On Christmas Eve a 7-year old orphan known as Pip visits his familys graves in a Kent churchyard. It is early evening and fog is drifting in from the nearby marshes. Suddenly a terrifying escaped convict, with shackles still on his leg, seizes him. He threatens to kill Pip if he does not return with food and a file early the next morning. Pip runs in terror back to the forge that he lives in with Mrs. Joe (his strict sister) and her simple, kind-hearted husband, the blacksmith Joe Gargery. That evening Pip manages to smuggle some of his supper away from the table and, together with some other sustenance stolen from the pantry, he presents it to the man at dawn on Christmas day, after encountering another escapee. Later that day soldiers capture both convicts as they grapple in a ditch, and Pips assailant generously takes the blame for taking the food. Pip is too scared to tell the truth.
Shortly afterwards Pip is summoned to Satis House (in the nearby town) by its owner, Miss Havisham. The pompous seed merchant Uncle Pumblechook drives him there. He is conducted into Havishams presence by her haughty but beautiful young companion Estella. Havisham is an old lady who lives perpetually in her rotting wedding dress, surrounded by a decayed wedding feast that went uneaten when she was jilted at the altar years earlier. She loathes the male sex and has sent for Pip in order to enjoy the spectacle of Estella bullying him. In particular Estella ridicules his social class. On a subsequent visit he meets and fights Herbert Pocket, a young relation of Miss Havisham.
When Pip becomes old enough to be apprenticed to Joe, Havisham pays his premium. Soon afterwards Mrs. Joe is violently assaulted and gravely injured by an unknown assailant; Pip suspects the culprit to be Joes surly assistant Orlick. Joe is obliged to employ a housekeeper, Biddy, as Mrs. Joe has been largely incapacitated by the attack. As time goes by, Pip confides in Biddy his ambition to better himself, and his growing dislike of the simple lifestyle at the forge. Without his admitting as much Biddy infers that Pips dreams of betterment centre on Estella.
Towards the end of Pips four-year apprenticeship Jaggers, an enigmatic lawyer from London whom Pip has encountered at Satis House, visits the forge to reveal that Pip has acquired an anonymous benefactor whose name he must never attempt to discover. The name will remain Pip, but in other respects he is to become a gentleman. His apprenticeship at the forge is cancelled, he buys new clothes and takes leave of Havisham before travelling to London and presenting himself to Jaggers at his chambers. Wemmick, Jaggerss clerk, takes him to Barnards Inn. He recognises his flat-mate as Herbert, the boy he fought at Satis House years earlier, and they become fast friends. Herbert tells Pip the sorry story of Miss Havisham, explaining that the man who jilted her had plotted to extract her fortune from her under pretence of loving her, in order to split the proceeds with her half-brother. He also reveals that Estellas origins are unknown. Pip becomes increasingly convinced that Miss Havisham is his benefactress.
Pip is to be tutored by Matthew Pocket, Herberts father and Miss Havishams cousin. Visiting the Pocket family, Pip meets his fellow students- Startop, and the graceless oaf Bentley Drummle. He conceives an instant dislike for the latter. Certain members of the extended Pocket family resent Pip as they assume that he is spending the inheritance they expect from Havisham. He also becomes friendly with Wemmick, who entertains him to tea at his peculiar home, known as the Castle, where he lives with his deaf but cheery father, the Aged Parent. Invited to dinner at Jaggerss, Pip is advised by Wemmick to pay close attention to his housekeeper. Pip is humiliated when Joe pays him a visit, and is glad when he leaves, having informed him that Miss Havisham wishes to see him again.
At Satis House, Pip notes that Orlick is now the porter. He meets Estella again, back from her education in France and more beautiful than ever. However, she informs him that she is incapable of feeling emotion. Pip is baffled by a resemblance in her that he cannot identify. Havisham implores him to love Estella even if she is brutal to him. Returning to London, Pip confides his love to Herbert, and the two decide to watch a production of "Hamlet" put on by Mr. Wopsle, a pompous man from Pips village. The next day he receives word that Estella is coming to London, where he meets her (after being shown around Newgate prison by Wemmick) and conducts her to Richmond. She is polite but reserved, and Pip realises that he is miserable both with and without her. Just before he comes of age, Pips sister dies. He returns home for the funeral and is annoyed when Biddy tells him of Orlicks unwanted attentions. He informs
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