View Full Version : Do character ages and timelines match?

05-20-2012, 11:18 AM
Do the ages and timelines of the characters in this book add up?

In the first chapter, Pip seems about eight years old. Then, according to the book, he first visits Miss Havisham a year later. Here he meets Estella, who Pip thinks is about his own age, although she seems older. The way she talks about the brewery and what 'satis' means makes her sound older than nine. Pip seems somewhat older too. For example, he uses the word melancholy instead of sad. I would say they were both at least eleven. In most films and TV series, the young Estella looks about thirteen. Reading the book I imagined her being prepubescent, although Pip does say that one of the reasons she appeared older was that she was a girl. I am sure the book says he only visited the house for about ten months before he was apprenticed to Joe. Apprenticeships usually started at about age fourteen, so some more years seem to have disappeared from Pip's childhood. Pip learns of his Great Expectations four years later, when he would be eighteen. This just about gives Magwitch time to be transported to Australia, serve his seven years forced labour and to start making lots of money.

I also wondered about the ages of the older characters. Magwitch was described as about sixty when he comes back to see Pip, and he is still quite an active man. That makes him about forty-five when he first terrorises Pip in the graveyard, which is plausible. He would have been thirty-seven when he fathered Estella with Molly, which is plausible too.

I am pretty sure he said Compeyson was described as being a younger man than Magwitch. Compeyson was supposed to marry Miss Havisham, so presumably they are about the same age. If anything, Miss Havisham would probably be a bit younger. If Compeyson is five years younger than Magwitch, and Miss Havisham is one year younger than Compeyson, that makes her fifty-four when things come to a head, and only thirty-nine when she first meets Pip. That seems far too young. When Pip first meets her, she already seems like an old crone; she leans on his shoulder to exercise around her dining room. However, she does not seem to have aged any fifteen years later. In addition, Herbert tells Pip that Compeyson jilted Miss Havisham twenty-five years before they were born, which would make that forty-three years previously. If Miss Havisham was twenty when she was jilted, that would make her between fifty-three and fifty-six when she first met Pip, and sixty-eight when she died.

Jaggers usually appears quite old in the TV and film adaptions, but his defence of Molly was the case that made his name as a lawyer. Say he was twenty-five at the time. That would make him forty when he meets Pip in the Jolly Bargemen and forty-five when everything goes badly wrong.

05-21-2012, 03:04 AM
In addition, Herbert tells Pip that Compeyson jilted Miss Havisham twenty-five years before they were born, which would make that forty-three years previously.

I re-read the passage last night and I had missed a comma: she was jilted twenty-five years ago, before they were born. By my reckoning, that makes Miss Havisham between thirty-nine and forty-one when she and Pip first meet, mid-forties at most. She obviously didn't wear well.

10-04-2012, 03:11 PM
According to The Times 10-minute guide to Great Expectations, Pip was born in 1802 and met Magwitch in 1809. When things come to climax, Pip, Estella and Herbert are 23; Magwitch, 60; Compeyson 52; Miss Haversham, 56; Biddy, 24; Jaggers, 55; Wemmick, 50.

I am still not sure how old Pip was when he first met Miss Haversham. The book says it was about a year after he met Magwitch on the marsh, but Estella, in particular, seems somewhat older than 8. Pip is apprenticed to Joe at around 14. Surely Pip did not go to see Miss Haversham and Estella for six years - the book only mentions ten months.

Anyway, Miss Haversham would not have been very old when Pip met her the first time, despite his impressions. Would she really have needed Pip's help to walk around the table? I suppose she did not look after herself very well. Maybe she was a bit of a hypochondriac.

Compeyson was four years younger than Miss Haversham. Surely it was slightly unusual for a bridegroom to be younger than his bride in those days. Herbert tells Pip shortly after meeting in London that the jilting took place twenty-five years previously. Pip was eighteen years old when he heard this, so Miss Haversham would have been 26 when the wedding failed to take place.

Wemmick seems to be rather old to be marrying for the first time. He must have waited a long time to get his hands on Miss Skiffins.