Great Expectations Questions
Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
- Dickens wrote a lot of travel books and travel guides. Are there any points in the novel where you hear our author slipping into tour guide? What portrait of London does Charles Dickens paint?
- It is widely said that it is far better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all. Would Pip agree? Would Dickens? Does it make a difference which of the novel's two endings you read?
- What role does law and justice play in Great Expectations? Is there a difference between law and justice in the world that Dickens describes?
- Dickens is famous not just for writing really long, complex novels but for packing them full of social commentary. What impression do you get of London society after reading Great Expectations? What elements of society does Dickens seem to be criticizing?
- Dickens originally published the novel in serial form (weekly parts) and then later released it in three parts. How would the reading experience be different, if you were reading it in three parts as opposed to a few chapters at a time?
- When Dickens asked his friend how to end the novel, his friend told him that the masses would expect and want Pip to find happiness. George Bernard Shaw, a famous Irish playwright who died in 1950, felt that the revised ending was "psychologically wrong" but "beautifully touching and exactly right." Which ending do you prefer and why?
- Dickens spends a lot of time describing houses, dwellings, and apartments. How do the novel's different spaces and places relate to its people? To its overall themes?
- What is the novel's overall feeling about great expectations? Is it wrong to have hopes, dreams and plans—or is Pip just dreaming the wrong ones?