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Free Study Guide for Great Expectations by Charles Dickens-Book Summary

 

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FREE STUDY GUIDE FOR GREAT EXPECTATIONS


CHAPTER 3


Summary

On his way to meet the convict, Pip comes across another convict who startles and runs away. When he reaches the gruff man he met the day before, who hungrily devours the food, Pip tells him about the other convict. The stranger becomes very angry and excited, hurriedly trying to file away the chains on his leg. Pip realizes the stranger is too busy to notice, so he slips away and rushes home, knowing his absence will have been noticed.


Notes

The primary effect of this chapter is a fuller characterization of Pip, and also of an enormously influential friendship which will shape the novel. It begins with a scene loaded with aspects of character: a young, innocent boy seeks to reconcile the necessary theft of food and drink from his own family for the sake of a convicted felon. Clearly, his actions go against the good behavior he has been taught. Still, he covers his tracks artfully when he fills the brandy decanter with water. Such skill would seem to indicate practice at deception, were it not for the boyís all too apparent innocent nature. This naivete is most easily apparent when he takes the pork pie, since he must surely know he will be caught. But it is obvious he is not even thinking about consequences. And as he watches the convict eat, he is filled with satisfaction that his efforts have been appreciated, despite their dubious moral qualities. Young Pip feels immense sympathy toward the man, as he has been alone without food, drink or shelter in the wilderness of the marshes. He empathizes with the feeling of isolation and seems to almost forget the threatening demeanor of the felon.


Most evident and remarkable about this chapter is Pipís concern for the convict and the convictís gratitude towards Pip. A friendship is forged which will go on to shape Pipís entire future.


CHAPTER 4


Summary

Pip rushes home, certain that his theft of the pork pie has been discovered. To his relief, the crime is still unknown. Mrs. Joe is busy arranging for the grand Christmas dinner to which Uncle Pumblechook, Mr. Wopsle and Mr. and Mrs. Hubble have been invited.

Mrs. Joe customarily serves Pip the worst food and the smallest portions, commenting on what a burden he is. Joe is helpless to intercede on behalf of his little friend; instead, he tries to sneak him larger portions of the Christmas meal. During the meal, Mrs. Joe goes to get the pork pie. Full of fear, Pip decides to run for the door. When he pulls it open, he is stunned to see a party of officers holding handcuffs out to him.


Notes

Though the scene is rife with comic incidents (Joe described as a scarecrow, Mr. Pumblechook taking a swig of the watered-down brandy) it also contains some heart-wrenching drama. Pip is made to feel like an unwanted responsibility and is forced to express his constant gratitude to Mrs. Joe. For her part, she simply abuses Pip and then insists he flatter her with praise and thanks. Joe does his best to counter his wifeís dour disposition and horrid treatment in the only way he is able: he heaps ladling spoonfuls of gravy into Pipís plate. This sweet, pathetic gesture on Joeís part once again brings out the love between him and the young boy. Both have experienced the pain of Mrs. Joeís neglect. They are in this together.

The whole time, Pipís mind is preoccupied with impending doom. Mrs. Joe will certainly find out about his theft, and he will certainly pay. The suspense through the meal is incredible; when she rises to get the pie, Pipís fear is palpable. It carries him to the door consumed only by flight. And the shock of being greeted by outstretched hands holding handcuffs is a dramatic pay-off only a master storyteller could have envisioned.


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