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The Study Guide
All you need to know

A Tale of Two Endings

The ending of Great Expectations that Victorians read is not the original ending that Dickens wrote for the novel. On the advice of his friend, novelist Edward Bulwer-Lytton, Dickens changed the original ending where Pip meets the remarried Estella in London and they part forever, to the more upbeat ending where Pip and Estella stay together, in order that readers be more gratified by the happy conclusion.

Dickens' friend and biographer, John Forster, revealed the original ending in his Life of Dickens after Dickens' death. Most critics believe the original ending more suitable to the dark nature of the story. Modern editions of the novel usually include the original ending as an addendum.

The Original Ending of Great Expectations

It was four years more, before I saw herself. I had heard of her as leading a most unhappy life, and as being separated from her husband who had used her with great cruelty, and who had become quite renowned as a compound of pride, brutality, and meanness. I had heard of the death of her husband (from an accident consequent on ill-treating a horse), and of her being married again to a Shropshire doctor, who, against his interest, had once very manfully interposed, on an occasion when he was in professional attendance on Mr. Drummle, and had witnessed some outrageous treatment of her. I had heard that the Shropshire doctor was not rich, and that they lived on her own personal fortune. I was in England again — in London, and walking along Piccadilly with little Pip — when a servant came running after me to ask would I step back to a lady in a carriage who wished to speak to me. It was a little pony carriage, which the lady was driving; and the lady and I looked sadly enough on one another.

"I am greatly changed, I know; but I thought you would like to shake hands with Estella, too, Pip. Lift up that pretty child and let me kiss it!" (She supposed the child, I think, to be my child.) I was very glad afterwards to have had the interview; for, in her face and in her voice, and in her touch, she gave me the assurance, that suffering had been stronger than Miss Havisham's teaching, and had given her a heart to understand what my heart used to be.

The Second Ending of Great Expectations

The second ending of the novel was urged by Bulwer-Lytton, a close friend of Dickens and a fellow author. It is the version that was originally published in 1861. It includes an extra chapter (Chapter 59) for the revision. In this ending, Pip returns to the forge after eleven years, instead of the eight, that Dickens had originally intended. Also, the last part of the final sentence went through further revision as the novel when through subsequent publishings. The original sentence was: 

. . . I saw the shadow of no parting from her but one.

During the proof stage, Dickens dropped the last two words. In 1861, it appeared in All the Year Round as: 

. . . I saw the shadow of no parting from her.

In 1862, the final revision was to the first published edition of the novel. The sentence then read: 

. . . I saw no shadow of another parting from her.


More From The Study Guide

"May I?"
The most abhorrent character: Uncle Pumblechook and his snobbery

The Double Ending
Why Dickens changed the ending of Great Expectations

Estella and Pip
What makes these two characters alike in so many ways?

A Snob's Progress
Dr Matthew Rubery on the development of Pip's character in the novel

Guilty Consciences
The themes of shame and guilt in Great Expectations

Serialisation of Great Expectations
How Dickens first published the book

All The Year Round, December 1860
The First Instalment of the serial

A Masterpiece
Dr. Jeremy Clarke gives a personal view on one of the great British novels

An Introduction to Great Expectations

Dickens and Character
Dr. Jeremy Clarke talks about Dickens' characters and their timeless appeal

Atlantic Monthly Review
Original Review of Great Expectations in 1861

A Tale of Two Endings
Dickens' Original Ending to Great Expectations

The Harmonious Blacksmith
The Story behind Pip's Nickname

Dramatis Personae
A Summary of the Characters in Great Expectations

Original Illustrations
Just some of the illustrations from various editions of the novel

Stage and Screen
Film, TV, and Theatrical Adaptations of the book

Left Alone in the World
The themes of alienation and loneliness in Great Expectations

Symbolism in Great Expectations
How Dickens uses symbolic imagery in his writing

Suits, Sinners and Scented Soap
What makes Mr Jaggers a truly Dickensian character?

A Social Commentary
Dr Matthew Rubery on fiction and Victorian society

The Novel and the Child
Dickens portrayal of children in his works