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


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Pip makes a second visit to Miss Havisham’s house. He sees some other people who wait on her, most of them cousins and various other relations. He is taken into a room where a table is decorated with a wedding cake that has long since rotted and is now full of insects. Miss Havisham tells Pip that when she dies, they will put her body on the table. Then Pip plays cards with Estella. On his way back, he comes across a thin, pale boy who dares him to fight. Pip knocks the boy down and Estella grants him the reward of kissing her cheek.


Pip’s second visit proves to be an important one, though the significance is for now unrealized. He meets two people with whom he will have a long association: Mr. Jaggers, a lawyer, and the boy with whom he fights. The boy will become his most trusted friend in a few years.

The room with the wedding cake is yet another symbol in the novel to mark the house that has been forgotten by time. The cake and Miss Havisham’s dress are eerie monuments to the unfulfilled past--monuments that have rotted and yellowed with age, but that still stand.

Estella’s reward is only a temporary victory for Pip; it does not mean he has become less common, at least to her.

CHAPTERS 12 - 14


Pip is now expected to be at Miss Havisham’s every afternoon. This arrangement continues for ten months. Estella’s behavior during this time alternates between indifference and friendliness, confusing Pip and stringing him along.

Miss Havisham knows that when Pip is old enough, he will be apprenticed to Joe. One day, she asks the young boy to bring his mentor along. A few days later, when the visit takes place, Joe’s behavior embarrasses Pip. Miss Havisham rewards Pip with a generous sum of twenty-five guineas and reminds him that he is now a servant of Joe. The apprenticeship will sever his ties with Satis House.

Once Pip had looked forward to working with Joe. After all, the two were as close as brothers. But now the work seems like drudgery; Pip is constantly aware of the “common-ness” of it all. He often wonders what Estella would think if she saw him working as a blacksmith. His discontent grows daily.


Joe’s “common” behavior at Miss Havisham’s is the first in a long series of things that Pip becomes ashamed of as a result of his time with Estella. He watches Estella smile at Joe and imagines she is laughing at his base ways and lowly mannerisms, and Pip is embarrassed.

Ultimately, Pip’s apprenticeship takes him away from Satis House and the taste of uncommon-ness he had enjoyed there. He becomes preoccupied with thoughts of Estella and Miss Havisham, and his dissatisfaction with his old life grows steadily. He becomes more ashamed of home, and of Joe. Both are constant reminders that his station in life will never meet Estella’s standards and this troubles him greatly.



Against Joe’s better wishes, Pip takes half a day off from work to visit Miss Havisham. Orlick, Joe’s employee, is jealous and requests half a day off as well. When Joe grants it, Mrs. Joe interrupts and this leads to a quarrel between her and Orlick, and subsequently between Orlick and Mrs. Joe. Pip goes to Miss Havisham’s only to discover Estella is away in France, being educated as a lady.

Upon arrival at his home, Pip discovers that someone has broken in and injured Mrs. Joe. A leg-iron that was long ago filed away lies on the ground next to her, and she is permanently brain-damaged. She is bed-ridden, hearing-impaired, and unable to speak. Biddy moves in to be her nurse and look after Joe and Pip.


The story takes an unprecedented turn with the near-fatal wounding of Mrs. Joe. Her incapacity to do work and impaired senses create a lot of stress in the household until Biddy comes to stay. Then she becomes an invaluable member of the family. Joe finds a consoler in her and Pip finds a close entrusted friend. Biddy also takes up the responsibility of taking care of Mrs. Joe. One good thing about the accident is that it makes Mrs. Joe a much nicer person. She is suddenly patient and bearable. She even apologizes to Orlick and becomes kind and gentle at heart.

The perpetrator of the evil deed is not found, but to his own horror, Pip suspects the convict he long ago freed. He is glad that Biddy has joined them and he admires the way she conducts herself about the house and helps in his learning.

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