Roz’s CliffsNotes: Great Expectations

By Roz S.

It’s the time of year again: second semester, when Seniors lose motivation as fast as service learning forms, Juniors slowly realize that their schedule is frankly impossible, Freshman are… presumably just peddling along, and Sophomores are starting Great Expectations. As the first Dickens book many students have ever read, this presents an interesting challenge to most Sophomores; namely, staying awake long enough to absorb the plot. Dickens was paid by the word, you see, so it’s a terrifically long book, an arduous journey of superfluous sentences and meandering tangents. But never fear, readers, because I’m about to drop some wicked cliffsnotes on you. That’s right, folks– I remember the entire story, word for word. Welcome to Roz’s summaries, and take notes.

Chapter 1:

We meet our protagonist, Pip. Pip lives in the English marshland with his abusive older sister and her husband, because both of his parents are dead. What, did you think you were going to read a Dickens story without a tragic orphan? Are you taking this seriously? I can’t help if you don’t take this seriously.

Anyway, Pip meets a convict of the prison galleys while he is hanging around in the town graveyard, (presumably in an attempt to take some sick selfies next to the gravestones) and is threatened into providing the starving man with food from his sister’s pantry.

Chapter 2:

Pip steals food for the convict, who, though caught and sent back to the galleys soon after, is very grateful to him. Could that be important later? Well, if there’s anything I’ve learned about literature, it’s that interesting side characters who owe the protagonists favors never come in handy later on. Ignore him.

Chapter 3:

Pip is sent to the home of a rich woman in town named Miss Havisham, who quickly reveals herself to be completely off her rocker. Pip is actually there to play with Estella, Miss Havisham’s young ward, and to entertain Miss Havisham herself, who was left at the altar and is maybe having some trouble getting over it. As a result, Pip’s education is sponsored by a mysterious benefactor who wants him to be a gentleman. Who could it be? Surely not the only rich person in the story!

Chapters 4-15:

A lot of stuff that’s probably not that important. If my razor-sharp mind can’t remember it, it can’t matter all that much.

Chapter 16??:

Pip, now around twenty years old, heads off to London to make his fortune, with incredible success! In a scant few chapters, he gains:

  1. A crummy little apartment he shares with his friend!
  2. A fully-realized obsession with Miss Havisham’s ward!
  3. An appreciation for sailing!
  4. More letters from his mysterious benefactor!
  5. A sense of disappointment with his slow progress in life!

This book’s a success story, folks. Remember that. Write your essay on it.

Chapter 18 or so?

Pip goes to visit Miss Havisham, and finds that she has become a much warmer person since his last visit. He thanks her for her sponsorship of his education, but she denies having ever sponsored anything. Chalking it up to all rich people being basically insane, Pip leaves after learning that Estella is now engaged to some shmuck.

Chapter Later:

Pip’s benefactor turns out to be the Pope. I know, I was as surprised as you are.

Chapter 25:

Who even was the Pope in the Victorian Era? I should look that up. Pip goes to find Estella and save her from that shmuck she’s marrying. In a shocking twist, it turns out that Estella was actually several fish masquerading as a human woman via a large overcoat and an intricate pulley-system the entire time! I saw that one coming, actually; if you’re observant, you’ll notice that she has no lines in the book outside of “glub-glub”.

Chapter 30- something:

Pip retires to the country and lives peacefully with Estella, for whom he digs a small pond on his property. His great expectations have been completely fulfilled: nice house, decent income, and a loving wife.

And that’s it! Don’t bother thanking me; I do this for the common good. Rather, allow me to congratulate you on being completely ready for your upcoming projects! Personally, I wrote my essay on the moralistic nature of the Pope’s sudden appearance, which earned me the stunning reviews of “what?” from my professor, Diane Herschleb, “did you even read the book?” from my advisor, Art Ward, and “why do you keep doing this?” from my parents. I don’t mean to brag; all it takes is a bit of time and careful reading to get the same wonderful results as I did.

Join me next week if you’re a Junior or younger for more essay prep! I’ll be summarizing a novel essential to the American canon: The Great Gatsby. Haha oh man I love the part where Tom eats the entirety of West Egg. Classic.

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