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

 

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GREAT EXPECTATIONS PLOT SUMMARY AND NOTES


CHAPTERS 20 AND 21


Summary

Pip reaches London and is both overwhelmed by the size of the city and disgusted by its narrow and dirty roads. The filth of the city with its slaughterhouses and prisons sickens him, and he is relieved when he meets Mr. Jaggers, a familiar face. He is given a handsome allowance as well as credit at several shops. He is told he will temporarily reside with the son of his tutor, Mr. Pocket, at Barnard’s Inn. Mr. Wemmick, Jaggers' clerk, shows Pip the way to the Inn and introduces him to Mr. Herbert Pocket, the young boy Pip once knocked down at Satis House (for which Estella allowed him to kiss her).


Notes


This is the first in a series of scenes in which Pip begins his new life. The cast changes as other faces and characters with whom the reader has yet to be introduced to surround Pip. As the beginning of a new “phase” in Pip’s development, this chapter is marked by two impressions: the size of things to come, and the dirty underworld of London. In this chapter, both are introduced simply as aspects of a new city. In the context of the novel, however, they are highly significant symbols.

Wealth brings a lot of attention for Pip, who enjoys every bit of it. He is proud of his new clothes and his generous allowance and is full of grand thoughts about his life as a gentleman in the big city. He is full of admiration for Jaggers, since he sees the lawyer as a busy and very important man. The fact that all Jaggers’ clients are criminals is lost on young Pip; all he knows is that these men pay Jaggers for saving their lives (from jail or hanging). Jaggers appears to be successful and well respected, and Pip longs for that kind of influence and respectability.


CHAPTERS 22 - 25


Summary

Surprisingly, Herbert Pocket and Pip become very good friends. The fact that Pip had first met Herbert at Miss Havisham’s only encourages him to believe that the eccentric old lady is his benefactress. In fact, he marvels that Herbert is not jealous that Pip was chosen over him. Herbert begins to teach Pip upper class manners, and in the process, tells him what he knows about Miss Havisham.

Miss Havisham was the only daughter of a wealthy man and woman. When her mother died, her father re-married a servant and had a son. The son was bad, and was cut off from his family fortune. But when the father was dying, he brought the son back into his home and gave him his share. The no-good son wasted his inheritance and Miss Havisham refused to help him. Soon, a courtier seduced Miss Havisham on the premise that he was in love with her. In reality, he is in cahoots with her half-brother. According to the story, Miss Havisham was stood up on her wedding day; it was then she received a letter that revealed the alliance between the two men. Time stopped in Satis House. Miss Havisham, her wedding dress, and the rotten wedding cake are the only mementos of that horrible affair.

No one is really clear on how Estella came into the picture. Herbert only knows she was adopted and raised to avenge Miss Havisham by tormenting men, thereby making them pay for Miss Havisham’s tragedy.

Pip pays a visit to Mr. Matthew Pocket, Herbert’s father. He finds the man surrounded by a host of children. Herbert’s father is a good man somewhat overwhelmed by the task of parenthood. His wife is a useless matriarch, unable to control or rear her family. She is an ornament.

Pip also meets Bentley Drummle and Startop, two other characters in the novel who will become very important. They are boarders in the inn.

Pip settles down in London and is zealously tutored by the senior Mr. Pocket. Mr. Jaggers provides him with generous sums of money whenever he needs it. Pip learns further what kind of power and influence Jaggers has when he realizes the nature of the lawyer’s unsavory practice.


Notes

The coincidence of Pip’s having met Herbert long ago at Satis House furthers a very important assumption on Pip’s part that Miss Havisham is the source of his good fortune. Were it not for this misleading coincidence, Pip might look further. As it is, he mistakenly believes he knows the source of his newfound uncommon-ness because of the common faces that keep popping up. The friendship between the two boys is a pleasant surprise, since Pip no longer has Joe and since he needs an ally in the big London city. The blossoming relationship carries itself well in the remaining chapters.

The resulting exposition that explains some of Satis House and its morbid origin is informative not only to Pip but also to the reader. Estella’s cruel mocking behavior and alternating bouts of kindness to Pip are now viewed as acts of calculated abuse, for which Miss Havisham has trained her. Some, but not all, of Satis House begins to make sense.

Many characters in the novel are introduced and fleshed out in these introductory London chapters. Drummle and Startop at first seem insignificant, but later they will play roles of extreme dramatic importance. Drummle, for example, will go on to marry Estella. Startop will become Pip’s friend. For now, all that is significant is that Jaggers warns Pip to avoid Drummle, saying he is trouble. Jaggers must recognize the criminal mind of the young man, since that is his business.

Jaggers and his clerk Wemmick are developed more fully as well. Jaggers is a fearsome opponent whose many clients include the worst criminals of society. Many have long since been hung, but relics of their lives decorate his office. A characterizing detail of Jaggers is that he never locks his doors; he has such power in the underworld that he practically challenges a would-be thief to break in. In his own words, he says he would love to see “the man who’ll rob me.” Pip observes that everyone who comes near Jaggers seems to fear him. For his part, Pip has no reason to fear Jaggers; the lawyer is generous with him and seems very capable of handling his estate. Wemmick, Jaggers' clerk, is a good-natured man who welcomes Pip into his life and brings color and variety. In stark contrast to Jaggers, Wemmick is funny and harmless. Where Jaggers appears formidable and frightening, Wemmick appears faithful and frumpy. He lives with his father, known as “the Aged P,” and has a shelter built up in case of an attack. The Aged P and he can live for a while on the provisions he has stored up. Later, Wemmick will be a good advisor to Pip.

Chapter 25 presents Wemmick in Dickensian duality. He is a man with two distinctly different lives. On one hand he is the stern clerk of a shady defense lawyer. The world in which he works is frightening and morbid, full of reminders of hanged men. But in his personal life, he is the devoted son of a very old, very deaf man. He is charming and idiosyncratic, with lots of colorful detail.


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