Great Expectations

Great Expectations

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Great Expectations Book 2, Chapter 38 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
Still lovesick for Estella, Pip visits her often at Richmond. Pip is on more familiar terms with Estella than her many suitors because of their past relationship. Nevertheless, he gets no pleasure from this familiarity because it isn't romantic. Pip restrains himself from courting her more assertively because he thinks it might be "ungenerous," since they are (he assumes) already betrothed. Estella tells Pip to "take warning" of her but Pip insists he doesn't understand her.
Pip's rationalization for not courting Estella may be well-intentioned, but his generosity doesn't make much sense. Estella is obviously trying to obstruct Pip's advances by telling him to "take warning" but Pip can't see beyond his own feelings for her.
Themes
Generosity Theme Icon
One day, Estella informs Pip that Miss Havisham has asked him to escort her to Satis House. There, Miss Havisham gloats over stories of Estella's many suitors, hissing to Pip "How does she use you?" Pip deduces that Miss Havisham has secretly betrothed Estella to him, then sent her out into the world to taunt suitors in order to wreak Miss Havisham's own revenge on the male sex.
Again, Pip's infatuation with Estella distorts the stark evidence that Miss Havisham's revenge plot works on Pip too.
Themes
Justice Theme Icon
Later in the visit, Pip witnesses Miss Havisham and Estella argue for the first time in his presence. When Estella pulls away from Miss Havisham's clutching grip, Miss Havisham grows hysterical and accuses her of ingratitude, cold-heartedness, hardness, and pride. Estella calmly replies, "I am what you have made me. Take all the praise, take all the blame." When Miss Havisham demands Estella's love, Estella responds that she cannot give what Miss Havisham never gave her. Miss Havisham insists she gave Estella, "a burning love, inseparable from jealousy at all times." Estella calmly maintains, "I have never been unfaithful to you or your schooling. I have never shown any weakness." Miss Havisham laments that Estella would consider even love for Miss Havisham to be "weakness."
Here is a frightening glimpse into Miss Havisham's parenting. She has raised Estella without any sense of self, without anything to have integrity to. Estella feels that she belongs entirely to Miss Havisham as a mere pawn in Miss Havisham's scheme against men. The fact that Miss Havisham's love shades so easily into jealousy calls into question whether it is love at all. Indeed, Estella implies that her own inability to love is due to never having been loved herself.
Themes
Integrity and Reputation Theme Icon
Parents Theme Icon
At a Finches of the Grove meeting some time later, Drummle tells Pip that he has made the acquaintance of Estella. Pip hotly contests it and challenges Drummle to a duel, which is cancelled once Drummle produces a personal note from Estella confirming the acquaintance. Thereafter, Pip is dismayed to observe Drummle successfully courting Estella and beating out her other suitors. When Pip confronts Estella one night at a ball and warns her about Drummle's unworthiness, Estella is unperturbed and coolly indifferent to Drummle's bad traits, saying "all sorts of ugly creatures hover about a lighted candle. Can the candle help it?"
In spite of Estella's haughtiness towards others, she is curiously indifferent towards her own fate and seems to face her prospects without ambition or judgment.
Themes
Ambition and Self-Improvement Theme Icon
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When Pip confesses to Estella that he is jealous of the attention she gives Drummle, Estella asks him almost angrily whether Pip wants her "to deceive and entrap" him. She tells him that that is what she is doing to Drummle and all her other suitors but Pip.
This is the closest Estella has ever come to professing any fondness for Pip. To Pip, at least, she is being honest about her nature and inability to love. The things she says to Pip to keep him away are, in her mind, a kind of generosity.
Themes
Integrity and Reputation Theme Icon
Generosity Theme Icon