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Pip (Great Expectations)

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Philip Pirrip
Great Expectations character
Pip and Joe Gargery, his brother-in-law
Created byCharles Dickens
Portrayed byJack Pickford
Phillips Holmes
John Mills
Anthony Wager
Michael York
Ioan Gruffudd
Gabriel Thomson
Jeremy Irvine
Gary Bond
Gerry Sundquist
Anthony Calf
Douglas Booth
Fionn Whitehead
Simon Gipps-Kent
Dinsdale Landen
In-universe information
FamilyMrs Joe (older sister)
RelativesJoe Gargery (brother-in-law)
Biddy (second wife of Joe)

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. Pip narrates his story many years after the events of the novel take place. The novel follows Pip's process from childhood innocence to adulthood. The financial and social rise of the protagonist is accompanied by an emotional and moral deterioration, which forces Pip to recognize his negative expectations in a new self-awareness.[1]


When the novel begins in the early 1800s, Philip is a seven-year-old orphan raised by his uncaring 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.[2]

Pip has no recollection of 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 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".[1] The opening scene of the novel shows Pip in a graveyard paying his respects to the graves of his parents and brothers. He says he is small for his age when he encounters the convicts at age seven, but when he is apprenticed to Joe, he is taller and becomes very strong to master the work of a blacksmith.

Pip 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. Pip goes through many changes in his personality as he is influenced by various characters. As the novel begins, he is an innocent young boy who does not mind his low rank in society. At around the age of eight, he meets a beautiful but proud girl named Estella who is of the upper class. Pip falls in love with her and becomes very ashamed of his humble background and his coarse-seeming relatives. When he is old enough he is bound apprentice to Joe. But he longs to be a gentleman, in a social class inaccessible to 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, a 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 Estella's guardian Miss Havisham, who wants to make him a suitable contender for her ward's hand. Once he moves to London, though his benefactor is not named, Pip persists in believing that Miss Havisham 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 Abel Magwitch, the convict he met as a boy. This deflates his hope that he is meant for Estella and at first disgusts him. 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 dies and the Crown confiscates his fortune, Pip, aged 23,[3] understands that good clothes, genteel speech and a generous allowance do not make one a gentleman. At one point he was on the verge of being sent to debtor's prison, but the law granted him a reprieve due to his succumbing to an illness. Joe learns of this and comes to London to look after Pip until Pip is able to walk on his own. While recuperating, he finds a receipt stating that his outstanding debt was amortized by Joe and Biddy. A few days after Joe leaves, Pip goes home to find that Biddy has married Joe that very day (Pip's sister having died from being hurt in a burglary, then succumbing to her injuries years later). 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 Pocket, 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, despite the fact he was being dogged by creditors. Working for a merchant named Clarriker, Pip finally learns discipline and financial responsibility, and is now more careful.

Eleven years later, Pip returns to England to see Joe, Biddy and their children, a daughter and a son named after him, or a "little Pip". He walks to the land where Miss Havisham's 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.[4]

Role in adaptations[edit]

The novel has been adapted into films often. The character of Pip has been played in films and television (in order by year through 2023) by:


  1. ^ a b "Analysis of Major Characters". sparknotes. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  2. ^ "Pip Pirrip Character Analysis". exampleessays. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  3. ^ "Great Expectations Stage I-III". Archived from the original on April 20, 2014. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  4. ^ "Great Expectations Summary". shmoop. Retrieved 9 December 2012.
  5. ^ "Great Expectations". IMDb. Retrieved 9 December 2012.