Free Study Guide for Great Expectations by Charles Dickens-Book Summary
This chapter has a significant plot twist in that Pip is responsible for the firing of Orlick. Out of revenge, Orlick will eventually pose a threat to Pip’s life. For the most part, the rest of the chapter serves mainly to establish a pattern of denial and stubbornness on the part of Pip, leading to his continued downward fall. Even Herbert tries to warn Pip against loving Estella, but the boy with great expectations is resolute. The futility of loving Estella is obvious to all but Pip; that tragic love story is contrasted to the simple and sweet love between Herbert and Clara.
Pip and Herbert go to the theater to see Wopsle’s performance in Hamlet. The play is amusing mostly for its lack of sophistication. Still, Herbert and Pip have a good time and after the play, they take Wopsle home for dinner.
Wopsle’s ascent to the theater is a comic parallel to the story of Pip’s ascent to high society. Joe had referred to Wopsle’s decision to leave the church as taking a “fall,” since the old man’s dream of being a famous actor seemed an aspiration destined to fail. And Wopsle made it to the big city, which could have been a sign of his success. Nevertheless, the audience reception of the play was exactly as Joe had predicted. The dreamer’s illusion of greatness is shattered by the reality of comic mediocrity. Like Wopsle, Pip’s dreams will never come true exactly as he had imagined. But his “fall” will be tragic where the older man’s is comic.
Pip receives a letter from Estella saying that she is arriving in London very soon and would like him to meet her. Pip is so excited he can hardly contain himself. He arrives early, so to kill time he visits the Newgate Prison with Wemmick. He is horrified to see filthy conditions of the prison. Wemmick, strangely, is completely at ease. He even introduces Pip to a prisoner who is to be hanged.
Pip greets Estella hours later, and takes her to the house where she will be staying. Estella tells him she will be staying with a lady of good report, but that Pip is allowed to visit as liberally as he would like.
Aside from the dramatic endeavor of portraying Pip’s anxiety, this chapter also serves to comment in part on the conditions of London’s prisons. The Newgate Prison in London was actually known as one of the worst prisons in all of Europe, at the time the novel was written. Pip is horrified by what he sees, and also moved but the plight of the prisoners.
Pip returns to his world of ambitions and expectations as soon as he steps out of the prison and literally shakes off all the dust of crime and criminals that has collected on his clothes. He sees his great hope Estella waving at him from a coach and is filled with urgency to hide his visit from her. The irony is that prison will later be revealed as an important part of Estella’s past, as well as Pip’s.
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TheBestNotes.com Staff. "TheBestNotes on Great Expectations".
. 09 May 2017