Great Expectations

Great Expectations


Charles Dickens

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Great Expectations: Book 1, Chapter 2 Summary & Analysis

When Pip returns home, his brother-in-law Joe, the blacksmith, warns Pip that Pip's sister, Mrs. Joe, has been furiously looking for him and is carrying the Tickler, a cane she uses to beat Pip. Joe helps Pip hide behind the door to protect him from his sister. When Mrs. Joe bursts in, she immediately discovers Pip and throws him violently at Joe, who tucks a now crying Pip safely away in the chimney nook. Mrs. Joe proceeds to scold Pip harshly and reminds him that he'd be dead were it not for her even as she assures him that she regrets having raised him in the first place.
Though Mrs. Joe is Pip's blood relation and takes credit for raising Pip, Joe is his true guardian, watching out for Pip's physical and emotional safety. Mrs. Joe, by contrast, seems more concerned by her frustration at having to be a parent than by Pip's actual wellbeing.
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Literary Devices
The family sits down for tea and, fearing he may not be able to steal enough food from the pantry, Pip resolves to save his bread and butter for the convict in spite of his own hunger. Pip slips his bread down his pants-leg and spends the rest of the evening uncomfortably trying to keep it in place. Sitting in silence, Pip is tormented by his conscience as he struggles to resolve his guilt at stealing food from his sister with his fear of the convict's threats.
Pip's struggle with his conscience introduces another aspect of the justice theme as Pip tries to determine whether it is more important to abide by conventional moral code (which prohibits stealing) or to protect oneself from harm.
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Just as Pip is climbing up to bed, he hears the sound of great guns fired. When Joe says that the sound signals an escaped convict, Pip asks him to explain what a convict is. Joe mouths back an answer but the only word Pip can discern is "Pip." Pip then asks where the firing comes from and is chastised by Mrs. Joe for asking questions. After criticizing Pip's inquisitiveness at length, Mrs. Joe finally explains that the firing comes from the Hulks, which are prison-ships filled with criminals and anchored in the marshes. After spending a restless night wracked with guilt, Pip rises at dawn to steal a file from Joe's forge and all the food he can carry from Mrs. Joe's pantry, including a pork pie and some brandy.
The fact that Pip lip-reads "Pip" for Joe's definition of a convict illustrates Pip's guilty conscience (Joe was probably saying "ship," referencing the Hulks). The description of the Hulks establishes the legal world's proximity to domestic life. The prison-ships are within walking distance from the family living room. Pip is always asking questions, always wants to know more—a trait that his sister harshly shuts down. She is uninterested in his self-improvement.
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