GCSE English Literature Revision: Great Expectations: Themes

4th April 2017

GCSE Revision - English Literature

Great Expectations Themes – GCSE English Literature Prose


If you have been studying the novel Great Expectations you can refresh your memory on the main themes with these handy notes. We have summarised the main themes to help you remember them for your essays and exams.


  • The novel Great Expectations was written by the writer Charles Dickens and published in 1861. The book follows the life of a boy called Pip, who is from a poor family and strives to move up through the social classes.


  • Society in those days was defined into the educated and un-educated classes. Pip’s family are working class and poor. He gets confused and has to learn that being wealthy and educated are not the only things in life to strive towards.


  • He meets a young, upper class girl called Estella who has a powerful effect on him. He knows he can never marry her if he is considered to be of a lower class.


  • He is funded by a mystery benefactor who pays for him to be educated. The reasons why will reveal themselves through the book.


  • The novel shows us different characters from rich and poor backgrounds who are basically good and bad. The reader must ask themselves what are the most important traits in life?


  • There is lots of powerful imagery used in the book: the weather, articles of torture and punishment as well as the decaying Satis House full of cobwebs and dust. What do you think these images serve to represent?


  • The book also makes us ask the question; are all people who are criminals bad and who is the law protecting?


  • The main themes are:


Ambition/Self improvement

Social Class

Good and Bad (Drummle and Joe)

Mirroring of Opposites/Symmetry

Symbolism – Mist and Satis House

Crime and Innocence


For more information on GCSE English Literature revision for the novel Great Expectations check out our song at ……. For any other GCSE Maths, Science and English revision go to ….


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