These Great Expectations quotes illuminate why Charles Dickens’ masterpiece remains relevant today.
Written over 150 years ago, the richly developed conversations and thoughts from characters like Pip and Ms. Havisham seem familiar in our present era.
First published in weekly installments in 1860, the story is about a young orphan named Pip and his rise in Victorian-era England. He has many of the qualities of current “reality” television and web series characters.
An iconic example of what delusions of grandeur look like, people find his desire to pursue wealth at any means intriguing, and his narrative has much to teach us about personal and social expectations.
Pip’s arrogance and willingness to put living a lavish life over loyalty to his friends and family make him difficult for most readers to sympathize with but it also makes him a narrator loved by readers from all over the globe.
Don’t forget to also check out our collection of The Four Agreements quotes on staying true and living a fulfilled life.
Great Expectations quotes on Life, Love, Regret and Redemption
1. “Ask no questions, and you’ll be told no lies.” – Great Expectations
2. “In a word, I was too cowardly to do what I knew to be right, as I had been too cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be wrong.” – Great Expectations
3. “If you can’t get to be uncommon through going straight, you’ll never get to do it through going crooked.” – Great Expectations
4. “We need never be ashamed of our tears.” – Great Expectations
5. “I stole her heart away and put ice in its place.” – Great Expectations
6. “The agony is exquisite, is it not? A broken heart. You think you will die. But you just keep living. Day after day, after terrible day.” – Great Expectations
7. “Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There’s no better rule.” – Great Expectations
8. “Moths, and all sorts of ugly creatures, hover about a lighted candle. Can the candle help it?” – Great Expectations
9. “You are in every line I have ever read.” – Great Expectations
10. ” . . . one [man’s] a blacksmith, and one’s a whitesmith, and one’s a goldsmith, and one’s a coppersmith. Divisions among such must come, and must be met as they come.” – Great Expectations
Great Expectations quotes that still resonate in our present era
11. “I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.” – Great Expectations
12. “I must be taken as I have been made. The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me.” – Great Expectations
13. ” . . . it [felt] very sorrowful and strange that this first night of my bright fortunes should be the loneliest I had ever known.” – Great Expectations
14. “In a word, I was too cowardly to do what I knew to be right, as I had been too cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be wrong.” – Great Expectations
15. “I was always treated as if I had insisted on being born in opposition to the dictates of reason, religion, and morality, and against the arguments of my best friends.” – Great Expectations
16. ” . . . no man who was not a true gentleman at heart, ever was, since the world began, a true gentleman in manner . . . no varnish can hide the grain of the wood; and that the more varnish you put on, the more the grain will express itself.” – Great Expectations
17. “It is a part of Miss Havisham’s plans for me, Pip,” said Estella, with a sigh, as if she were tired; “I am to write to her constantly and see her regularly, and report how I go on—I and the jewels—for they’re nearly all mine now.” – Great Expectations
18. “There was a long hard time when I kept far from me the remembrance of what I had thrown away when I was quite ignorant of its worth.” – Great Expectations
19. “Spring is the time of year when it is summer in the sun and winter in the shade.” – Great Expectations
20. “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts.” – Great Expectations
Insightful Great Expectations quotes
21. “So, throughout life, our worst weaknesses and meannesses are usually committed for the sake of the people whom we most despise.” – Great Expectations
22. “We changed again, and yet again, and it was now too late and too far to go back, and I went on. And the mists had all solemnly risen now, and the world lay spread before me.” – Great Expectations
23. While my mind was thus engaged, I thought of the beautiful young Estella, proud and refined, coming towards me, and I thought with absolute abhorrence of the contrast between the jail and her.” – Great Expectations
24. “Love her, love her, love her! If she favours you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces – and as it gets older and stronger, it will tear deeper – love her, love her, love her!” – Great Expectations
25. “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.” – Great Expectations
26. “Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape.” – Great Expectations
27. “Heaven knows we need never be ashamed of our tears, for they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts. I was better after I had cried, than before–more sorry, more aware of my own ingratitude, more gentle.” – Great Expectations
28. “In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt as injustice.” – Great Expectations
29. “I looked at the stars, and considered how awful it would be for a man to turn his face up to them as he froze to death, and see no help or pity in all the glittering multitude.” – Great Expectations
30. “I am ashamed to say it,” I returned, “and yet it’s no worse to say it than to think it. You call me a lucky fellow. Of course, I am. I was a blacksmith’s boy but yesterday; I am—what shall I say I am—to-day?” – Great Expectations
Great Expectations quotes to inspire and teach
31. “Whenever I watched the vessels standing out to sea with their white sails spread, I somehow thought of Miss Havisham and Estella; and whenever the light struck aslant, afar off, upon a cloud or sail or green hillside or water-line, it was just the same. Miss Havisham and Estella and the strange house and the strange life appeared to have something to do with everything that was picturesque.” – Great Expectations
32. “I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be.” – Great Expectations
33. “The lady whom I had never seen before, lifted up her eyes and looked archly at me, and then I saw that the eyes were Estella’s eyes. But she was so much changed, was so much more beautiful, so much more womanly, in all things winning admiration had made such wonderful advance, that I seemed to have made none. I fancied, as I looked at her, that I slipped hopelessly back into the coarse and common boy again. O the sense of distance and disparity that came upon me, and the inaccessibility that came about her!” – Great Expectations
34. “Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.” – Great Expectations
35. “In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice.” – Great Expectations
36. “She had adopted Estella, she had as good as adopted me, and it could not fail to be her intention to bring us together. She reserved it for me to restore the desolate house, admit the sunshine into the dark rooms, set the clocks a going and the cold hearths a blazing, tear down the cobwebs, destroy the vermin—in short, do all the shining deeds of the young Knight of romance, and marry the Princess.” – Great Expectations
37. “We were equals afterward, as we had been before; but, afterward at quiet times when I sat looking at Joe and thinking about him, I had a new sensation of feeling conscious that I was looking up to Joe in my heart.” – Great Expectations
38. “The unqualified truth is, that when I loved Estella with the love of a man, I loved her simply because I found her irresistible. Once for all; I knew to my sorrow, often and often, if not always, that I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be. Once for all; I love her nonetheless because I knew it, and it had no more influence in restraining me, than if I had devoutly believed her to be human perfection.” – Great Expectations
39. “That was a memorable day to me, for it made great changes in me. But it is the same with any life. Imagine one selected day struck out of it, and think how different its course would have been. Pause you who read this, and think for a moment of the long chain of iron or gold, of thorns or flowers, that would never have bound you, but for the formation of the first link on one memorable day.” – Great Expectations
40. “I’ll tell you,” said she, in the same hurried passionate whisper, “what real love it. It is blind devotion, unquestioning self-humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and against the whole world, giving up your whole heart and soul to the smiter – as I did!” – Great Expectations
Great Expectations quotes that will make your day
41. “You are part of my existence, part of myself. You have been in every line I have ever read, since I first came here, the rough common boy whose poor heart you wounded even then.” – Great Expectations
42. “You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since-on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the light, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea, in the streets.” – Great Expectations
43. “You have been the embodiment of every graceful fancy that my mind has ever become acquainted with.” – Great Expectations
44. “There was a gay fiction among us that we were constantly enjoying ourselves, and a skeleton truth that we never did. To the best of my belief, our case was in the last respect a rather common one.” – Great Expectations
45. “My sister’s bringing up had made me sensitive. In the little world in which children have their existence whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice.” – Great Expectations
46. “It may be only small injustice that the child can be exposed to; but the child is small, and its world is small, and its rocking-horse stands as many hands high, according to scale, as a big-boned Irish hunter. Within myself, I had sustained, from my babyhood, a perpetual conflict with injustice.” – Great Expectations
47. “I had known, from the time when I could speak, that my sister, in her capricious and violent coercion, was unjust to me. I had cherished a profound conviction that her bringing me up by hand, gave her no right to bring me up by jerks.” – Great Expectations
48. “Through all my punishments, disgraces, fasts and vigils, and other penitential performances, I had nursed this assurance; and to my communing so much with it, in a solitary and unprotected way, I in great part refer the fact that I was morally timid and very sensitive.” – Great Expectations
49. “There have been occasions in my later life (I suppose as in most lives) when I have felt for a time as if a thick curtain had fallen on all its interest and romance, to shut me out from anything save dull endurance anymore. Never has that curtain dropped so heavy and blank, as when my way in life lay stretched out straight before me through the newly-entered road of apprenticeship to Joe.” – Great Expectations
50. “‘So,’ said Estella, ‘I must be taken as I have been made. The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me.” – Great Expectations
What did you learn from these Great Expectations quotes?
Despite the hordes of criminals and sociopaths that Pip encounters, there are people in his world that seem tied together by things like community, loyalty and other bonds that fuel their decision-making.
Pip has a desire to be a powerful gentleman, which ironically allows him to shred relationships, lie to others, exploit weaknesses and ultimately deceive himself. He is captivating because he is not a classic altruistic lead character overcoming a quest while maintaining his dignity.
Instead, Pip is arrogant and dishonest. He disowns the people who love him most, he puts his pursuit of a lavish lifestyle over keeping his word, and he eventually becomes what he claims to detest. Pip forever tied his well-being and success to an imaginary inheritance, a promise that he made up, that existed in his mind based on disingenuous loyalty to a wealthy older woman.
What’s your biggest takeaway from these Great Expectations quotes and lines? What are your thoughts on Pip? Have you ever had any great expectations that left you disappointed?
November 23, 2021 7:00 AM EST