"Buckthorne" can also be called "The Young Man of Great Expectations." The reason for that is in the story, Buckthorne is a man who has high expectations for himself and has trouble living up to those expectations. He is intended to inherit a lot of money, but soon takes that for granted by ignoring his family and friends. By doing that he is disinherited and is forced to change his ways. He starts out in the hope that he will succeed and almost does until he sets his expectations too high and fails bringing him back home and no thought of ever living on his own.

Buckthorne is a dreamer and has a big problem thinking about reality. Buckthorne was really spoiled by his mother and cared for her very much. She was a very pleasant woman and always pleased people. His father on the other hand, was a man that that beating was a way to discipline. Another member of his family is his mean, miserable uncle. His uncle is a very rich man who doesn't like to socialize very much.

He has his own corner room in the gigantic house. The only time he leaves there is on Sunday when he reads Pilgrim's Progress from the Bible. Buckthorne goes to stay there every so often to help out by cleaning and doing other choirs around the huge estate. One day after he heard the Pilgrim's Process he decided to write a poem about his old uncle's estate.

The poem was about the "Doubting Castle" and the owner was "Giant Despair." Buckthorne loses the poem and his uncle finds it and is very upset. None of the men hate the poetry that Buckthorne writes especially his father. His mother and other women love it, though. Through his poetry he meets a girl who loves his poetry. Buckthorne wants to be with her, but feels he is too good for her.

She is the only girl he has ever been in love with. When she was at the theater he went to see her perform and made a big scene, which cost him his job. Ironically, the girl, Columbine, still wanted to be with him. While they were together Bukthorne's uncle died leaving his whole estate to a son no one ever knew. Because Buckthorne did not get any of the money he was poor and had to become a "Grub street hack" to support himself. Then by surprise his one of his cousins died and left him the entire estate.

Instead of living a happy life with Columbine he gave her up for a squire's daughter just so he could be heir.