Great Expectations

Great Expectations

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Great Expectations Book 1, Chapter 8 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At Uncle Pumblechook's house in town, Pip notes that all the town's merchants and craftsmen seem to spend more time watching one another from their shop windows and doors than they do working in their shops. Uncle Pumblechook gives Pip a meager breakfast (though he himself eats lavishly) and aggressively quizzes Pip on arithmetic instead of engaging in conversation. He walks Pip to the gate of Miss Havisham's house, a large brick house with some of its windows boarded up. In front of the house is a courtyard and, to the side, a brewery. When Uncle Pumblechook rings the bell, a young lady comes out and turns him away (although Uncle Pumblechook hints he'd like to enter), leading Pip in alone. She explains that the brewery is out of use and that the name of the house is Satis, which means "Enough," and which must have meant the house would satisfy all it's owners desires—an idea she finds ridiculous. She leads Pip into the dark house and leaves him upstairs in front of a closed door.
Dickens presents a comical portrait of middle class merchants and craftsmen more interested in busy-bodying than they are in working. Uncle Pumblechook obviously does not know how to interact with children—still, his relentless arithmetic quizzes attest to the importance he, a businessman, places on practical education. Miss Havisham is from the upper class and her family was in the brewery business—prior to the Industrial Revolution, these two facts would have been incompatible. In the past, the upper class did not practice practical trades. That the girl laughs at the name Satis shows the name has become ironic— it is certainly no longer "enough," if it ever was.
Themes
Social Class Theme Icon
Ambition and Self-Improvement Theme Icon
Pip knocks and enters a room lit only by candlelight. Miss Havisham, an old woman in a yellowed wedding gown, sits at a dressing table amidst half-packed trunks. She reminds Pip of a waxwork or a skeleton. She beckons to Pip and asks him whether he is afraid of "a woman who has never seen the sun since you were born?" Pip, trying to be polite, tells her he isn't. She then tells Pip that her heart is broken, that she wants diversion, and commands Pip to play. Pip, apologizing, tells her hesitantly he can't play in an environment so "new," "strange," "fine" and "melancholy." Miss Havisham has Pip call for "Estella" and the young girl who led Pip in appears. In response to Miss Havisham's suggestion that they play cards, Estella complains that Pip is a "common labouring-boy" and continues to insult his appearance and manner throughout the game. Miss Havisham asks Pip what he thinks of Estella and he tells her he finds her "proud," "pretty," and "insulting." Miss Havisham broods and watches.
Pip's attempts to be polite (including using the word "melancholy" rather than "frightening" to describe Miss Havisham's room) attest to good, sensitive manners that should contradict Estella's complaints that Pip is coarse. Estella, though, responds only to Pip's physical appearance and social status, not to his personality. Estella's name means "star"—and, indeed, she will be Pip's guiding light for many years to come.
Themes
Social Class Theme Icon
Ambition and Self-Improvement Theme Icon
Integrity and Reputation Theme Icon
After they finish playing cards, Miss Havisham tells Pip to return in six days and sends the children away for a snack. Pip feels dazed and humiliated by what just transpired. Back downstairs, Estella lays Pip's food in front of him on the ground and looks delighted by Pip's distress. As soon as she leaves, Pip sobs bitterly, which, as narrator, he attributes to a sensitivity of character caused by Mrs. Joe's harshness. He explains the crucial importance of justice to children and the constant injustice of his own childhood (owing to Mrs. Joe). After crying, Pip wanders around the ruined brewery-yard and sees a terrifying vision of Miss Havisham hanging by her neck from a beam. When Estella approaches to let Pip out, she smugly informs Pip that she saw him crying. Pip walks back to the forge, turning Estella's insults over and over in his head.
Estella lays Pip's food on the floor as if he were a dog Ð an implicit insult. Although Pip is able to recognize Mrs. Joe's injustice, he is unable to recognize Estella's. Instead, he takes Estella's cruel insults as facts—accepting that those of the higher class know better and are worth more—and blames their painfulness on his own sensitivity no on their cruelty and falseness.
Themes
Social Class Theme Icon
Parents Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon