Great Expectations

Great Expectations

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Great Expectations Book 1, Chapter 15 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Pip is getting too big for the village evening school and must stop going, reluctantly concluding his formal education. Pip, though, is still hungry to learn and studies independently. Meanwhile, he tries to share his education with Joe by giving him lessons on the marsh each Sunday, though Pip is discouraged that Joe never seems to remember lessons from one Sunday to the next. Pip admits that these lessons are not purely generous. Rather, he hopes to educate Joe so that Joe "might be worthier of my society and less vulnerable to Estella's reproach."
Pip remains steadfast to the idea that education is self-improvement. His eagerness to educate Joe is not motivated by generosity but by a selfish fixation on reputation and a fear that Joe's "commonness" tarnishes Pip's own image by association.
Themes
Social Class Theme Icon
Ambition and Self-Improvement Theme Icon
Integrity and Reputation Theme Icon
Generosity Theme Icon
During one of these lessons, Pip proposes to Joe that he pay a visit to Miss Havisham. Joe is skeptical, thinking that Miss Havisham would assume Pip wanted something. When Pip suggests that he might visit her to thank her, Joe is concerned that Pip would not be able to make anything in the blacksmith forge that would be worthy of Miss Havisham. Eventually, Joe says that he supports the visit if Pip wants to do it and agrees to grant Pip a half-holiday the next day to go on his visit. He warns Pip, though, to be sure not to visit again if he is not received with cordiality the next day.
Though Victorian England enjoys more class mobility than prior eras, inter-class socialization was still rare, which explains Joe's skepticism.
Themes
Social Class Theme Icon
Ambition and Self-Improvement Theme Icon
Integrity and Reputation Theme Icon
Generosity Theme Icon
The next day at the forge, Joe's dour, lazy, hostile journeyman Orlick (who lies to the village and tells them his Christian name is "Dolge") hears about Pip's half-holiday and angrily demands one for himself. When Joe assents, Mrs. Joe (who has been spying on their conversation from the yard) protests that Joe is wasting wages. Orlick insults Mrs. Joe, calling her a "foul shrew" and, though Joe tells Orlick to leave her alone, the insults between them escalate and Joe and Orlick fight. Joe is stronger than Orlick and quickly triumphs. Later, Pip finds them peacefully sharing beer and cleaning up the forge together.
Mrs. Joe's greedy ambitions don't match up with Joe's sense of fairness. Though Joe is usually the forge's peacekeeper, his personal integrity requires him to defend his wife against Orlick's insults.
Themes
Ambition and Self-Improvement Theme Icon
Integrity and Reputation Theme Icon
Pip anxiously walks to town to visit Miss Havisham and is lead upstairs by Sarah Pocket, who is suspicious of his presence. Upon seeing Pip, Miss Havisham immediately informs Pip that she will not give him anything, but softens when Pip assures her that there is no ulterior motive to his visit and she tells him he can visit her on his birthdays. Miss Havisham then intuits that Pip has come to see Estella and informs Pip that Estella has gone abroad to study. She asks Pip, with "a malignant enjoyment," if he feels he has lost her, then dismisses a flustered Pip.
Like Joe, Sarah Pocket and Miss Havisham are also initially confused by Pip's desire to pay a friendly visit and assume Pip is trying to get more money from her. Yet, when she is convinced he isn't asking for money, Miss Havisham's attitude towards Pip becomes parental, offering to be an enduring presence in Pip's life (albeit only once a year).
Themes
Social Class Theme Icon
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In town, Pip runs into Mr. Wopsle who is on his way to Uncle Pumblechook's for a reading of the Tragedy of George Barnwell and convinces Pip to come. The three read the tragedy with Pip reading the role of Barnwell. Mr. Wopsle and Uncle Pumblechook chastise Pip as if the character's grizzly acts—including murdering his uncle—are Pip's own.
The play charts the downfall of a young apprentice who eventually murders his uncle. Pip, a young boy who will soon be apprenticed to his uncle, may feel the action of the play strike too close to home.
Themes
Ambition and Self-Improvement Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
On the misty walk back to the village late that night, Mr. Wopsle and Pip discover Orlick under the turnpike house. He says he has spent his half-holiday in town and notes that the guns have been going off at the Hulks, signaling escaped convicts. He walks with Pip and Mr. Wopsle and, as the three pass the Three Jolly Bargemen, a riled up crowd informs Mr. Wopsle that people (the crowd suspects convicts) have broken into the forge while Joe was out. Upon returning home, the group find the forge swarmed with villagers. Joe and a surgeon are on the kitchen floor beside Mrs. Joe who has been knocked out by a strong blow to the back of her head.
Mist continues to symbolize a lack of clarity and knowledge —Pip does not realize he is walking towards a tragedy that will change life at the forge forever. Orlick's behavior can be considered suspicious. Does he mention the escaped convicts to blame them for a crime he committed himself?
Themes
Justice Theme Icon