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Die Heuning Pot Literature Guide
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Great Expectations

Great Expectations

Analysis

Great Expectations as Booker's Seven Basic Plots Analysis: Voyage and Return Plot

Christopher Booker is a scholar who wrote that every story falls into one of seven basic plot structures: Overcoming the Monster, Rags to Riches, the Quest, Voyage and Return, Comedy, Tragedy, and Rebirth. Shmoop explores which of these structures fits this story like Cinderella’s slipper.

Plot Type : Voyage and Return

Anticipation Stage

Booker says that when we first meet our protagonist in this stage, "they're likely to be in some state which lays them open to a shattering new experience." Hmm…shattering, just like that charming haven Satis House, home to half-dead old ladies and man-eaters.

Pip is just a little six-year old boy when he first goes to see Miss Havisham, but it doesn't take more than five minutes in her house before he starts to question his identity. Even when he's discharged from Miss Havisham's and pushed into a blacksmith's life, all Pip has to do is to look at the sails on the horizon, and he gets giddy. He knows his fortune will come. And, boy, does it.

Initial Fascination or Dream Stage

After his mysterious benefactor appears, Pip is on his own with a bank account, living in one of the greatest cities in the world! Not only that, but he's got a new BFF named Herbert who can show him all over town. Never mind the public yard where criminals are executed, the soot on his apartment window, or the labyrinthine streets. Pip is a gen-u-ine bachelor who can do things like buy his own furniture, go rowing, and order dinner from a coffee house. Someone call Bravo—we've got your next reality show.

Frustration Stage

It's expensive keeping up with the Finches and their drinking habits. It's expensive gallivanting around London and pretending like you are having a good time. The debts pile up, Pip and Herbert have to cut down on their meals and survive on things like Ramen noodles and Hot Pockets.

And when the benefactor finally shows himself, it's … a convict. Booker says that in this stage, a "shadow begins to intrude, becoming increasingly alarming," and, this shadow is indeed Magwitch the convict. Pip grows more and more anxious about keeping Magwitch under wraps and about plotting to get him out of town and out of England safely.

Nightmare Stage

What follows is a nightmare train that leads to Pip's ultimate destruction:

Nightmare #1: Pip, Herbert, Startop, and Magwitch are quietly (and uneasily) row, row, rowing the boat towards the Germany-bound ship when their boat is overtaken by the authorities. Nightmare #2: Magwitch is taken to prison where he grows very sick. Nightmare #3: His money is confiscated by the government. Nightmare #4: Pip watches him die. Nightmare #5: In the meantime, Herbert goes away to Egypt, and Pip is totally alone. Nightmare #6: Pip falls gravely ill, and there's a new shadow in town whose name is "debt."

Officials come to take Pip to prison for all that debt, but Pip is too sick to go anywhere. He hallucinates that Miss Havisham is stuck in a furnace in the corner of his room. Both literal and figurative nightmares abound.

Thrilling Escape and Return

Booker says that at this stage, the hero will "make the escape from the other world, back to where they started," and that we are all tuned into whether or not our hero has learned anything at all. Pip returns home to the forge, and it is quite clear he's learned humility and the errors of his ways. But… that's not the end of the journey.

After begging Joe and Biddy's forgiveness (and swallowing his shock at seeing the two married), Pip vanishes into the sunset (a.k.a. Cairo). He returns eleven years later to find Joe, Biddy, and their babies, namely Pip, Jr. The real test of whether or not Pip has changed comes when he sees Estella. Though the two endings are very different, they show a similar Pip, a Pip who doesn't so easily sacrifice his identity in the name of a pretty lady he once loved powerfully.

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