Pip is an orphan in a dangerous world. While visiting his parents' and brothers' graves, he is grabbed by an escaped convict, Abel Magwitch, who terrorizes him into stealing food and a file to cut his shackles. At home, Pip's sister beats and scolds him frequently. Only her husband, Joe Gargery, a blacksmith, loves and protects him. Pip's one ambition is to become Joe's apprentice. That is about to change.
Miss Havisham, a wealthy recluse, summons Pip to her bizarre and decaying manor to play with her beautiful ward, Estella. Though, to Miss havisham's delight, Estalla insults him repeatedly for his coarseness, Pip falls in love with the girl. He resolves to educate and improve himself, even though he believes that he will never have the wealth or manners to win Estella's heart. That, too, will change.
A lawyer seeks out Pip and Joe with news that an anonymous benefactor plans to bequeath Pip a great fortune. Pip is to proceed to London to be educated in the language, manners, and style of a gentleman. An excited Pip climbs aboard the London coach unaware of two things: This new world may be even more dangerous than the old, and he hasn't seen the last of Abel Magwitch.
Narrated by an older, wiser Pip, who is tougher on himself than on his antagonists, Great Expectations takes a hard look at English society during the Industrial Revolution and the true cost of upward mobility.