In the marshy mists of a village churchyard, a tiny orphan boy named Pip is suddenly terrified by a shivering, limping convict on the run. Years later, a supremely arrogant young Pip boards the coach to London where, by the grace of a mysterious benefactor, he will join the ranks of the idle rich and "become a gentleman." Finally, in the luminous mists of the village at evening, Pip the man meets Estella, his dazzingly beautiful tormentor, in a ruined garden--and lays to rest all the heartaches and illusions that his "great expectations" have brought upon him. Dickens's biographer, Edgar H. Johnson, has said that--except for the author's last-minute tampering with his original ending--Great Expectations is "the most perfectly constructed and perfectly written of all Dickens's works." In John Irving's Introduction to this edition, the novelist takes the view that Dickens's revised ending is "far more that mirror of the quality of trust in the novel as a whole." Both versions of the ending are printed here.
An absorbing mystery as well as a morality tale, the story of Pip, a poor village lad, and his expectations of wealth is Dickens at his most deliciously readable. The cast of characters includes kindly Joe Gargery, the loyal convict Abel Magwitch and the haunting Miss Havisham. If you have heartstrings, count on them being tugged.