This is the story of a boy (and later a young and handsome man) nicknamed Pip, told by himself. We see Pip from the first time as a seven-year-old orphan, who lives with his sister and her husband in the small village in the middle of the marshes near Rochester. His sister, Mrs. Gardery, takes her new duty very seriously. She is quite strict to Pip up to the brink of being rude. She is incredibly fond of order and cleanliness and the natural behaviour of a young boy irritates her very much. But still, Mrs. Gardery does care about him well and, moreover, her husband, Joe Gardery is the best father figure he can only imagine. Joe is a local blacksmith, he is fair-haired, tall, huge and kind. He often defends Pip from being berated by Mrs. Gardery because he remembers himself being in Pip’s age. Impressed by Joe’s personality, Pip decides to become a blacksmith himself when he grows up, and he starts to help his uncle with his work.
Pip’s adventures begin on the day when he, running away from his sister again,wanders the cemetery. Suddenly he sees a wildly looking man in dirty clothes and wearing shackles on his legs, no doubt a runaway convict. But Pip’s curiosity overcomes his caution and he comes closer to the scary man. And regrets it badly, because the man threatens to rip the boy apart if he won’t bring him food and a file to open his shackles. Pip obeys, partly because of pity and partly because of fear.
He steals some food from his sister and the file from Joe’s workplace, terrified that he will be caught and his stepfamily will think of him as of a petty thief. But Pip manages to leave the house unnoticed again and give his “trophies” to the man from the cemetery. The man is still rude to him, taking everything Pip brought to him. But later, when the convict is caught again and Pip trembles in fear, waiting for him to announce his “companion” - the man says that he stole file and food by himself, probably saving Pip from jail.
Later, when the rumors about the runaway prisoner wandering nearby cease, another stranger sees Pip in tavern and calls the boy. Pip comes closer and the stranger returns him the file and gives some money as gratitude from the prisoner whom he helped before. The boy takes the money and soon he almost forgets about that strange story.
The year pass. Pip starts to visit a strange house at the outskirts of the village. It seems that life in it has stopped the day of its owner’s, Miss Havisham’s, weddingwas ruined. Now Miss Havisham is an old and bitter lady who rarely goes outside and prefers to sit in the dimly lit room in her decaying wedding dress. Pip tries to cheer her up, playing cards with her and telling stories to Miss Havisham and the young girl, her adopted daughter named Estella. Estella is very intelligent and beautiful and Pip likes her very much. But Miss Havisham, whose husband-to-be abandoned and disgraced her in the eve of their wedding, is driven by her offense and anger. She constantly conditions Estella that all the men are evil liars and the only way to deal with them is to trick them first, take everything a woman can take from them and then break their hearts. So, despite her inner kind nature, she treats Pip with cold politeness, seeing in him just another future offender.
But still, the refined young lady, so different from any other girl in the village, fascinates Pip more and more and soon he understands that he loves her with all his heart. He gives the money received from Miss Havisham for his job as a companion to Joe to become his apprentice. Now Pip works in the forge with another young man, Orlick. But if the life of a blacksmith seemed to him the most appropriate and desired career before, now Pip understands that Estelle won’t even look at the young blacksmith apprentice, all black from ash and dirt.
Soon Estelle departs to continue her education abroad and, possibly, marry a noble and rich gentleman. Pip is crushed by this news. To calm himself somehow he goes to the shopkeeper to listen to a tragedy play “George Barnwell”. He doesn’t see it as a bad omen, but we, as readers, soon understand that a tragedy was a foreshadowing of the grim events that await for Pip in the nearest future.
One day his sister has a big argument with Orlick - and in the evening of that very day Pip, who is returning from work, sees the people crowded around their house and in the courtyard. His sister is lying on the ground, and her head is covered with blood. Someone hit her on the back of her head, nearly killing the poor woman. Near her lies a “weapon” - a part of the broken shackles. Pip suspects Orlick and also the man from the cemetery, but he doesn’t have real proofs for any of the versions.
Mrs. Gardery recovery is long and slow. She barely speaks and can’t walk by herself. Joe hires a girl from the village named Biddy to nurse her and help her with household. Biddy is a kind young woman, she tries to cheer up everyone in the house including Pip. She even tries to educate him after hearing the tragic story of his unrequited love. Biddy understands that she’s not a lady and she can’t tutor Pip to match Estelle’s level, but she tries her best and Pip is grateful for it. His gratitude even almost turns into something more, but the dreams of Estelle again distract Pip from the obvious decision to marry Biddy, inherit the forge and live a life of an honest and respected worker.
Pip grows up and now he can attend the tavern almost as an adult. Once he meets there a tall gentleman with a constantly disgusted expression on his face. Pip recognizes him as one of the rare guests of Miss Havisham. His name is Jagger, he is a lawyer from London. But suddenly he announces that he has an important assignment for the brother of Mrs. Gardery. Pip shockingly listens to Jagger’s words: he can inherit a lot of money, but to get them he needs to immediately leave the village, cease his apprenticeship and become a proper young gentleman. In addition he must change his name from that childish nickname “Pip” and never ask who his benefactor is. Pip’s heart almost stops beating, he can barely say “yes”. He is almost sure that Miss Havisham finally had mercy on him and now gives him a chance to become equal to his beloved Estelle.
Jagger immediately says that now Pip has a deposit that is enough for his education and life in London. The rest of his money will be kept by Mr. Matthew Pocket until Pip turns twenty-one. Then he will be able to legally inherit everything as an adult. This name is also familiar to Pip - he heard it from Miss Havisham too - so it only solidifies his theory about her choosing him as a future husband for Estelle.
Pip says his farewell to Joe, who is sad to lose his friend and apprentice, but also glad that Pip now has a chance to become someone better than just blacksmith. Biddy wishes him the best of luck and that very day Pip departs to London.
The life in the capital slowly changes Pip. His memories about village, forge and rural life become dimmer. He gets new friends: Jagger’s clerk Wimmick and the son of Mr. Pocket Herbert with whom he shares a rented flat. Herbert and his father teach him everything a gentleman should know and later Pip pays a visit to (as he thinks) his “good fairy”. Now he looks like a proper gentleman, in a good suit and with perfect manners. Miss Havisham is content to see him and takes his words of gratitude but she still doesn’t reveal if she was his benefactor. Pip leaves with a heavy heart, bursting into tears when the roof of his house disappears out of sight - the memories about his careless life come to life again burning his heart. He misses Joe and Biddy and his sister - but he promised to leave his house and become a gentleman and Pip is going to keep his promise.
Gradually, Pip gets used to his wealth. He casually gives money to his new “friends”, treats them in clubs and actually lives a life of a young dandy. Herbert is fascinated with Pip’s attitude to finances: he himself is much more careful. So Herbert trusts Pip to search for luck in London for them both. Pip is so immersed in the city nightlife that he doesn’t pay any visits to his relatives, receiving news only through Jaggers. When Jaggers tells Pip that Orlick is hired by Miss Havisham as a porter, Pip tells him about his suspicions, afraid of Orlick hurting his “fairy”. Jaggers promptly advices the old lady to fire him immediately and Miss Havisham does so.
The second Pip’s visit to his village has a tragic cause. Mrs. Gardery died, never recovering from her injury. Pip goes to the funeral feeling great grief and remorse for leaving his family in such a hard time for Joe. But soon he must leave again to continue his education.
Finally, Pip is legally adult, he is 21-year-old now and can inherit everything. Mr. Pocket and Jaggers are ready to advice and help if Pip needs them but now the young man is free to choose his fate by himself. In addition on his birthday Pip receives five hundred pounds from Mr. Pocket personally. He promises to send him the same amount annually. The first his investment is buying a small company for him and Herbert, so they can be co-owners and work together.
Once, when his friend departs to Marseilles and Pip is alone in their flat, he hears heavy footsteps on his stairs. A mighty gray-haired man comes in and, despite the years passed, Pip instantly recognizes the man from the cemetery. The former convict heartily thanks Pip for saving him many years ago. He says his name is Abel Magwitch and he was so deeply touched by the boy’s kindness that when he made his fortune in Australia, he sent a part of it to him, hoping he would become a great man.
Pip is shocked. So, Miss Havisham didn’t intend to marry Estelle to him! And that means that he left Joe for nothing. The young man is torn apart by contradictory feelings but at the end he understands that Magwitch really cares for him no less than Joe did. He even risked his life illegally returning to England from Australia - the land that convicts have no right to leave.
Now Magwitch is hiding in the house of Herbert’s bride, Clara. He knows Jaggers well and later, after learning his story, Pip understands why. It appears that Estelle is his daughter! Her mother was Jaggers’ housekeeper who was framed for murder and, if not for Jagger’s proficiency in law, would be hanged. Later Jaggers took her baby and gave the girl to single Miss Havisham to adopt and raise. He also learns the sad part of Estelle’s story: Miss Havisham indeed tutored Estelle to toy with Pip’s feelings, delighted to see the sufferings of a young boy. She was deranged enough to raise Estelle as her personal weapon against all the men. Pip is devastated, but his love is adamant and he promises to keep Magwitch’s story in secret just not to hurt his beloved Estelle - even if she forgot him long ago.
Spending time together with Magwitch, Pip learns to trust and love the man, the former convict also treats Pip almost like a son. But soon Magwitch has to leave and return to Australia: he can’t abuse Clara’s hospitality for too long and risk her safety. The last thing he tells Pip is about another convict who ran with him that day, sixteen years ago. His name was Compayson and he was the suitor of Miss Havisham, her groom and the dirty deceiver who was the cause of poor woman’s madness. Now Pip understands that Compayson was, for sure, the man who injured his sister too.
Pip returns to Miss Havisham to have a serious talk about what he heard. The old lady does feel remorse for what she has done. She tells him that now Estelle is married to the upper-class man named Bentley Drummel. She sincerely asks for forgiveness and Pip grants her it. When Pip is about to leave, he sees that a spark from the chimney fell to Miss Havisham’s dress trail and it caught fire. Pip tries to save the old lady but it’s too late, she is heavily burned. Miss Havisham survives but becomes helpless just as his sister was.
When Pip and Herbert are preparing for Magwitch’s secret departure, Pip gets a mysterious invitation to the house in the swamp. To his surprise it is Orlick waiting for him there. He still wants revenge for him being fired from Miss Havisham’s house courtesy of Pip. So Orlick allied with Compayson and lured Pip to the abandoned place to kill him. Death seems inevitable, but Herbert, warned by Magwitch, arrives just in time to save Pip. The friends hurry back to aid Magwitch’s escape, but now they are followed by the police. Compayson reported them as people hiding a runaway convict.
Pip and Herbert manage to secretly hire a boat to sail down the Thames to the international port, but Compayson chases them. Magwitch and Compayson fight in the middle of the river and Compayson falls into the water and drowns. But it’s too late: the police is already seeing them. Magwitch is convicted again, now being sentenced to execution and Pip is stripped of his inherited money.
But Magwitch doesn’t live long enough to be executed. He dies from his wounds in the prison hospital in a few days, comforted by Pip’s presence, his gratitude and the news that Estelle is now a respected noble lady.
Pip visits his native village once again now intended to forget Estelle and marry Biddy, but he discovers that Biddy has already married Joe and now teaches him reading and writing with all her kindness and patience. The other news is that Miss Havisham died soon from her burns, Orlick tried to rob the tavern and was imprisoned. Now nothing ties Pip to his former family and village and he decides to focus on developing his company.
Eleven years have passed. Pip’s and Herbert’s company is now international, Pip travels a lot, but always is greeted warmly and gladly in Pockets’ house. He returns to his native village for the last time as he thinks - and meets Joe and Biddy, with the toddler in their hands they have named Pip. The man is deeply touched by the fact that Joe still loves and remembers him and finally reconciles with him.
For the reason he doesn’t understand himself, Pip goes to the former house of Miss Havisham and Estelle. There he sees a shadowy silhouette of a woman - but it isn’t a ghost of Miss Havisham. Estelle returned back to her house. Drummel appeared to be a dishonest scoundrel who abused her and treated her badly, but he recently died and Estelle returned back to her home. Her cold vanity turned into sad compassion. Finally she understands how wrong Miss Havisham was, raising her as a heartbreaker - courtesy of her Estell never loved and never had a life she could call at least slightly happy.
Listening to her, Pip just takes her hand and gently leads her out of the gloomy house. The fog around it had cleared and they both now see the endless sunlit world in front of them - the world in which they won’t be separated again.