Great Expectations

Great Expectations

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An orphan Pip meets at the village school, Biddy moves into the forge to help out after Mrs. Joe's attack and later becomes a schoolteacher. She is humble, kind, moral, and fiercely intelligent, absorbing knowledge without any formal education. She is also sharply perceptive and sees through everyone's pretensions, calling Pip out on his delusions and snobbery long before Pip can recognize them.

Biddy Quotes in Great Expectations

The Great Expectations quotes below are all either spoken by Biddy or refer to Biddy. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Social Class Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Great Expectations published in 2001.
Book 1, Chapter 18 Quotes

…as Joe and Biddy became more at their cheerful ease again, I became quite gloomy. Dissatisfied with my fortune, of course I could not be; but it is possible that I may have been, without quite knowing it, dissatisfied with myself.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Joe Gargery, Biddy
Page Number: 112
Explanation and Analysis:

When Pip learns he has come into a great fortune due to an anonymous benefactor, he is at first thrilled. But as the hubbub about the announcement settles down, he grows oddly depressed by how he has responded the events.

Dickens again makes use of the dissonance between the younger and older Pips’ perspectives. The first only experiences the feeling of being “gloomy” and remains unable to pinpoint any precise reason, whereas the older Pip attempts to determine what might be causing the gloominess. He logically rules out that he is “dissatisfied with my fortune” and thus guesses that the frustration is rather with “myself.” The text thus stresses that mental states are determined less by external events or social status and more by self-perception. By all accounts, Pip should be thrilled, and his negative mood predicts the way self-disgust will haunt him throughout the novel.

The passage also indicates that Pip struggles with introspection: he senses a feeling of gloominess, but he is unable to pin it to its source. And even the wise, older Pip cannot quite pin down the origin, as there is an uncertainty conveyed in the phrases “it is possible” and “I may have been.” Thus while Dickens’ narrative structure offers the benefit of elder Pip’s wisdom, the text also clearly maintains that retrospection can only grant partial clarity into one’s mental state. 

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Book 1, Chapter 19 Quotes

"Oh, there are many kinds of pride," said Biddy, looking full at me and shaking her head; "Pride is not all of one kind…[Joe] may be too proud to let any one take him out of a place that he is competent to fill, and fills well and with respect."

Related Characters: Biddy (speaker), Pip Pirrip, Joe Gargery
Page Number: 116
Explanation and Analysis:

Biddy and Pip quarrel here about the nature and value of Joe’s profession. In response to Pip’s continued condescension, Biddy points out that there is merit in the way Joe comports himself.

When Biddy says, “there are many kinds of pride,” she is implicitly criticizing how Pip has formed one clear hierarchy of people and professions based on wealth. For Pip, pride is equivalent to the haughtiness permitted by holding a superior social position, but Biddy argues that there are a variety of different forms. She offers Joe’s pride as an example: his is the result of recognizing the best place for himself in the social environment and remaining steadfast in that position. This, she implies, conveys both strength—for it resists the efforts to “take him out of a place”—and self-awareness—for it correctly determines that place which “he is competent to fill.”

That Joe also “fills well and with respect” stresses that he is not only an acceptable blacksmith, but a talented one—and above all one with integrity and care for his profession. Pip, on the other hand, is pursuing a social sphere for which he is deeply unprepared, and his critical stance on himself and those around him means that he does not fill his role “with respect.” In making such insightful comments, Biddy shows herself to be surprisingly aware of the difficulties Pip will face upon going to London. Just as pride is multifaceted, Dickens implies, mental insight like Biddy’s can be found in a variety of forms across many classes.

Book 3, Chapter 58 Quotes

Dear Joe, I hope you will have children to love, and that some little fellow will sit in this chimney-corner, of a winter night, who may remind you of another little fellow gone out of it forever. Don't tell him, Joe, that I was thankless; don't tell him, Biddy, that I was ungenerous and unjust; only tell him that I honoured you both because you were both so good and true, and that, as your child, I said it would be natural to him to grow up a much better man than I did.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Joe Gargery, Biddy
Page Number: 376
Explanation and Analysis:

Joe and Biddy have just been married, and Pip gives this moving speech as he prepares to depart. He asks that they not tell their children of Pip’s previous selfishness, but rather only use him as a way to reiterate the goodness of Joe and Biddy.

Pip first compares himself to Joe’s future child, referring to his younger self as “another little fellow.” We have a glimpse here of the way Pip will retroactively narrativize his life through the novel—as well as the confirmation that Joe has been Pip’s father figure and mentor throughout the text. He subtly adds the descriptor “gone out of it forever” to show that he does not intend to return soon to their lives, finally separating in the way Joe had long said they must.

Pip then uses the figure of their hypothetical child to make his final request: he does not want his legacy to be a tale of “thankless” actions “ungenerous and unjust”—which implicitly acknowledges that he has been all these things—for these memories would not actually serve their child’s development. Rather, he wishes for evil to be scrubbed entirely from the tales the child will be told, and for Pip to become a mere foil to highlight how “good and true” Joe and Biddy are. This wish implicitly targets those in the novel—such as Miss Havisham and Mr. Jaggers—who have sought to cultivate and investigate the qualities of evil and selfishness. Miss Havisham, after all, explicitly raised Estella amidst memories of injustice, and thus Pip’s final lesson is an implicit renunciation of what she has done. He hopes that eliminating his misdeeds rather than recounting them will allow Joe and Biddy’s child to have a purer life.

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Biddy Character Timeline in Great Expectations

The timeline below shows where the character Biddy appears in Great Expectations. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 7
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Ambition and Self-Improvement Theme Icon
Integrity and Reputation Theme Icon
...Pip struggles to learn and finally starts to read and write with the help of Biddy, an orphan who is the live-in granddaughter of Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt. At home one night,... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 10
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...Pip decides a few days later to achieve his goal by becoming educated and asks Biddy to teach him all she knows. Biddy agrees. Still, Pip struggles amidst the hectic squalor... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 12
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..."Break their hearts!" Pip tells no one about his experiences at Miss Havisham's except for Biddy, who expresses concern that, at the time, he did not understand. Meanwhile, Mrs. Joe and... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 16
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...patient as those around her try to communicate with her by slate. Joe is heartbroken. Biddy moves into the house to take care of Mrs. Joe and is able to interpret... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 17
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...where she gives him a guinea he spends on books to study. But Pip sees Biddy changing: she is cleaner and neater, noticeably pretty. One evening, while Pip sits studying, Pip... (full context)
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On their walk, Pip confesses to Biddy his dissatisfaction with the blacksmith trade and his wish to be a gentleman to disprove... (full context)
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Pip cries and Biddy comforts him and tells him she is glad that Pip feels he can confide on... (full context)
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...they are walking, Orlick appears out of nowhere and tries to walk them home but Biddy whispers to Pip not to let him, saying she doesn't like him. Pip and Biddy... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 18
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Joe and Pip return to the forge separately. Pip breaks a tense silence to tell Biddy the news. Biddy and Joe congratulate Pip though Pip thinks "there was a certain touch... (full context)
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...and nostalgic for the past. Through his bedroom window, Pip sees Joe smoking outside with Biddy. Because Joe never smokes so late, Pip infers that he must want comforting "for some... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 19
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...do if Joe were "better qualified for a rise in station." After tea, he takes Biddy out for a walk and asks her to teach Joe manners so that Pip might... (full context)
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Joe, Biddy, and Pip are all sad at Pip's departure. Pip has asked Joe not to walk... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 27
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Pip receives a letter from Biddy informing him that Joe is travelling to London the next day with Mr. Wopsle and... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 35
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...the ceremony, Pip delights Joe by asking to sleep in his childhood room. He scolds Biddy in private for not writing to tell him about Mrs. Joe's condition. Biddy replies that... (full context)
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Pip asks to hear the particulars of Mrs. Joe's death and Biddy tells him her last words were "Joe," "Pardon," and "Pip." Pip asks her about Orlick... (full context)
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Biddy tells Pip how much Joe loves him. Pip tells Biddy he will visit the forge... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 39
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...for him. He is even more devastated to realize that he has deserted Joe and Biddy for the sake of a criminal, a potentially violent man. Thinking along these lines, Pip... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 57
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...he doesn't deserve Joe's kindness, but Joe is warm and loving and holds no grudge. Biddy has taught Joe to write and he updates her on Pip's state by letter. (full context)
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...his recent affairs, broaches the subject of Provis, Joe brushes it off, telling Pip that Biddy has convinced him not to dwell on "unnecessary subjects" and emphasizes that he and Pip... (full context)
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...to thank Joe and to apologize to him. He is also eager to propose to Biddy, whose goodness he wants hereafter to be guided by. Pip resolves to work in the... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 58
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...delighted to see the old familiar landscape. Upon returning home he discovers that Joe and Biddy have just been married that morning. They are overjoyed to see Pip and Pip congratulates... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 59
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...years. He comes back to the forge one night in December and finds Joe and Biddy sitting happily at the hearth with their young son Pip. Pip gets along famously with... (full context)