Great Expectations

Great Expectations

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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 2 Quotes

"People are put in the Hulks because they murder, and because they rob, and forge, and do all sorts of bad; and they always begin by asking questions. Now you get along to bed!"

Related Characters: Mrs. Joe Gargery (speaker), Pip Pirrip
Page Number: 10
Explanation and Analysis:

Pip hears canons being fired from the Hulks (ships where prisoners were kept) and asks about the reason for the noise. His sister, Mrs. Joe, responds by scolding him for his inquisitiveness.

Mrs. Joe takes advantage of the question to offer a moral lesson for Pip, beginning a trend in the novel in which various characters offer both solicited and unsolicited advice for the adolescent protagonist. Hers is an warning against asking too many questions—which she introduces by scaling back slowly from the severity of crimes that land people in the Hulks. She begins with the worst crime of all—“they murder”—and then reduces the severity to “they rob,” then “forge,” and “do all sorts of bad." Mrs. Joe thus establishes the moral opening of the novel and stresses how harsh punishments will be leveled on those who commit a wide variety of crimes.

It is somewhat flippant to leap from murder to “asking questions” as types of bad action, and Mrs. Joe’s link thus indicates that the novel sets high stakes on digging too deeply into things. This idea will haunt Pip throughout the text, as he tries to delve deeply into London society, while remaining sufficiently ignorant of its misdoings to stay out of guilt. Mrs. Joe's scolding also foreshadows how Pip will be aided by his curiosity, particularly when it pertains to the criminal activity of the Hulks.

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Book 1, Chapter 3 Quotes

The terrors that had assailed me whenever Mrs. Joe had gone near the pantry, or out of the room, were only to be equaled by the remorse with which my mind dwelt on what my hands hand done. Under the weight of my wicked secret, I pondered whether the Church would be powerful enough to shield me from the vengeance of the terrible young man, if I divulged to that establishment. I conceived the idea that the time when the banns were read and when the clergyman said, "Ye are now to declare it!" would be the time for me to rise and propose a private conference in the vestry.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Mrs. Joe Gargery
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

As Pip organizes the stolen food and file for the convict, he feels exceedingly guilty. He considers turning the man in at the Church, hoping that the religious institution would offer him a source of security.

Dickens establishes Pip in this scene to be a sympathetic and sensitive character. Although he is nervous about being caught, he is equally crippled by “remorse” for having been placed in this morally-confusing situation. Rather than write off his act as the necessary response to a coercive threat, Pip takes full accountability for his “wicked secret.” The fact that he summons a potential explanation to the Church seems to indicate that Pip wants to purge his guilt through confession.

Yet Pip describes the Church here less as a moral or spiritual force and more as a protective social institution. Wondering if “the Church would be powerful enough” and describing it as “that establishment” highlights its infrastructural role in England. Indeed, Pip sees Christmas Mass less as a time for personal reflection or good faith and rather as a place to “propose a private conference” that would aid his own ends. Dickens thus highlights, through the perspective of an earnest child, the way the Church of England may be imagined as a pragmatic rather than solely religious institution.

Book 1, Chapter 4 Quotes

I thought what terrible good sauce for a dinner my fugitive friend on the marshes was. They had not enjoyed themselves a quarter so much before the entertainment was brightened with the excitement he furnished.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Provis (a.k.a. Abel Magwitch) (a.k.a. the convict)
Page Number: 25
Explanation and Analysis:

The retinue of soldiers mill around the Christmas Party and create an enjoyable commotion. Pip observes that the mood of the event has notably improved, and he attributes this change, indirectly, to the convict.

That the convict is deemed a “terrible good sauce” stresses the way he is being metaphorically eaten or consumed by the other characters. His misfortune becomes “excitement” for those at the party, because he generates “entertainment” in what is otherwise a relatively boring affair. This passage shows a somewhat mean-spirited "schadenfreude"—happiness at the misfortune of offers—considering it is Christmas Day: the best part of the meal is not gratitude, but rather the excitement “furnished”by negative events.

Pip’s comment speaks more broadly to the odd way humans tend to relate to positive and negative events. Often in Dickens’ novel, seemingly bad occurrences will actually lead to more excitement and energy in the resulting social interactions—whereas good experiences can lead to apathy or jealousy. Of course, Pip has no awareness of these complicated dynamics, but Dickens once more uses the innocent eyes of a child to offer the social commentary that external events and internal experiences do not necessarily align.

"Let him go free? Let him profit by the means I found out? Let him make a tool of me afresh and again? Once more? No, no, no. If I had died at the bottom there…I'd have held to him with that grip, that you should have been safe to find him in my hold."

Related Characters: Provis (a.k.a. Abel Magwitch) (a.k.a. the convict) (speaker), Compeyson (a.k.a. the other convict)
Page Number: 28
Explanation and Analysis:

The convict Provis yells these lines at the soldiers to explain why he is wrestling with the other convict Compeyson. He wishes to prevent Compeyson from being free at any costs—even if it results in his arrest.

Provis could perhaps have escaped had he not been concerned with preventing Compeyson from doing so, yet he chooses vengeance over personal liberty. His exact reasons for doing so remain murky at this point. That Provis says, “profit by the means I found out” speaks to the way he discovered an exit from the Hulks and hints at how both convicts will “profit” economically after escaping. “Make a tool of me afresh and again” demonstrates that the two have a shared history, in which Provis has presumably been wronged before. Thus his act shows that attending to this history of wrongdoing is more important to him than forging his own future.

This passage is one of the many places in Dickens’ novel where moral justice conflicts with personal well-being. Provis has evidently opted for the former, but this sense of justice is itself muddled: a strange mixture of vengeance and ethics. When Provis cites his willingness to have “died at the bottom there” so long as Compeyson died with him, he morbidly predicts just how radically committed he will be to their equal demise. Dickens is a master of this type of foreshadowing, and it is worth paying attention throughout the text to how early abstract comments by characters take on a belated literal significance to the plot.

Book 1, Chapter 6 Quotes

I was too cowardly to do what I knew to be right, as I had been too cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be wrong.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker)
Page Number: 31
Explanation and Analysis:

Walking back to the forge with Joe and Mr. Wopsie, Pip decides not to confess his role in the convict’s escape. His adult self looks back on that silence as a mark of cowardice.

Dickens shifts the text here into the voice of a retrospective narrator: an older Pip who comments on his earlier actions and thus provides a moral voice on his younger self’s development. This technique also allows Dickens to create dramatic tension in the text, for he hints at Pip’s future identity while leaving the exact conditions of that identity murky. A comment like this one, for instance, subtly offers insight on both the younger and the older Pips. Here, that insight can be found in the difference between what the two Pips perceive to be “cowardly.” That the retrospective narrative finds the younger one “too cowardly” indicates that the older one has come to value assertive action and adherence to a stronger sense of moral justice.

The older narrator also points out how action and inaction are both forms of cowardice: the phrases “to do what I knew to be right” and “to avoid doing what I knew to be wrong” are placed in parallel clauses to stress how they are the result of the same fearful nature. Though the reader might more be willing to forgive Pip, and other characters, of inaction, the older Pip emphasizes that we should not differentiate between them in this way. Thus Dickens presents through this retrospective narrator a strong ethical eye that judges Pip’s actions throughout the novel.

Book 1, Chapter 9 Quotes

"…lies is lies. Howsoever they come, they didn't ought to come, and they come from the father of lies, and work round to the same. Don't you tell no more of ‘em, Pip. That ain't the way to get out of being common, old chap…If you can't get to be uncommon through going straight, you'll never get to do it through going crooked."

Related Characters: Joe Gargery (speaker), Pip Pirrip
Page Number: 54
Explanation and Analysis:

Pip regrets telling a series of lies about his visit to Miss Havisham’s, and eventually confesses what he did to Joe. Joe then reproaches him, pronouncing all lies to be indiscriminately bad.

Joe asserts here a strict and universal ethical framework. He does not differentiate between types of falsehoods as other characters might, but rather claims they are the same “howsoever they come.” Dickens thus casts Joe as the moral center of the novel. Despite his low social status and lack of education, he holds strongly to his principles in a way no member of the middle or upper class ever does. Thus when Pip rejects Joe as he ascends through society, he is also implicitly rejecting these sturdy ethical codes.

These comments prefigure both Pip’s moral decline and his failure to fully assimilate into the upper class. Joe insightfully observes that lying is correlated to Pip’s social ascent, and warns him that this will not be an effective way “to be uncommon.” “Uncommon” means, for Joe, unusual or special, but it also signifies for Pip becoming a member of the elite class instead a commoner. In addition to denying the morality of “going crooked,” Joe also implies that it is an ineffective way of changing one’s social position, particularly with the phrase “you’ll never get to do it.” Thus Dickens subtly equates pragmatism and morality here: whereas for other characters the two are are often opposed—and an evil act can generate selfish benefits—Joe believes that only honest acts can produce positive, honest ends.

…my young mind was in that disturbed and unthankful state that I thought long after I laid me down, how common Estella would consider Joe, a mere blacksmith: how thick his boots, and how coarse his hands. I thought how Joe and my sister were then sitting in the kitchen, and how Miss Havisham and Estella never sat in a kitchen, but were far above the level of such common things.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Estella Havisham, Joe Gargery, Miss Havisham, Mrs. Joe Gargery
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

After his conversation with Joe, Pip becomes perturbed at how Miss Havisham and Estella would think of his pseudo-father. Instead of heeding Joe’s advice, he is consumed by anxiety about social class and how others may interpret Joe’s behaviors.

This passage shows how Pip is becoming increasingly aware of and unhappy about his social status. He focuses on specific signifiers of that status—“how thick his boots, and how coarse his hands”—that would allow Estella to observe that Joe performs physical labor for a living. Similarly, he notes that certain spaces, such as a kitchen, as only inhabited by members of lower classes. We can see how Pip is training his own eye to interpret indicators of social class and how important Estella has become to his consciousness. After just one interaction with her, Pip is already filtering his perceptions of even his closest family members through her judgmental eyes.

The retrospective narrator notably implies that these thoughts are unreasonable and negative, considering it “that disturbed and unthankful state.” Dickens indicates that by the time the older Pip is recounting this story, he has realized that Joe was a meaningful and important character—and that he should not have regarded him with this type of disdain. Thus we can guess that Pip will eventually come to hate how judgmental he has become and that the older Pip believes the younger one should regard Joe in particular with more compassion.

Book 1, Chapter 13 Quotes

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.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Joe Gargery
Page Number: 82
Explanation and Analysis:

Mrs. Joe organizes a dinner at the Blue Boar to celebrate Pip’s apprenticeship to Joe—and more specifically the twenty-five guineas offered by Miss Havisham. Pip is distraught at the event, observing that his grand hopes have been unfulfilled, and in fact have left him uninterested in pursuing work as a blacksmith.

Pip’s language here comes across as somewhat exaggerated and ungrateful. “Truly wretched” points both to how upset he is at the apprenticeship and to how his older self considers the reaction unreasonable. That he speaks in categorical statements such as “I should never like” shows a similar absolutist nature that ignores potentially positive aspects of the blacksmith profession. Nonetheless, it is evident that Pip’s experiences with Estella and Mrs. Havisham have left him dissatisfied with his simpler existence as a blacksmith’s apprentice. Pip is aware of how this change is both dependent on recent experiences—“I had liked it once”—and permanent—“I should never like.” That is to say, understanding the cause of his disillusionment is not sufficient to change it: having been opened to the social society of the upper class, he can no longer be satisfied without it.

The Blue Boar celebration thus marks a decisive moment that will reoccur in different ways throughout the novel. The widening of Pip’s “great expectations” only serves to make him less satisfied with his life. Dickens demonstrates how Pip’s development into a more experienced adult will not bring maturation, but rather an insatiable appetite for ever more status and wealth.

Book 1, Chapter 15 Quotes

I wanted to make Joe less ignorant and common, that he might be worthier of my society and less open to Estella's reproach.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Estella Havisham, Joe Gargery
Page Number: 84
Explanation and Analysis:

Pip begins to give Joe weekly lessons. While they might seem to come from a spirit of goodwill, he explains here that they are partially selfish: an effort to be less embarrassed by Joe in front of Estella.

Pip here adopts an increasingly judgmental and patronizing tone. He describes Joe as “ignorant and common” and positions himself as a kind educator. That Pip differentiates “my society” from Joe’s shows just how snobbishly distant he has become from his upbringing. Their respective societies, after all, are not yet different in any real way—but Pip feels them to be so, based off of his education and experiences with Miss Havisham and Estella. His distaste of Joe is thus twofold: the result of how he perceives Estella would react, as well as his own personal dissatisfaction at having to communicate with someone not worthy of his society. Beyond establishing Pip’s increased social snobbishness, Dickens stresses how extensively Pip’s recent experiences have corrupted his moral sensibilities: even actions that seem to be generous carry a hidden motive, predicting the frequent deceit Pip will encounter when he leaves for London later in the novel. There, a whole host of characters will pretend to aid each other with the actual goal of elevating themselves in society.

Miss Havisham and Estella and the strange house and the strange life appeared to have something to do with everything that was picturesque.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Estella Havisham, Miss Havisham
Related Symbols: Satis House
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:

Pip plans to visit Miss Havisham’s house (Statis House) after an extended absence. He reflects here on the way he continues to idealize the dwelling and those within it.

This description is deeply ironic in its use of the term “picturesque.” The term means, in a general sense, pretty or attractive, but it has a specific connotation of quaintness and delicacy. Recall that Satis House is decrepit, Miss Havisham is a deranged parody of upper class sensibilities, and Estella is a mean-spirited critic of Pip’s every action. None of this is particularly picturesque. Yet Pip reduces these qualities to the even-keeled word “strange,” thus focusing on their unusual and alluring nature, as opposed to what is actually quite negative about the strangeness.

The next phrase is similarly ambiguous. Instead of directly saying that he enjoys or idealizes their house and life, Pip obscures his point with a series of odd qualifiers. The helping verb “appeared” indicates that they are not actually picturesque, and the phrase “something to do with everything” marks the fragility of this relationship. Thus Dickens shows how deeply Pip’s assessments of upper class life have been warped by his emotional connection to Miss Havisham and particularly Estella. He is unable to actually observe what is picturesque or not—and he can only form bizarre connections based on his intuitive attraction to their lifestyle.

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. 

Book 1, Chapter 19 Quotes

As I passed the church, I felt…a sublime compassion for the poor creatures who were destined to go there, Sunday after Sunday, all their lives through, and to lie obscurely at last among the low green mounds. I promised myself that I would do something for them one of these days, and formed a plan in outline for bestowing a dinner of roast beef and plum pudding, a pint of ale, and a gallon of condescension upon everybody in the village.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker)
Page Number: 114
Explanation and Analysis:

Pip walks through the marshes and thinks proudly of his new place above the other inhabitants of his town. He declares that he will return and give them a large feast.

This passage shows just how radically Pip’s image of himself has been warped by his new possession of money. He casts those he grew up with to be “poor creatures” and suddenly considers himself to be their future benefactor—even though he has only just received money himself. Though Pip’s action might seem generous when he describes “bestowing a dinner,” the detail of “a gallon of condescension” explicitly marks his viewpoint to be rude and judgmental. That phrase is, presumably, crafted by the retrospective Pip narrator judging his own youthful fantasies, but in any case it serves to show just how pompous Pip has become.

Dickens renders these thoughts particularly odious by placing them in the moment when Pip “passed the church.” He juxtaposes Pip’s pride with the values of spiritual modesty that he should presumably be taking from a religious upbringing. Furthermore, Pip’s pity at the idea that they “lie obscurely at last among the low green mounds” implies that Pip believes that members of the upper class somehow escape the fate of dying and being forgotten. He believes, at this point, that being famous and living an extravagant life in London will allow him to escape the monotony of merely attending Church until one’s death. These actions and life cycles, however, are universal—and Pip’s assumption he can escape the mortality at the core of humanity points to just how extensively he has idealized the benefits of wealth.

"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 2, Chapter 21 Quotes

"...it is a principle of [Matthew Pocket's] that no man who was not a true gentleman at heart, ever was, since the world began, a true gentleman in manner. He says, no varnish can hide the grain of the wood, and that the more varnish you put on, the more the grain will express itself."

Related Characters: Herbert Pocket (a.k.a. the pale young gentleman) (speaker), Matthew Pocket
Page Number: 140-141
Explanation and Analysis:

While recounting Miss Havishman’s life story, Herbert notes that Matthew Pocket was able to observe that her suitor was not a real gentlemen. Herbert turns this point into a broader comment on the difference between comportment and actual gentility.

By presenting this point as “a principle,” Herbert stresses that it is a universal position—not just anecdotal evidence useful in certain specific moments. Indeed, it will become an important “principle” throughout the novel, as Pip attempts to navigate a world composed of both true and false gentlemen. Pocket’s belief rests on the idea that identity is both fundamentally unchanging and always perceptible to outsiders. If one is a “true gentlemen at heart,” he reasons, this essence will be reflected in “manner.” To express this idea, Pocket uses the metaphor of putting “varnish” on wood with a “grain” (flawed texture), claiming that the deficiencies in material will only become more notable as one attempts to obscure them.

That Pocket does not distinguish between “heart” and “manner” has a series of important consequences for Pip: It firstly implies that if Pip is not inherently a gentleman, he will never be able to cover this in the metaphorical varnish of new wealth. But it also indicates that being a gentleman has far less to do with social status than with one’s “heart” or natural disposition. Indeed, Pocket seems to be giving a more eloquent formulation of Joe’s earlier point that Pip will never become uncommon by being crooked. That Pip came into his fortune through his kind actions toward Provis is further evidence of the point that true social ascent is the result of an honest, ethical sensibility. Dickens may not himself fully identify with this position, but he does house this viewpoint in a number of characters—implying that the retrospective Pip narrator considers it valuable.

Book 2, Chapter 23 Quotes

…[Mrs. Pocket] had grown up highly ornamental, but perfectly helpless and useless.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Mrs. Pocket
Page Number: 147
Explanation and Analysis:

When Pip is visiting the Pockets, he observes the deep incompetence of Mrs. Pocket. He attributes this to her upbringing, in which her father—incessantly proud of his title—refused to let her learn any practical skills.

Mrs. Pocket’s character forefronts an important division in England society: the social change from hereditary aristocracy to the Victorian world of industrialism and capitalism. Whereas before Mrs. Pocket’s “highly ornamental” nature would have been appropriate given her title, it now marks her as passive and out of step with the times. By disparaging her for being “helpless and useless,” Pip shows himself to value pragmatism and self-sufficiency. Recall that Miss Havisham’s wealth itself is the result of her father’s enterprising brewery, while Provis’s similarly comes from a committed work ethic. Thus while Pip may idealize the upper classes, this passage clarifies the specific qualities of the class he finds praiseworthy: it is no longer titled members of the aristocracy, but rather those who have been bestowed with economic and social power due to the new capitalist society.

Book 2, Chapter 27 Quotes

"Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded together, as I may say, and one man's a blacksmith, and one's a whitesmith, and one's a goldsmith, and one's a coppersmith. Divisions among such must come, and must be met as they come. If there's been any fault at all to-day, it's mine. You and me is not two figures to be together in London; nor yet anywheres else but what is private, and beknown, an understood among friends. It ain't that I am proud, but that I want to be right, as you shall never see me no more in these clothes. I'm wrong in these clothes. I'm wrong out of the forge, the kitchen, or off th'meshes. You won't find half so much fault in me if you think of me in my forge dress, with my hammer in my hand, or even my pipe."

Related Characters: Joe Gargery (speaker), Pip Pirrip
Page Number: 175
Explanation and Analysis:

During Joe's visit Pip is deeply embarrassed about the differences between their social classes. Yet when Joe, while departing, gives this moving speech, he shows himself to be aware of Pip’s fears—and to have accepted their separate positions.

Joe’s speech is marked, first and foremost, by a sense of submission: his worldview places people in specific roles—from blacksmith to coppersmith—that define them and that will inevitably lead to “divisions.” Yet whereas Pip would see these divisions as negative, and himself seeks to escape his personal history, Joe accepts them as his destiny. In particular, he rejects the social symbols—the garments of “these clothes” and the physical location “out of the forge, the kitchen, or off th’meshes”—that do not correctly conform to his self-assigned social position. The passage recalls Biddy’s earlier description of Joe’s pride as a pride that knows its location in the world and embraces it full-heartedly—as well as Mr. Pocket’s attitude that the flaws in wood should not be covered up with varnish.

Joe seems to have rather rapidly come to a similar conclusion—though he couches it in less ornate language—when he says that his normal appearance would cause Pip to not “find half so much fault.” Dickens thus further positions Joe as the wise, moral center of the tale: he is neither impressed nor corrupted by coming into contact with the wealth of London, but rather notices how it is artificial and does not match his natural identity.

Book 2, Chapter 32 Quotes

…how strange it was that I should be encompassed by all this taint of prison and crime; that, in my childhood out on our lonely marshes on a winter evening, I should have first encountered it; that it should have reappeared on two occasions, starting out like a stain that was faded but not gone; that it should in this new way pervade my fortune and advancement.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker)
Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:

Pip visits Newgate Prison and is highly disturbed by the presence of the convicts. Later, he is disheartened by how often he has come into contact with criminals.

This passage reiterates that Pip thinks of social relations in terms of contamination: just as he is constantly anxious that associations with Joe will cause others to look down on him, he worries that these repeated run-ins with criminals are a “stain” on his identity. Indeed, that he feels “encompassed by all this taint” shows how he sees himself as uniquely surrounded by unlawfulness. And the fact that he traces it back to his “childhood” and then to “two occasions” casts Pip as detective or interpreter of his own story, revealing how carefully he watches his own actions in terms of how others may perceive them.

His paranoid personality seems, at first glance, entirely irrational, for no one except Pip would be able to track these repeated encounters. Yet Pip’s comment is also quite astute, for it foreshadows how his entire life has been built on the crimes of his benefactor Provis: it is no coincidence that his “fortune and advancement” are associated with a “stain,” for they are actually the direct result of crime. Dickens places Pip, then, in a similar role as the reader of the novel—collecting repeated images and events throughout the protagonist's life and trying to divine how they will affect his future.

Book 2, Chapter 33 Quotes

"We have no choice, you and I, but to obey our instructions. We are not free to follow our own devices, you and I."

Related Characters: Estella Havisham (speaker), Pip Pirrip
Page Number: 207
Explanation and Analysis:

Contrary to Pip’s hopes, Estella still remains extremely distant. Here she summons their need to remain separate and conform to social mandates instead of personal desires.

Her ambiguous comment has a series of different interpretive layers. In the most direct sense, she means that in the moment they must take the carriage at once to Richmond. More broadly, she implies that Miss Havisham has selected a destiny for her in Richmond that leaves her “no choice” as to who she will marry—or who she will be close to. Both characters must “obey [the] instructions” of their benefactors and are therefore unable to follow their “own devices.” More broadly, the line speaks to the way all the characters of the novel are enmeshed in their social systems, leaving them with relatively pre-determined and pre-scripted lives. Estella’s comment taunts Pip precisely because it speaks to both their banal social interaction and to a fundamental issue of human free will.

Yet while Estella’s tone is cold, she also makes a notable attempt to parallel her and Pip’s experiences. Before, Pip has been distraught that he and Estella lead different lives, and he desperately wishes to inhabit her same social sphere. Her comment seems to indicate that he has succeeded—particularly due to the way she follows each clause that begins with “We” with the reiterating “you and I.” Estella insists on equating them in the style of her sentence, even as the meaning of the sentence stresses how they must remain separate. Dickens suggests that the characters are united, oddly, precisely in the way they are both socially contained.

Book 2, Chapter 38 Quotes

"I am what you have made me. Take all the praise, take all the blame; take all the success, take all the failure; in short, take me."

Related Characters: Estella Havisham (speaker), Miss Havisham
Page Number: 238
Explanation and Analysis:

When Estella pulls away from Miss Havisham, the older woman grows possessive. The two quarrel in front of Pip for the first time, and Estella makes this comment on how all her actions are the result of her upbringing.

With characteristic coldness, Estella describes her behaviors in a deterministic way. She reasons that she cannot be judged accountable for them because, as Miss Havisham’s pet, all her behaviors are the direct result of Miss Havisham herself. The repeated use of the word “all” to apply to “praise” and “blame,” “success” and “failure” highlights that Estella is entirely the result of Miss Havisham’s work. Her language denies any separate sense of self—as if this heritage absolves her of any moral guilt or even free will.

As we have seen before, however, the content of Estella’s language contradicts the way in which she speaks. She may be claiming that Miss Havisham dictates her life, but she is also rebelling with that exact statement. Her declarations are phrased as commands, and her language is curt, in particular the phrase “in short.” Dickens implies that Estella is rejecting Miss Havisham in the only way that she can: by employing Miss Havisham’s exact tactics against her. The very coldness that has been cultivated so carefully in Estella is now turned on its creator—but the extent to which she is intentionally doing so remains up for debate.

Book 3, Chapter 44 Quotes

"Miss Havisham gives you to him as the greatest slight and injury that could be done to the many far better men who admire you, and to the few who truly love you. Among those few, there may be one who loves you even as dearly, though he has not loved you as long as I. Take him, and I can bear it better for your sake."

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Estella Havisham, Miss Havisham, Bentley Drummle
Page Number: 284
Explanation and Analysis:

When Pip finally confronts Miss Havisham and Estella at Satis House, he expresses his deep love for Estella. He begs her not to marry Drummle, but rather to select someone who truly cares for her.

This passage characterizes Pip’s increasingly selfless behavior. He does not phrase his criticism of Drummel in terms of personal motivation, but rather is perturbed by how it is “the greatest slight and jury” to a variety of “far better men.” That is to say, Pip is more concerned with the theoretical ethics of Miss Havisham’s cruel act than with his own desires to be with Estella. Though he reiterates his love, he actually points out that “there may be one who loves you even as dearly”—thus accepting both that he will not marry Estella and that someone else may have sentiments that equal his own. Pleading that she “take him” thus reflects an entirely earnest wish that Estella be happy in her marriage, whether or not it's to Pip.

Pip’s moving speech is thus an affront to Miss Havisham in two ways: first, because it directly criticizes her actions for how cruel they are to Estella and other men, and second because it expresses an entirely honest, selfless, and non-manipulative sentiment. Miss Havisham has taught Estella to be cruel partly out of a world-view that love is empty and disingenuous, but Pip’s wish that Estella be happy above all expresses a true and total love—providing the counterexample to Miss Havisham’s beliefs. Though his love for Estella has previously driven Pip to deceptive and crooked actions, here it causes him to act fully nobly—a critical indicator of his personal development.

Book 3, Chapter 49 Quotes

"Believe this: when she first came to me, I meant to save her from misery like my own. At first I meant no more…But as she grew and promised to be very beautiful, I gradually did worse, and with my praises, and with my jewels, and with my teachings, and with this figure of myself always before her, a warning to back and point my lessons, I stole her heart away and put ice in its place"…[Miss Havisham] burst out again, What had she done!

Related Characters: Miss Havisham (speaker), Estella Havisham
Page Number: 313
Explanation and Analysis:

During Pip’s visit, Miss Havisham repents the way she has raised Estella. She claims that her intentions were originally relatively kind but became crueler as Estella grew older.

Though we should remain skeptical of Miss Havisham by this point in the novel, her tone does seem honest and repentant. That she originally “meant to save [Estella] from misery like [her] own” casts Miss Havisham’s intent as selfless, even feminist: her goal was to protect her daughter from being preyed upon by men, and thus she prevented her from forming emotional attachments. Yet Miss Havisham was, in a sense, herself seduced by Estella’s beauty—for it was only as Estella aged and became increasingly attractive that Miss Havisham sought to cultivate a true monster.

Her language highlights the power of her own teaching: a combination of “praises” and “teachings,” with the monetary addition of “jewels” allowed Estella to become fully inhuman. Her “heart” is replaced with “ice”—speaking to the entirely cold way she treats everyone around her, even Miss Havisham herself. This passage parallels in many ways Pip’s own regret at being deceived by money and by the teachings of the upper class—though Miss Havisham regrets the role of the teacher instead of the student. Dickens thus gathers the characters together, at the novel’s end, in a common narrative of realization and regret. Inspired by Pip’s own selflessness, Miss Havisham concludes that her own tactics have been similarly diabolical.

Book 3, Chapter 55 Quotes

For now my repugnance to [Provis] had all melted away, and in the hunted wounded shackled creature who held my hand in his, I only saw a man who had meant to be my benefactor, and who had felt affectionately, gratefully, and generously towards me with great constancy through a series of years. I only saw in him a much better man than I had been to Joe.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Provis (a.k.a. Abel Magwitch) (a.k.a. the convict), Joe Gargery
Page Number: 350
Explanation and Analysis:

After Provis is imprisoned, Pip’s attitude toward his benefactor continues to become more favorable. He sees him, at last, in a positive, grateful light and without the critical lens of class consciousness that has previously clouded this view.

Whereas before, Provis’s lowly status had been a constant source of anxiety for Pip, here his weakness actually becomes a source of endearment. Though Pip describes his as a “hunted wounded shackled creature”—highlighting the qualities of subservience and weakness—these are no longer character criticisms. That Pip can still identify these qualities without holding a disposition of “repugnance” demonstrates how they are not inherently deplorable features, but rather become so only under an ungrateful eye. Pip transitions into the more grateful perspective, causing him to see that Provis has acted “affectionately, gratefully, and generously.”

Even more importantly, Pip is able to transfer this realization to his readings of other characters. His reference to Joe implies that this new view of Provis applies to people from his home and expresses a belief that he should not have treated Joe with such condescension. Dickens thus portrays a complete transformation in the way Pip thinks about his relationships: from valuing only class distinctions to finding fulfillment in genuineness and care.

Book 3, Chapter 58 Quotes

…the wonderful difference between the servile manner in which [Mr. Pumblechook] had offered his hand in my new prosperity, saying, "May I?" and the ostentatious clemency with which he had just now exhibited the same fat five fingers.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Mr. Pumblechook (a.k.a. Uncle Pumblechook)
Page Number: 372
Explanation and Analysis:

When Pip returns to his village after losing his fortunes, he is treated with remarkable disdain. He observes how differently Mr. Pumblechook greets him this visit in comparison to to when Pip had just come into wealth.

Earlier, Mr. Pumblechook’s behavior was characterized by servility and politeness. The phrase, “May I?” expressed a subservience to Pip, in which Pip’s consent would be required to shake hands. In contrast, now Pumblechook acts with “ostentatious clemency”: an odd combination of terms. Though “clemency” means compassion, “ostentatious” presents Pumblechook’s behavior as overly ornate and false, so his supposed kindness is overwrought and ironic rather than earnest. (Note that Dickens cleverly makes the phrase “ostentatious clemency” itself ostentatious, causing the linguistic form to parallel the content!).

Though Pumblechook’s physical identity has not changed—with “the same fat five fingers”—Pip is now adept enough at reading social codes to see how differently those fingers operate. Though one might expect Pip to be distraught at this new treatment, he actually finds it be a “wonderful difference.” This phrase expresses a certain delight at how dissimilar the two sets of reactions have been. Having gone through a full cycle of fortune and poverty, Pip has become adept at noticing how variantly he is treated, and he relishes in assessing how false others’ actions can be. Dickens implies that noticing the emptiness of a social exchange offers a certain kind of mental emancipation for Pip. 

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.

We owed so much to Herbert's ever cheerful industry and readiness that I often wondered how I had conceived the old idea of his inaptitude, until I was one day enlightened by the reflection that perhaps the inaptitude had never been in him at all, but had been in me.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Herbert Pocket (a.k.a. the pale young gentleman)
Page Number: 377
Explanation and Analysis:

After moving to Cairo to work in the same firm as Herbert and experiencing a much-improved financial condition, Pip wonders how he could have doubted Herbert’s economic aptitudes. He concludes that their earlier struggles with money were likely his own fault.

As has become characteristic in these final chapters, Pip revises his earlier critical opinion, and places the blame for past negative events onto himself. The “inaptitude” that he believed Herbert to have with financial matters “had been” in himself the entire time. This realization does not come immediately, but rather through slow, ever-difficult introspection. First, Pip observes the fact that Herbert is essential to the company’s success. Then, he “often wondered” about his earlier beliefs, demonstrating a period of analysis and “reflection.” Finally, he arrives at the conclusion in the sentence “I was one day enlightened.”

Dickens demonstrates that Pip has become increasingly capable of introspection—of interrogating which of his perceptions are reasonable and which have been clouded by selfishness or prejudice. In particular, this process tends to shift guilt from others onto himself. Maturity, for Pip, no longer means social ascent but rather the ability to carefully reflect and to hold oneself accountable for one’s behaviors and beliefs.

Book 3, Chapter 59 Quotes

"…now, when suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but – I hope – into a better shape."

Related Characters: Estella Havisham (speaker), Pip Pirrip
Page Number: 380
Explanation and Analysis:

In the novel’s final scene, Pip and Estella reunite at the remnants of Satis House. Estella comments on her tortuous marriage with Drummle and how it has changed her character deeply from the one that Miss Havisham crafted years before.

Estella juxtaposes two forms of teaching: the “suffering” she experienced in her marriage and “all other teaching” that had been provided by Miss Havisham. Whereas the second type had given her an emotionally-vacant heart of ice, the first has allowed her to make sense of human emotions. Evidently, Estella has experienced great physical and/or psychological abuse, implied by the phrase “bent and broken,” which can operate both literally and metaphorically. Like Pip, she has gone through a period of maturation and learning and come to reject her colder, judgmental personality. Dickens portrays their journeys as parallel ones, indicating they may finally come together at the novel’s end.

Yet while Estella considers these experiences to have improved her character, she continues to use oddly-aloof language. She considers herself “a better shape,” a phrase that makes her a tool, much as Miss Havisham always had. And she is able only to “understand” Pip’s heart, not actually reciprocate or feel the emotions. It remains unclear, then, whether the two will actually unite, but Dickens at the very least affirms how their parallel sufferings have brought them together at last.

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