A six-year-old boy named Pip lives on the English marshes with his sister and his sister’s husband, Joe. His sister is mean but his brother-in-law Joe is pretty much the best thing that’s happened to Pip.
One Christmas Eve, Pip meets a scary, escaped convict in a churchyard. Pip steals food from his bossy sister (Mrs. Joe Gargery) so that the convict won’t starve (and also so that the convict won’t rip his guts out). Soon after, Pip gets asked to play at Miss Havisham’s. Miss Havisham is a rich old lady who lives in a castle-mansion that is covered in vines, moss, and overgrown green things. Long ago she was jilted at the altar and since that very day, she’s never taken her wedding dress off, nor has she changed a single thing about her castle. As you might expect, there are lots of bugs and things creeping around.
Pip meets Estella, Miss Havisham’s adopted child. Estella is cold, snobby, and regal, but man is she pretty. She doesn’t really talk to Pip, but Pip soon realizes that he’s been asked to serve as Estella’s playmate.
Pip continues to go to Miss Havisham’s and continues to be snubbed by Estella. She grows on him. He develops a little crush. This crush turns into a big crush, and that big crush turns into full-blown, all-consuming L-O-V-E. We love what we can’t have, and there is no way in h-e-double-hockey sticks that Pip, the orphan, can ever have a chance with Estella, the adopted child of the richest lady in town.
When Pip is old enough (early teens), he begins an apprenticeship at his brother-in-law's smithy, thanks to Ms. Havisham’s financial support. He hates his new job, wanting more than anything to become a gentleman, mostly because he dreams of marrying Estella.
Then, one day, Pip comes into fortune by means of a mysterious and undisclosed benefactor (you’ll never guess who it is!), says goodbye to his family, and says goodbye to Miss Havisham. He leaves for London to become a gentleman. This ends the first part of Pip’s expectations.
London is pretty sweet at first, despite all of the grime. Mr. Jaggers, Pip’s caretaker, is one of the biggest and baddest lawyers in town. Criminals and their families hang out around Jaggers’ office just to be near his greatness. Pip also gets a new BFF named Herbert Pocket – he is Miss Havisham’s cousin’s son. Herbert shows Pip around town and helps him learn how to be a gentleman, which is –in short – really hard.
Pip's life in London is busy, full of dinner parties in castles with moats, encounters with strange housekeepers, trips to the theater, etc. He spends way too much money, so his debts just keep piling up. Occasionally, he takes a break from his London life and goes back home to visit Miss Havisham. He also returns home to attend his sister’s funeral. Back at home, though, Pip is too ashamed of his brother-in-law Joe to want to hang out with him.
Meanwhile, Estella is off touring the world and becoming a lady. She’s even more gorgeous than ever, and she moves to the London area so that she can be closer to eligible bachelors.
On his 21st birthday, Jaggers gives Pip a 500-pound annual allowance (which would be a lot of money back then) and tells Pip that his benefactor will soon reveal himself. Pip decides to use this new money to help Herbert secure a job.
Though he continues to long for Estella, she continues to deny Pip lovin’. Then, one night on his 23rd birthday when it’s dark and stormy outside and Pip is thinking about Estella, a stranger arrives. This stranger is Pip’s benefactor. This stranger is…the CONVICT that Pip helped when he was only six years old! This ends the second part of Pip’s expectations.
The convict’s name is Abel Magwitch (but he goes by Provis in town). The courts had exiled him to New South Wales a long time ago under strict orders never, ever to return to England. Ruh-roh. Pip doesn’t feel so good about the whole benefactor thing anymore, and now he’s harboring a convict. Double ruh-roh.
After much hemming and hawing, Pip decides that he has to get Magwitch out of the country. They devise a plan to sneak onto a ship bound for Germany. Pip feels really uneasy all the time and his stomach is butterfly-city. He has the sneaky suspicion that he’s being followed or watched.
Just as they get ready to make their great escape, Estella goes and marries Pip’s nemesis and Pip is almost thrown into a limekiln by a hometown bully who claims to know about Magwitch. As you might have guessed, Pip and Magwitch's great escape isn't successful. They've been ratted out by Magwitch’s nemesis, who is coincidentally, Miss Havisham’s ex-lover. Magwitch is thrown in jail, where he dies soon after being sentenced to the death penalty. Right before he dies, though, Pip tells Magwitch that Estella is his daughter. And that he's in love with Estella.
Pip gets really sick, and Joe comes to the rescue. For a while, it’s like old times when Pip and Joe would hang out. As soon as Pip recovers, however, Joe leaves him in the middle of the night, having paid off all of Pip’s debts.
A few days later, Pip returns home, intending to ask for Joe’s forgiveness and to propose marriage to his childhood friend, Biddy. Upon arriving home, however, he finds that Joe and Biddy have just married. He begs for their forgiveness at having been such a butthead, and then he moves to Cairo.
Pip works in Cairo at Herbert’s shipping company for eleven years and eventually becomes a partner in the company. He sends money back to Joe and Biddy. Eventually, Pip returns and meets Joe and Biddy’s son, Pip. Pip is totally enamored of baby Pip.
What follows are two different endings:
The original ending sees Pip hanging out in London one day a few years later with baby Pip. He runs into Estella, and he can see that time has changed her and that she has suffered much. He's heard that her husband was abusive, but that when he died, she married a poor doctor.
In the rewritten ending, Pip visit Miss Havisham's house once more. There, he sees Estella walking the grounds. She is single, beautiful, and regretful of having thrown Pip’s love away. Pip knows that they will be together forevermore. The end.