Great Expectations Summary and Analysis
Part I, Chapters 11-19 (11-19)
A few days later, Pip returns to Miss Havisham's as directed. This time, the house seems full of people waiting to see her but she sees him first. She brings him into a great banquet hall where a table is set with food and large wedding cake. But the food and the cake are years old, untouched except by a vast array of rats, beetles and spiders which crawl freely through the room. Miss Havisham has Pip walk her around the room as four guests are brought in: Sarah Pocket, a "vicious," "dry, brown, corrugated woman;" Georgiana, "the grave lady;" Camilla, an old melodramatic woman; and her husband, Cousin Raymond. All are, apparently, the same age or a little younger than the withered Miss Havisham and all come to see her on the same day of the year: her birthday, which also happens to be the day when the cake was set out and the clocks were stopped so many years ago; i.e. the day Miss Havisham stopped living.
Miss Havisham continues walking around the room, saying little to her guests, until the mention of a certain Matthew, whereupon she stops short.
The guests leave, and Miss Havisham once again asks that Estella and Pip play cards as she watches.
As Pip is once again allowed to explore the yard, he runs into a pale, young gentleman who challenges him to fight. Despite the young man's jumping about and expert preparation (bringing some water and explaining the rules), Pip gives him a bloody nose, a black eye, and a general whopping. They end the fight and the boy, cheerful as ever, wishes Pip a good afternoon.
At the gate, Estella tells Pip that he may kiss her if he likes. Pip kisses her on the cheek.
Pip is introduced to a number of strange characters in this chapter but, more importantly, he is given some more hints about Miss Havisham's strange lifestyle. It is clear that the decay of her and the house stem from her wedding day that none of her relatives dare to mention. Miss Havisham's relationship with her relatives -- Georgiana, Sarah Pocket, Cousin Raymond, and Camilla -- is even more loveless than her relationship with Pip. For her relatives, their visit to Miss Havisham is based on greed, hoping to please her enough to be given some of her money at her death. Miss Havisham is well aware of this, and a number of times refers to her dead body laid out as a meal for her relatives on the same table where her decaying cake now sits.
It is ironic that the loveless environment of the Satis House is representative of the higher society that Pip would like to rise to. The relationships of the house are based on money and power, while the relationship at the forge with Joe is based on mutual respect. Pip feels unnatural with how he acts with this kind of society, as is the case when he feels guilty for hitting the pale young gentleman. But he is rewarded for his violence by Estella's kiss, symbolic of society's rewarding of violent behavior. Though unclear to young Pip, the narrator is making clear that Pip's desire to enter into higher society is a decision to choose empty relationships where people are tools (or, as in Pip's case, simple walking sticks). It is also a decision to choose death and decay, as reflected in the Satis House setting. Lastly, it is an environment where Pip instinctively feels he is going against his nature.
Pip returns once again to Miss Havisham's, but he does not run into the boy again. He begins pushing Miss Havisham in a wheelchair from her room to the large banquet hall, and continues to do so over the course of eight months. Sometimes they are joined by Estella and the three sing little ditties together.
During this same time, Mr. Pumblechook makes a habit of visiting Mrs. Joe and discussing Pip's promising prospects, now that he is routinely seeing Miss Havisham.
But the prospects seem to fall away when one night Miss Havisham asks Pip to bring Joe to visit her in order that Pip may start his indenture as a blacksmith.
By this time it is clear that Miss Havisham is bringing up Estella to "...break their hearts and have no mercy." That is, to break the hearts of men, like Pip, in revenge for what they have done to Miss Havisham. Although what they have done to Miss Havisham is not completely clear, we can assume that the reason for her unchanged state and the decaying state of the house is that she was jilted on her wedding day by a man. Estella, then, is to revenge this sin for Miss Havisham by causing men to fall in love with her and then breaking their hearts. With Pip, she is obviously succeeding, who is continuing to be abused and insulted by her while admitting that she grows prettier and more a part of his thoughts everyday.
Joe accompanies Pip to the Satis House the next day. Miss Havisham gives Joe twenty five guineas for Pip's service to her and thus buys Pip's indenture as a blacksmith.
Returning to Mr. Pumblechook's house, where Mrs. Joe is also anxiously waiting, Joe produces the twenty five pounds much to everyone's -- except Pip's -- joy. Caught up in the excitement, Mr. Pumblechook insists that Pip be legally bound by law and drags Pip and the entourage down to the Town Hall to be bound. Mrs. Joe then brings everyone out for dinner.
At the meal, all but Pip seem to be enjoying themselves: "...I was truly wretched, and had a strong conviction on me that I should never like Joe's trade. I had liked it once, but once was not now."
Throughout Great Expectations, Dickens uses meals as a reflection of the relationships at hand. The meal celebrating Pip's indenture is reminiscent of the Christmas meal in Chapter 4, where Pip feels none of the enjoyment, human companionship, and hospitality that is supposed to accompany meals. What is significant about these meals among friends is what they are not. The uneaten meal and cake in Miss Havisham's banquet hall stands as a starkly direct symbol of the lack of love and human companionship that meals commonly signify.
If we look, however, at the first "meal" of the story: the pork pie and "wittels" that Pip gives to the convict, we see something different. Though the setting of the meal is unglamorous, the cold, damp marshes, and the manners of the guest (the convict) are likened to a dog, there appears to be some genuine hospitality in Pip's words, "I am glad you enjoy it." And the convict answers sincerely, "Thankee, my boy, I do." The meal, in fact, joins the two inexorably.
Dickens will turn to the use of food and meals throughout the story to reflect on relationships on various levels of society.
Pip explains his misery to his readers: He is ashamed of his home, ashamed of his trade. He wants to be uncommon, he wants to be a gentleman. He wants to be a part of the environment that he had a small taste of at the Satis House.
His greatest fear allies his greatest shame. He fears, beyond everything else, that Estella will see him in his current, dirty, blacksmith state.
Throughout all of Dicken's books, criticism aimed specifically at the Victorian Society can be seen. In this case, Dickens is contrasting Pip's shame at having to do honest, hard work with his desire to be a gentleman which, up until this point, has meant acting as Miss Havisham's walking stick. In essence, Dickens is criticizing a Victorian tendency, seen even today, of looking down on the common laborer as dirty and of less value than the more urbane man leading a wealthy, leisurely lifestyle. Instead, the gentleman, and his sense of "work," is held up as ideal.
Dicken's criticism is on two levels: one, against the society which enforces these values and two, against the individuals, like Pip, who adopt society's values despite their better judgment.
Biddy continues to teach Pip all she knows including an ironic little ditty about a man who goes to London and lives a fancy life. Pip continues to teach Joe everything he has learned, though he doubts Joe is taking much of the information in.
Orlick, a gruff man that Joe employs around the forge, begins one day to insult Mrs. Joe within her hearing. There is a fight between Joe and Orlick, which Joe wins, but the two continue to work together as if it is all behind them.
About a year into his indenture, Pip revisits Miss Havisham at the Satis House ostensibly to thank her for paying for his indenture. He is disappointed at the meeting: Miss Havisham does see him for a few moments, but only to laugh at him when he looks around for Estella. Estella has, in fact, been sent abroad to be educated as a lady.
Pip returns home to find nearly the whole of the village gathered around his house. Mrs. Joe has been hit over the head, knocked senseless by some unknown assailant.
Even while Pip dreams of an upper-class life, violence and crime continue to be events in his life. In this chapter, Pip is witness to a fight between Orlick and Joe, apparently egged on by Mrs. Joe, reminiscent of Estella complimenting with a kiss Pip's fight with the pale young gentleman. Violence comes quickly and rather unexpectedly throughout the novel and, as in this case, does little to solve anything.
Pip immediately suspects Orlick, though, strangely, his sister was hit with the shackles that the convict filed off in the first chapter! Because of this connection, Pip also suspects the one-eyed man that Joe and he had met in the pub, and who had demonstrated his own knowledge of Pip's past by stirring his drink with the file used to free those same shackles.
His sister has suffered some serious brain damage, having lost much of voice, her hearing, and her memory. She communicates by writing letters and symbols on a slate. Furthermore, her "temper was greatly improved, and she was patient."
To help with the housework and to take care of Mrs. Joe, Biddy is employed and moves into the house and becomes "a blessing to the household."
Strangely, Pip's sister starts to treat Orlick extraordinarily well, inviting him to have something to drink, and watching him with an "air of humble propitiation."
The seemingly distant episode of Pip helping the convict on the marshes continues to haunt him, even as he tries to distance himself by becoming educated and he dreams of being Estella's gentleman. The shackles in this chapter remind Pip of the episode and bring back his shame and guilt to the point where Pip feels like he is partly responsible for his sister's injury.
Dickens subtly changes how we view Mrs. Joe by referring to her now as "my sister." Before the accident, the readers almost forget the blood relationship between Pip and Mrs. Joe, but with the changing of Mrs. Joe's attitude and temper, her position reverts to Pip's sister.
Pip notices that Biddy is turning into a woman, not very pretty, but very bright and wise. They go for a walk and Pip confesses his desire to be a gentleman. He also admits that he wants to be a gentleman so that he will be acceptable, and perhaps loved, by Estella. Biddy wisely suggests that becoming a gentleman to "gain over" a woman who thinks him course and common does not sound very logical.
Pip knows this instinctively, can't help himself and says as much, amidst tears in front of Biddy. He tells Biddy that he wishes he were more easily satisfied, he wishes he could fall in love with her, Biddy. "But you never will, you see," Biddy replies.
This chapter lays out what has remained unspoken for some time to a somewhat relieving affect: Pip comes right out and says he loves Estella and that, foolish even to himself, he wants to become a gentleman to win her over. The discussion, symbolically, takes place among the marshes, which have, throughout the novel, represented Pip's past as well as his social position as a blacksmith's apprentice. The pastoral peacefulness that accompanies Pip's walk with Biddy is contrasted with the ships in the river, that Pip has always associated with some far away, expected future. Pip himself states his frustrated state when he says he wishes he were happy in his current position, including having Biddy close, but he is forever looking toward some impossible future.
It is the fourth year of Pip's apprenticeship and he is sitting with Joe and Mr. Wopsle at the pub when they are approached by a stranger who wants to talk to Joe and Pip alone. Pip recognizes him, and his "smell of soap," as a man he had once run into at Miss Havisham's house years before.
Back at the forge, the man, Jaggers, explains that Pip now has "great expectations." He has been given a large amount of money, to be administered by Jaggers, by an anonymous sponsor whom Pip is never to try to discover. Fulfilling Pip's dreams, Jaggers explains that Pip is to be "brought up a gentleman" and will be tutored by Matthew Pocket -- the same "Matthew" that had been mentioned at Miss Havisham's. Jaggers gives him money enough for new clothes and leaves, expecting to meet him in London within a week.
Pip spends an uncomfortable evening with Biddy and Joe, then retires to bed. There, despite having all his dreams come true, he finds himself feeling very lonely.
The implication to Pip, and to the readers, is that Miss Havisham is the sponsor who is going to make all of Pip's dreams come true including, Pip imagines, training him as a gentleman so that he may be an appropriate mate for Estella.
Immediately after this dramatic change in fortune, however, Pip finds himself feeling lonely and isolated. The reason is clear: From the moments of Jagger's announcement, the relationship between he and Joe and Biddy has changed. In essence, Jagger's news fulfills the vanity that had been creeping up in Pip since he first worked at Miss Havisham's. That is, he thinks himself better, more intelligent, more qualified than the life which he was leading with Biddy and Joe. As the end of the chapter makes clear, however, Pip has marginalized himself with this vanity and made himself lonely.
The word has spread through town that Pip has come into fortune and people are treating him distinctively different. Pip goes into town to buy clothes for his London trip and stores them at Pumblechook's house because he thinks it would be common of him to wear them in his own neighborhood. Even Pumblechook is treating him as if he is a king, and Pip, joining into the arena that he viewed as hypocrisy only a few chapters before, starts to enjoy it and even starts to like Pumblechook.
Relations between he and Biddy and Joe do not improve, however, especially when he asks Biddy if she would try and educate Joe so that he could bring him up to another social level once the full extent of Pip's sponsor's fortune is given to him. Biddy brusquely tells Pip that Joe has no need, and does not want, to be brought up to another social level.
Pip visits Miss Havisham. She hints subtly that she is his unknown sponsor, and does it in such a way that Sarah Pocket, standing near, is given to believe it.
The week finally over, Pip leaves for London. Even while he is in the carriage, however, he considers turning around and spending another day saying good-bye to Joe and Biddy.
Pip is in the height of his own vanity here, and it is reflected in a new pomposity to his language. He even goes as far as to correct the grammar of Biddy, who was his first teacher. He feels himself being remeasured by society, just as the tailor in town remeasured him for clothing even though he already had Pip's sizes. At the same time, Pip is treating the people he meets differently as well, especially Joe and Biddy. He actually finds himself enjoying the bombastic idiot Pumblechook whom he had hated for most of his life.
Symbolically, Pip goes to say good-bye to the marshes, which have always represented his lowly past. This time, however, he finds them beautiful in a way he hadn't recognized before. Nevertheless, he wants to "get them done with." We are, of course, left with the feeling that Pip will never be done with the marshes, or his past.
Great Expectations Essays and Related Content
- Great Expectations: Essays
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- Charles Dickens: Biography
- Great Expectations Summary
- About Great Expectations
- Character List
- Summary and Analysis of Part I, Chapters 1-10 (1-10)
- Summary and Analysis of Part I, Chapters 11-19 (11-19)
- Summary and Analysis of Part II, Chapters 1-10 (20-29)
- Summary and Analysis of Part II, Chapters 11-20 (30-39)
- Summary and Analysis of Part III, Chapters 1-10 (40-49)
- Summary and Analysis of Part III, Chapters 11-20 (50-59)
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