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


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Pip, Herbert, Drummle and Startop are invited to Mr. Jaggers' home. Jaggers housekeeper, Molly, is a fierce woman whom Wemmick suggests is barely tamed. Jaggers seems to like Drummle more and more; he nicknames him “the Spider.” Pip and Drummle quarrel.


Jaggers and his house share a constant gloominess, indicative of the darkness both are shrouded in. Jaggers has a habit of perpetually washing his hands, which symbolizes in part his attempt to absolve himself of guilt in his shady dealings. The sordidness of his taste for men is evident, when in spite of the presence of good honest men like Herbert and Startop, he takes a liking to the sulky and bullying Drummle. As if to top off this morbid characterization, Molly is introduced as a mysterious force to be reckoned with. Earlier, Wemmick had told Pip to notice her. He does, and sees a fierce woman with scarred hands whom Jaggers manages to keep in check. Later, Pip learns she even has a criminal history.



Joe comes to London to visit. Pip fears his old friend will embarrass him, and is full of apprehensions that any of his newly found refined society friends might see him in the company of a lowly blacksmith. Joe tells Pip all the news of his old home, including word of Biddy and Mrs. Joe. He tells him Mr. Wopsle has taken a turn toward acting and that Estella has come home and would like to see him. Pip’s discomfort with Joe is obvious, and Joe senses that he is no longer suitable company for his young friend. He leaves and when Pip realizes what he has done, he races to find Joe. But his friend is already gone.

Pip decides to pay Miss Havisham and Estella a visit.


The negative effect of Pip’s transformation is painfully obvious here. He is uneasy with a visit from his first dear friend, and thinks himself too good to be seen with a mere blacksmith. Joe’s warm advances are met with cool class-consciousness, and when the humble blacksmith calls Pip “sir” the unkindness reaches a peak. Pip makes his snobbery obvious enough that Joe takes his exit with a few touching words on their past relationship. Pip, shamed by Joe’s dignity and his own appalling behavior, runs to apologize, but Joe is gone.



Pip hurriedly prepares to visit Estella, excited by the prospect of seeing her now that he is a gentleman. He decides against staying with Joe, since he believes such an arrangement would be inappropriate for his class, and opts instead to stay at the Blue Boar. He shares the coach with two convicts who are being transferred to the Hulks. Pip recognizes one of them as the strange man from long ago whom he had seen with Joe’s file. The man, however, does not recognize Pip in his upper-class finery. Pip dozes, waking in time to hear the familiar convict tell the other about two one-pound notes he once gave a young boy in a bar. Pip listens, recognizing himself as the recipient. The convict tells the other that he was given the two one-pound notes by a “lifer” and told to reward a young boy who had once fed him and given him a file. A lifer is a convict sentenced to stay in prison forever.


Aside from the interesting dramatic twist provided by the conversation of the two convicts on the coach, the only thing of import is Pip’s rush to visit Estella. Estella has always treated him cruelly, arbitrarily nice and mean. Yet he rushes off to visit her at once. In contrast, he has just snubbed Joe, who has been nothing but kind to him. Pip’s behavior is more than problematic--it is inexcusable.

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