Great Expectations - Sample exam question

The question

Starting with this extract, how does Dickens present Pip's character in the novel?

Write about:

  • how Dickens presents Pip in this extract
  • how Dickens presents Pip as he grows up during the novel as a whole

The extract

For an hour or more, I remained too stunned to think; and it was not until I began to think, that I began fully to know how wrecked I was, and how the ship in which I had sailed was gone to pieces.

Miss Havisham's intentions towards me, all a mere dream; Estella not designed for me; I only suffered in Satis House as a convenience, a sting for the greedy relations, a model with a mechanical heart to practise on when no other practice was at hand; those were the first smarts I had. But, sharpest and deepest pain of all -- it was for the convict, guilty of I knew not what crimes, and liable to be taken out of those rooms where I sat thinking, and hanged at the Old Bailey door, that I had deserted Joe.

I would not have gone back to Joe now, I would not have gone back to Biddy now, for any consideration: simply, I suppose, because my sense of my own worthless conduct to them was greater than every consideration. No wisdom on earth could have given me the comfort that I should have derived from their simplicity and fidelity; but I could never, never, never, undo what I had done.

From chapter 39

Before you go on to the next page, make some notes about what you might write.


  • Think about the key words in the question ('present', 'character').
  • Think about this extract – what is happening at this point? How does it affect Pip? Highlight some key points.
  • Think about Pip's development across the entire novel.