hands, and Pip sees no shadow to part them again.[5]


  1. ^ "Great Expectations". IMDb. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  2. ^ a b "Analysis of Major Characters". sparknotes. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  3. ^ "Pip Pirrip Character Analysis". exampleessays. Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  4. ^ "Great Expectations Stage I-III". Retrieved 2012-12-09. 
  5. ^ "Great Expectations Summary". shmoop. Retrieved 2012-12-09.