Study Guide

Great Expectations Quotes

  • Contrasting Regions

    Chapter 1

    Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. (1.3)

    Hm, this isn't starting off well: "marsh country" and "raw afternoon" don't really give us the impression of a happy, bucolic childhood.

    Chapter 3
    Pip

    It was a rimy morning, and very damp. I had seen the damp lying on the outside of my little window, as if some goblin had been crying there all night, and using the window for a pocket-handkerchief. Now, I saw the damp lying on the bare hedges and spare grass, like a coarser sort of spiders' webs; hanging itself from twig to twig and blade to blade. On every rail and gate, wet lay clammy; and the marsh-mist was so thick, that the wooden finger on the post directing people to our village—a direction which they never accepted, for they never came there—was invisible to me until I was quite close under it. Then, as I looked up at it, while it dripped, it seemed to my oppressed conscience like a phantom devoting me to the Hulks. (3.1)

    The mists make things look "phantom-like" and "invisible"—almost as though the marshes are a dream-world. Or, maybe a nightmare world. Either way, there's something not-quite-real about them.

    Chapter 20
    Pip

    The journey from our town to the metropolis, was a journey of about five hours. It was a little past mid-day when the four-horse stage-coach by which I was a passenger, got into the ravel of traffic frayed out about the Cross Keys, Wood-street, Cheapside, London. (20.1)

    Okay, five hours is probably more like twenty minutes today. But just because you can get to London in a day doesn't mean that the two places have much in common: to Pip, this is like moving all the way across the continent for college.

    Chapter 21
    Mr. Wemmick

    So imperfect was this realization of the first of my great expectations, that I looked in dismay at Mr. Wemmick. "Ah!" said he, mistaking me; "the retirement reminds you of the country. So it does me." (21.22)

    While Barnard's Inn reminds Londoners of the country, it reminds Pip of something altogether very different. Suddenly we don't feel so excited for this new city-living. Anybody know where the Dyson is?

    Pip

    My depression was not alleviated by the announcement, for, I had supposed that establishment to be an hotel kept by Mr. Barnard, to which the Blue Boar in our town was a mere public-house. Whereas I now found Barnard to be a disembodied spirit, or a fiction, and his inn the dingiest collection of shabby buildings ever squeezed together in a rank corner as a club for Tom-cats. (21.20)

    Here's the first sign that Pip's great expectations aren't going to be all that great—and a clue to tell us not to split things in this book into simple categories of "good" and "bad." London may be different from Kent, but that doesn't mean it's nicer.

    Chapter 25

    At last, when we got to his place of business and he pulled out his key from his coat-collar, he looked as unconscious of his Walworth property as if the Castle and the drawbridge and the arbour and the lake and the fountain and the Aged, had all been blown into space together by the last discharge of the Stinger. (25.54)

    Similar to Satis House, Wemmick's castle seems to be suspended in time and seems to belong to another universe altogether. There's an element of fantasy here in the way that Wemmick's personality changes so drastically—he's literally a different person in different places.

    Chapter 28
    Pip

    But I must have lost it longer than I had thought, since, although I could recognize nothing in the darkness and the fitful lights and shadows of our lamps, I traced marsh country in the cold damp wind that blew at us. Cowering forward for warmth and to make me a screen against the wind, the convicts were closer to me than before. The very first words I heard them interchange as I became conscious were the words of my own thought, "Two One Pound notes." (28.20)

    We never get to see what lies between Kent and London, even though Pip makes this exact journey like ten million times. There's something almost mystical about the journey between each region. If the landscape of marsh country represents or reflects Pip's inner monologue, then the journey from London to Kent, replete with mistiness and all, is perhaps a journey into a state of self-reflection—like how Pip's thoughts are articulated in the convicts' real-time conversation. In the marsh country, there seems to be less of a division between internal life and external reality.

    Chapter 30
    Pip

    I turned my head aside, for, with a rush and a sweep, like the old marsh winds coming up from the sea, a feeling like that which had subdued me on the morning when I left the forge, when the mists were solemnly rising, and when I laid my hand upon the village finger-post, smote upon my heart again. There was silence between us for a little while. (30.41)

    Just in case we're not getting it, Dickens basically lays it out for us here: the mists of Pip's hometown are an external representation of the mists inside his head. External is internal; internal is external.

    Chapter 32
    Mr. Wemmick

    "However, this is not London talk. Where do you think I am going to?" (32.5)

    Wemmick feels so strongly the division and distinction between London and Walworth that he won't even talk about his personal life, almost as if it doesn't even exist. Pip and Wemmick are similar in that each man's home is very different from his life in London. But Pip rejects his home in the name of London, while Wemmick finds a way to make both coexist—by denying that home exists when he's at work, or that work exists while he's at home. Talk about work/live balance.

    Chapter 34
    Pip

    Many a time of an evening, when I sat alone looking at the fire, I thought, after all, there was no fire like the forge fire and the kitchen fire at home. (34.1)

    It's not all marshes and darkness down by the river: Joe's forge is cozy and warm, especially once the threat of Mrs. Joe is neutralized. This just might be the most home-like of any place Pip goes.

  • Dreams, Hopes, and Plans

    Chapter 2
    Estella Havisham

    "It is a part of Miss Havisham's plans for me, Pip," said Estella, with a sigh, as if she were tired; "I am to write to her constantly and see her regularly, and report how I go on—I and the jewels—for they're nearly all mine now." (33.58)

    Miss Havisham may claim that she never planned to ruin Estella's life, but it sure seems like she tried to. Check out the way Estella and the jewels seems to be one and the same.

    Chapter 15
    Pip

    Whenever I watched the vessels standing out to sea with their white sails spread, I somehow thought of Miss Havisham and Estella; and whenever the light struck aslant, afar off, upon a cloud or sail or green hill-side or water-line, it was just the same. Miss Havisham and Estella and the strange house and the strange life appeared to have something to do with everything that was picturesque. (15.4)

    Okay, we all feel a little dreamy when he look off at the horizon—Pip is just a lot more poetic about it. When he looks out onto the marshes and sees horizon is populated by sails or other things, Pip instantly feels closer to his dreams. His fear? Having nothing on the horizon, and nothing to hope for.

    Chapter 29
    Pip

    The lady whom I had never seen before, lifted up her eyes and looked archly at me, and then I saw that the eyes were Estella's eyes. But she was so much changed, was so much more beautiful, so much more womanly, in all things winning admiration had made such wonderful advance, that I seemed to have made none. I fancied, as I looked at her, that I slipped hopelessly back into the coarse and common boy again. O the sense of distance and disparity that came upon me, and the inaccessibility that came about her! (29.38)

    Is it just us, or does Pip seem a lot more interested in thinking about the distance between himself and his dream than about the dream—i.e., Estella—itself? We get the sense that he wouldn't even know what to do with her if he got her.

    She had adopted Estella, she had as good as adopted me, and it could not fail to be her intention to bring us together. She reserved it for me to restore the desolate house, admit the sunshine into the dark rooms, set the clocks a going and the cold hearths a blazing, tear down the cobwebs, destroy the vermin—in short, do all the shining deeds of the young Knight of romance, and marry the Princess. (29.2)

    Pip's dreams seem to be made of images, actions, and theatrical elements rather than emotions or substantive encounters. Well, that makes sense—they're dreams. Instead of imagining a real moment of happiness and understanding with Estella, Pip imagines dramatically and magically curing Satis House. It's all very Beauty and the Beast, minus the singing candelabra. (We wish there were a singing candelabra.)

    Chapter 30
    Pip

    "I am ashamed to say it," I returned, "and yet it's no worse to say it than to think it. You call me a lucky fellow. Of course, I am. I was a blacksmith's boy but yesterday; I am—what shall I say I am—to-day?" (30.26)

    Just like today, most of the people in Pip's life derive their identity from the job that they do. Pip wants to be a gentleman who derives his identity from what he is rather than what he does—but he's not there yet. He can still only dream about it.

    Chapter 33
    Pip

    While my mind was thus engaged, I thought of the beautiful young Estella, proud and refined, coming towards me, and I thought with absolute abhorrence of the contrast between the jail and her. (33.4)

    We're not so sure that Estella and the jail have so little in common. They're both associated with death, and they're both locked up tight. One is a dream and one is a nightmare, but other than that—yep, pretty similar.

    Chapter 39
    Pip

    Miss Havisham's intentions towards me, all a mere dream; Estella not designed for me; I only suffered in Satis House as a convenience, a sting for the greedy relations, a model with a mechanical heart to practise on when no other practice was at hand; those were the first smarts I had. (39.98)

    Pip's great expectations just led to suffering—and growing up a little. Dreams may only bring suffering, but only suffering makes you a man.

    For an hour or more, I remained too stunned to think; and it was not until I began to think, that I began fully to know how wrecked I was, and how the ship in which I had sailed was gone to pieces. (39.97)

    Here we see the connection between those ships that Pip used to watch on the marshes at home those many years ago and his current circumstances. When he watched the ships on the horizon, he'd dream about the life he couldn't have. The ships became a metaphor for a life of money and privilege—but once he actually got on board, it promptly sank. What does he have on his horizon now to dream about?

    Chapter 43
    Pip

    Too heavily out of sorts to care much at the time whether it were he or no, or after all to touch the breakfast, I washed the weather and the journey from my face and hands, and went out to the memorable old house that it would have been so much the better for me never to have entered, never to have seen. (43.57)

    Pip thinks he would be happier if he had never been exposed to Miss Havisham's house, which reminds us that Pip was first made to visit Miss Havisham in order to fulfill or attempt to fulfill the dreams and hopes of others: Mrs. Joe and Mr. Pumblechook (not to mention Miss Havisham).

    Chapter 44
    Pip

    "It would have been cruel in Miss Havisham, horribly cruel, to practise on the susceptibility of a poor boy, and to torture me through all these years with a vain hope and an idle pursuit, if she had reflected on the gravity of what she did. But I think she did not. I think that in the endurance of her own trial, she forgot mine, Estella." (44.43)

    Over and over again, we see hopes and dreams turning people selfish and destructive. But Pip still chooses to believe that humans are innately good, and just derailed by misguided dreams.

  • Wealth

    Chapter 2
    Herbert Pocket

    "Then the time comes," said Herbert, "when you see your opening. And you go in, and you swoop upon it and you make your capital, and then there you are! When you have once made your capital, you have nothing to do but employ it." (22.90)

    Herbert's concept of money and wealth involves usability. He doesn't want to own things just to own them; he wants his money to lead him to new ventures and to expose him to new places and ideas. Not Pip. Pip's concept of wealth and fortune is tied to an image of Miss Havisham's world, but her world is a stagnant one in which time has stopped and nothing grows. It's no coincidence that Herbert's capitalist concept of wealth made England so powerful in the nineteenth century. (And Dickens totally knew it.)

    Chapter 17
    Pip

    At those times, I would decide conclusively that my disaffection to dear old Joe and the forge, was gone, and that I was growing up in a fair way to be partners with Joe and to keep company with Biddy—when all in a moment some confounding remembrance of the Havisham days would fall upon me, like a destructive missile, and scatter my wits again. Scattered wits take a long time picking up; and often, before I had got them well together, they would be dispersed in all directions by one stray thought, that perhaps after all Miss Havisham was going to make my fortune when my time was out. (17.74)

    Mo' money, mo' problems—or, "mo' thinking about money, mo' problems." Just when Pip begins to warm up to his destined trade and life, the prospect of money throws everything into chaos.

    Chapter 18
    Joe Gargery

    "But if you think as Money can make compensation to me for the loss of the little child—what come to the forge—and ever the best of friends!—" (18.92)

    Jaggers assumes that everyone has a price, but he's wrong: Joe doesn't. (Or, at least Joe doesn't put a price on Pip.) Jaggers seems unaware that relationships exist that are stronger than money. Well, that's what he gets for living in the big, bad city.

    Mr. Jaggers

    "First," said Mr. Jaggers, "you should have some new clothes to come in, and they should not be working clothes. Say this day week. You'll want some money. Shall I leave you twenty guineas?" (18.83)

    In telling Pip to get rid of the working clothes look, Jaggers indirectly insults Joe and indicates that Pip won't be associating with the working classes anymore. Money divides people: this seems to be first time that Pip and Joe won't look like each other.

    Chapter 22
    Pip

    He had grand ideas of the wealth and importance of Insurers of Ships in the City, and I began to think with awe, of having laid a young Insurer on his back, blackened his enterprising eye, and cut his responsible head open. But, again, there came upon me, for my relief that odd impression that Herbert Pocket would never be very successful or rich. (22.72)

    Pip thinks he's an expert on who's going to make it in life just because he's obsessed with status and wealth—but he doesn't really know anything about wealth or money yet, and he won't until he loses it.

    "I wonder he didn't marry her and get all the property," said I. (22.59)

    Pip can't understand why Compeyson would walk away from the opportunity of owning land and of being married to a lady, because (we think) he doesn't understand yet that owning land and marrying a lady won't make him a gentleman. Pip still think that money can buy acceptance—but he's wrong.

    Yet, having already made his fortune in his own mind, he was so unassuming with it that I felt quite grateful to him for not being puffed up. (22.92)

    For Herbert, just dreaming of the money to come is enough to satisfy him. He doesn't mope around like a crestfallen six year-old. Pip, on the other hand is never content, even though he's inherited a fortune.

    Chapter 24
    Mr. Wemmick

    "It don't signify to you with your brilliant look-out, but as to myself, my guiding-star always is, 'Get hold of portable property.'" (24.41)

    Wemmick is all about owning goods that can be moved quickly, so his concept of money is closely tied to mobility. He knows that wealth (in the vague stocks, land, and savings kind of way) can be appropriated and lost, and he doesn't care about having the "right" kind of money in land; he just wants to live comfortably and to be able to keep hold of his wealth.

    Chapter 34
    Pip

    As we got more and more into debt, breakfast became a hollower and hollower form, and, being on one occasion at breakfast-time threatened (by letter) with legal proceedings, "not unwholly unconnected," as my local paper might put it, "with jewellery," I went so far as to seize the Avenger by his blue collar and shake him off his feet—so that he was actually in the air, like a booted Cupid—for presuming to suppose that we wanted a roll. (34.10)

    Money isn't all about dreams and visions of grandeur—it's also tied to matters of survival and ugly realities, like having to eat Ramen for breakfast and reuse your coffee grounds. (Just us?)

    Chapter 39
    Abel Magwitch

    "As I giv' you to understand just now, I'm famous for it. It was the money left me, and the gains of the first few year wot I sent home to Mr. Jaggers—all for you—when he first come arter you, agreeable to my letter." (2.39.77)

    Magwitch is perhaps the only person in the novel who is generous with his money. His relationship to money is closely related to his dream of making Pip a gentleman.

    Abel Magwitch

    'He was a convict, a few year ago, and is a ignorant common fellow now, for all he's lucky,' what do I say? I says to myself, 'If I ain't a gentleman, nor yet ain't got no learning, I'm the owner of such. All on you owns stock and land; which on you owns a brought-up London gentleman?' (39.78)

    Magwitch may seem like he's being generous with his money, but it's actually the exact opposite of generosity: he's using his money to "buy" himself a gentleman. Of course, by now, Pip knows that you can't buy gentlemanliness: it's maybe the one thing in the world that can't be bought.

  • Innocence

    Chapter 3
    Abel Magwitch

    "Well," said he, "I believe you. You'd be but a fierce young hound indeed, if at your time of life you could help to hunt a wretched warmint, hunted as near death and dunghill as this poor wretched warmint is!" (3.20)

    Pip may be innocent, but by supplying the convict with a file he loses just a little bit of his innocence. For the first time ever, he has to lie to Joe—and this moment sets the whole novel in action.

    Chapter 7
    Pip

    I had never parted from him before, and what with my feelings and what with soap-suds, I could at first see no stars from the chaise-cart. But they twinkled out one by one, without throwing any light on the questions why on earth I was going to play at Miss Havisham's, and what on earth I was expected to play at. (7.91)

    It's not exactly going off to college, but this is still a big moment in Pip's little life: it's the first time he's sleeping under someone else's roof. (No slumber parties in nineteenth century English villages, apparently.) It's also a Garden of Eden moment: he's leaving his dream world by the marshes and heading off into a new kind of garden—a ruined and gated one.

    Young as I was, I believe that I dated a new admiration of Joe from that night. We were equals afterwards, as we had been before; but, afterwards at quiet times when I sat looking at Joe and thinking about him, I had a new sensation of feeling conscious that I was looking up to Joe in my heart. (7.64)

    Okay, what's weird about this is that Pip goes from seeing Joe as an equal to admiring him—which is the exact opposite of what happens to most kids and their parents. Does losing some of his innocence help him learn to respect Joe?

    Chapter 8
    Pip

    My sister's bringing up had made me sensitive. In the little world in which children have their existence whosoever brings them up, there's nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt, as injustice. It may be only small injustice that the child can be exposed to; but the child is small, and its world is small, and its rocking-horse stands as many hands high, according to scale, as a big-boned Irish hunter. (8.95)

    Pip's world may contained, small, and familiar, but, it's terrorized by his angry sister. We're pretty sure that being conscious of injustice means that you're not innocent any longer.

    Chapter 13
    Pip

    With which he took them out, and gave them, not to Miss Havisham, but to me. I am afraid I was ashamed of the dear good fellow—I know I was ashamed of him—when I saw that Estella stood at the back of Miss Havisham's chair, and that her eyes laughed mischievously. (13.18)

    As any kid can tell you, realizing that your parents are embarrassing is definitely the end of one kind of innocence.

    Finally, I remember that when I got into my little bedroom I was truly wretched, and had a strong conviction on me that I should never like Joe's trade. I had liked it once, but once was not now. (13.69)

    Satis House is no Garden of Eden, and Estella gave Pip bread and water instead of the fruit of knowledge, but he definitely feels like he's been cast out of something.

    Chapter 17
    Pip

    "[…] see how I am going on. Dissatisfied, and uncomfortable, and—what would it signify to me, being coarse and common, if nobody had told me so!" (17.33)

    Pip seems to associate ignorance with innocence—but that's probably not going to work as an excuse when you don't want to study for your econ test.

    Chapter 44
    Estella Havisham

    "Don't be afraid of my being a blessing to him," said Estella; "I shall not be that. Come! Here is my hand. Do we part on this, you visionary boy—or man?" (44.65)

    Estella may pretend that she never thinks about Pip, but it sounds like she's actually been keeping quite the eye on him. The "visionary boy" is the boy who continues to hope she will requite his love. The man in Pip is he who is wise enough to give up and to recognize that Estella can't be won nor melted. Which one is Pip? We're not sure, and we don't think he is, either.

    Chapter 46
    Pip

    There was something so natural and winning in Clara's resigned way of looking at these stores in detail, as Herbert pointed them out,—and something so confiding, loving, and innocent, in her modest manner of yielding herself to Herbert's embracing arm—and something so gentle in her, so much needing protection on Mill Pond Bank, by Chinks's Basin, and the Old Green Copper Rope-Walk, with Old Barley growling in the beam—that I would not have undone the engagement between her and Herbert, for all the money in the pocket-book I had never opened. (46.20)

    Aw. Herbert and Clara have a cute little innocent love, kind of like high school sweethearts. Pip and Estella are more like Ike and Tina.

    Pip

    I put my light out, and crept into bed; and it was an uneasy bed now, and I never slept the old sound sleep in it any more. (18.132)

    All of a sudden, Pip is thinking about the "future": he has dreams desires, goals, and complex emotions. It sounds like part of losing your innocence is becoming aware of the passage of time.

  • Society and Class

    Chapter 7
    Pip

    I had heard of Miss Havisham up town—everybody for miles round, had heard of Miss Havisham up town—as an immensely rich and grim lady who lived in a large and dismal house barricaded against robbers, and who led a life of seclusion. (7.80)

    Pip's hometown is socially stratified. He lives in the "village," and Miss Havisham lives "up town." Apart from reminding us of a certain Billy Joel song, this delineation between the wealthy and working class in Kent is palpable and is reinforced by the gate that guards Miss Havisham's decaying riches. Also, notice that great privilege is closely linked to loneliness?

    Chapter 8
    Pip

    I wished Joe had been rather more genteelly brought up, and then I should have been so too. (8.92)

    Yeah, well, Shmoop wishes its parents had been millionaires, too, but we all have to work with what we've got, Pip. Plus, do you really want your mom to be Miss Havisham? (Kind of a toss-up between her and Mrs. Joe, if you ask us.)

    So, leaving word with the shopman on what day I was wanted at Miss Havisham's again, I set off on the four-mile walk to our forge; pondering, as I went along, on all I had seen, and deeply revolving that I was a common labouring-boy; that my hands were coarse; that my boots were thick; that I had fallen into a despicable habit of calling knaves Jacks; that I was much more ignorant than I had considered myself last night, and generally that I was in a low-lived bad way. (8.105)

    Notice that Pip never seems to think that his world might be better or nobler than theirs? He instantly thinks that the way of life at Satis House is better than his, even though it's full of decay, spiders, and weird ladies.

    I took the opportunity of being alone in the court-yard, to look at my coarse hands and my common boots. (8.92)

    It's like we're in the middle of a totally-against-regulations child psychology experiment. When Pip is alone, he examines the characteristics he's always possessed, but with the new frame and the new backdrop of Miss Havisham's world, these characteristics take on a whole new meaning. He becomes self-aware through his introduction to society.

    Chapter 15
    Miss Havisham

    "Abroad," said Miss Havisham; "educating for a lady; far out of reach; prettier than ever; admired by all who see her. Do you feel that you have lost her?" (15.69)

    The concept of high society in this novel is often likened to heights and to the sky. But Pip's climb up the social ladder is more like a bridge to nowhere than a stairway to heaven.

    Pip

    Whatever I acquired, I tried to impart to Joe. This statement sounds so well, that I can't in my conscience let it pass unexplained. I wanted to make Joe less ignorant and common, that he might be worthier of my society and less open to Estella's reproach. (15.2)

    Pip is so caught up in the appearances of things that he feels like gentlemanly behavior can be caught, like a cold. Pip values the knowledge that Miss Havisham and Estella have over the common-man knowledge that Joe has, even though an idiot could see that Joe knows more about how the world works.

    Chapter 17
    Pip

    "Biddy," said I, after binding her to secrecy, "I want to be a gentleman." (17.24)

    Almost all of the people Pip knows have specific societal roles with specific societal functions: the tailor, the blacksmith, the clerk, the lawyer, the seedsman, the shipping agent, and all of these people seem content in their lives of earning profit and creating things. Not Pip. His goal is much more vague: a gentleman. What is a gentleman? What does a gentleman do? How will Pip know when he becomes a gentleman? And isn't that vagueness kind of the point? If you can't define it, it's easy for someone else to tell you that you're not one.

    And now, because my mind was not confused enough before, I complicated its confusion fifty thousand-fold, by having states and seasons when I was clear that Biddy was immeasurably better than Estella, and that the plain honest working life to which I was born, had nothing in it to be ashamed of, but offered me sufficient means of self-respect and happiness. (17.74)

    Pip is divided here between the familiar and the, well, sexy. Biddy is familiar, which makes her common in a literal sense: it's common for Pip to see her, because she basically lives with him. Estella is uncommon not because she's beautiful and well-education but because he doesn't spend a lot of time in close contact with her. Learning to value the common is part of Pip's growing up.

    Chapter 18
    Mr. Jaggers

    "It is considered that you must be better educated, in accordance with your altered position, and that you will be alive to the importance and necessity of at once entering on that advantage." (18.63)

    Apparently, certain kinds of education (most likely involving dead languages) are more valuable than others (like how to work a forge). Interestingly, we never get to see Pip "learning" in London, though apparently, he's at it all the time.

    Chapter 22
    Herbert Pocket

    "Her father was a country gentleman down in your part of the world, and was a brewer. I don't know why it should be a crack thing to be a brewer; but it is indisputable that while you can't possibly be genteel and bake, you may be as genteel as never was and brew. You see it every day." (22.42)

    Huh. So, you can use yeast to make beer and still be considered a gentleman, but you can't use yeast to make bread and be considered a gentleman? With rules like that, no wonder Pip constantly feels lost.

  • Friendship

    Chapter 7
    Joe Gargery

    "But I did mind you, Pip," he returned, with tender simplicity. "When I offered to your sister to keep company, and to be asked in church at such times as she was willing and ready to come to the forge, I said to her, 'And bring the poor little child. God bless the poor little child,' I said to your sister, 'there's room for him at the forge!'" (7.3)

    All this talk about Mrs. Joe being a superhero and bringing Pip up "by hand" is just plain silly. Joe saved Pip. If Joe hadn't intervened, he might have ended up like Magwitch, stealing turnips. In fact, maybe that's the only difference between him and Magwitch—Pip had a friend.

    Chapter 18
    Pip

    O dear good Joe, whom I was so ready to leave and so unthankful to, I see you again, with your muscular blacksmith's arm before your eyes, and your broad chest heaving, and your voice dying away. O dear good faithful tender Joe, I feel the loving tremble of your hand upon my arm, as solemnly this day as if it had been the rustle of an angel's wing! (18.93)

    Pip may be a butthead, but he's not blinded by wealth. The fact that Pip and Joe are such great friends makes Pip's decision to leave the marshes all the more significant. Pip's dreams of winning Estella outweigh his love of Joe. In other words, he totally betrays the bro code.

    Chapter 19
    Pip

    "You may be sure, dear Joe," I went on, after we had shaken hands, "that I shall never forget you." (19.10)

    Seriously, what a weird thing to say to someone who has been your father, brother, and best friend all of your life. Pip is almost acting as cold as Estella, here.

    Chapter 27
    Pip

    As soon as I could recover myself sufficiently, I hurried out after him and looked for him in the neighboring streets; but he was gone. (27.62)

    Whoa, whoa, whoa. We thought Pip and Joe were BFFs, but something seems to break in this moment when Joe leaves London so abruptly. Pip's fortune may have brought him clothes, trinkets, and opportunity, but it's robbed him of Joe.

    Chapter 35
    Mrs. Joe Gargery

    "And so she presently said 'Joe' again, and once 'Pardon,' and once 'Pip.' And so she never lifted her head up any more, and it was just an hour later when we laid it down on her own bed, because we found she was gone." (35.30)

    Mrs. Joe seems to extend an offer of friendship and love to Pip only on her deathbed, in her very last moments on earth. Um, better late than never?

    Pip

    It was fine summer weather again, and, as I walked along, the times when I was a little helpless creature, and my sister did not spare me, vividly returned. But they returned with a gentle tone upon them that softened even the edge of Tickler. For now, the very breath of the beans and clover whispered to my heart that the day must come when it would be well for my memory that others walking in the sunshine should be softened as they thought of me. (35.4)

    Hm, is Pip finally starting to grow up? He finally has a dream that has nothing to do with becoming a gentleman: he wants his friends to think of him warmly when he dies.

    Chapter 39
    Abel Magwitch

    "Look'ee here, Pip. I'm your second father. You're my son—more to me nor any son. I've put away money, only for you to spend." (39.67)

    Magwitch may treat Pip like a long lost friend/brother/son, but Pip doesn't necessarily requite the sentiment—he doesn't value friendships that don't fit into his little vision of the future.

    Chapter 41
    Pip

    Herbert received me with open arms, and I had never felt before, so blessedly, what it is to have a friend. (41.6)

    Herbert is like a friend oasis: he's always there for Pip, no matter how much of a butthead Pip is. Hey, at least Pip pays him back.

    Chapter 56
    Abel Magwitch

    "And what's the best of all," he said, "you've been more comfortable alonger me, since I was under a dark cloud, than when the sun shone. That's best of all." (56.21)

    See, this is why we can't stay mad at Pip. No matter how hard he tries, he's just a nice guy and a good friend.

    Chapter 57
    Joe Gargery

    "Which dear old Pip, old chap," said Joe, "you and me was ever friends. And when you're well enough to go out for a ride—what larks!" (57.19)

    Talk about unconditional love. Joe nurses Pip back to health, pays off his debts, and even apologizes to Pip for never having being able to keep Mrs. Joe from beating him. But Joe still knows things have changed. Those rides? They're never going to happen.

  • Time

    Chapter 11
    Miss Havisham

    "On this day of the year, long before you were born, this heap of decay," stabbing with her crutched stick at the pile of cobwebs on the table but not touching it, "was brought here. It and I have worn away together. The mice have gnawed at it, and sharper teeth than teeth of mice have gnawed at me." (11.99)

    Niiiiiice. Miss Havisham may have stopped all the clocks at Satis House, but you can't stop time—or mildew, mold, and mice.

     "So!" she said, without being startled or surprised; "the days have worn away, have they?" (11.46)

    Miss Havisham may not have any working clocks, but she does have impeccable sense of time: she knows exactly when her birthday falls each year.

    Chapter 17

    So unchanging was the dull old house, the yellow light in the darkened room, the faded spectre in the chair by the dressing-table glass, that I felt as if the stopping of the clocks had stopped Time in that mysterious place, and, while I and everything else outside it grew older, it stood still. (17.2)

    Satis House may show the passage of time, but somehow it seems untouched by time—weird. Like Miss Havisham, it's both stuck in time and destroyed by time.

    Chapter 19
    Pip

    And now, those six days which were to have run out so slowly, had run out fast and were gone, and to-morrow looked me in the face more steadily than I could look at it. As the six evenings had dwindled away, to five, to four, to three, to two, I had become more and more appreciative of the society of Joe and Biddy. (19.102)

    One of the coolest things about Great Expectations is how accurately it conveys the way we experience time. Dumped on your wedding day? Boy, does time seem to slow down. Anticipating a big, exciting move and worried about leaving behind your entire family? It's here before you know it.

    Chapter 22
    Herbert Pocket

    "The marriage day was fixed, the wedding dresses were bought, the wedding tour was planned out, the wedding guests were invited. The day came, but not the bridegroom. He wrote her a letter—"

    "Which she received," I struck in, "when she was dressing for her marriage? At twenty minutes to nine?"

    "At the hour and minute," said Herbert, nodding, "at which she afterwards stopped all the clocks." (22.55)

    It's easy to roll your eyes at Miss Havisham for being way dramatic—it's just a wedding, get over it, lady—but it really does effectively end her life. In nineteenth-century England, being dumped like this is social homicide.

    Chapter 39

    If the wind and the rain had driven away the intervening years, had scattered all the intervening objects, had swept us to the churchyard where we first stood face to face on such different levels, I could not have known my convict more distinctly than I knew him now, as he sat in the chair before the fire. (39.28)

    Time may be powerful—but it's not powerful enough to erase memories. Is Great Expectations saying that memory is the most important force?

    Pip

    When I awoke, without having parted in my sleep with the perception of my wretchedness, the clocks of the Eastward churches were striking five, the candles were wasted out, the fire was dead, and the wind and rain intensified the thick black darkness. (39.102)

    Even in the thick of a great, blinding storm, time marches on—it's Pip's one constant. Like death and taxes, but slightly less dire. (Maybe.)

    Chapter 44

    They both raised their eyes as I went in, and both saw an alteration in me. I derived that, from the look they interchanged. (44.1)

    Well, sure he's changed: he's grown up into a gentleman. It's almost like both Miss Havisham and Estella think that, because neither of them has changed, no one else will, either. But the world goes on without them.

    She gradually withdrew her eyes from me, and turned them on the fire. After watching it for what appeared in the silence and by the light of the slowly wasting candles to be a long time, she was roused by the collapse of some of the red coals, and looked towards me again—at first, vacantly—then, with a gradually concentrating attention. (44.35)

    Miss Havisham may never know what time it is, but she's never late: like a wizard, she's always exactly on schedule. She has some deep, almost psychic knowledge of time passing—like she's come to embody time itself. Creeeepy.

  • Criminality

    Chapter 16

    They took up several obviously wrong people, and they ran their heads very hard against wrong ideas, and persisted in trying to fit the circumstances to the ideas, instead of trying to extract ideas from the circumstances. (16.8)

    After Mrs. Joe is attacked, fancy London detectives come down to investigate—and get absolutely nowhere, because they come up with verdicts before investigating the crime more thoroughly, and they try to prove their verdicts. If this is the way the London legal system works, no wonder the city is overrun with criminals.

    Chapter 20
    Pip

    As I declined the proposal on the plea of an appointment, he was so good as to take me into a yard and show me where the gallows was kept, and also where people were publicly whipped, and then he showed me the Debtors' Door, out of which culprits came to be hanged: heightening the interest of that dreadful portal by giving me to understand that "four on 'em" would come out at that door the day after to-morrow at eight in the morning, to be killed in a row. This was horrible, and gave me a sickening idea of London: the more so as the Lord Chief Justice's proprietor wore (from his hat down to his boots and up again to his pocket-handkerchief inclusive) mildewed clothes, which had evidently not belonged to him originally, and which, I took it into my head, he had bought cheap of the executioner. Under these circumstances I thought myself well rid of him for a shilling. (20.19)

    Pip's (and our) first introduction to London life appropriately (or inappropriately) involves a tour of the yard where criminals are publicly tortured or executed. Fun, fun, fun. But these aren't necessarily horrible, heinous, bloody crimes that would induce such public punishment (in our 21st century minds)—we hear about the "Debtors' Door" suggesting that people are often punished for issues of money and debt (not exactly the bloodiest crimes ever). There's close relationship between crime, money, and survival.

    Chapter 33
    Pip

    I consumed the whole time in thinking how strange it was that I should be encompassed by all this taint of prison and crime; that, in my childhood out on our lonely marshes on a winter evening I should have first encountered it; that, it should have reappeared on two occasions, starting out like a stain that was faded but not gone; that, it should in this new way pervade my fortune and advancement. (2.33.43)

    Again and again, Pip aids in the breaking of laws. And not just in little ways like double parking or jays-walking, but in big ways like harboring an escaped and exiled convict. However, do we ever feel in our guts like Pip is doing something morally wrong when he takes in Magwitch or steals food for Magwitch? Do we ever say to ourselves, "Oh Pip, we really wouldn't do that. You should definitely kick Magwitch out into the stormy night"? Not really. If Magwitch is deemed by society to be representative of everything corrupt and rotten within it, then how do we feel about society? You think maybe society doesn't really know what's going on?

    While my mind was thus engaged, I thought of the beautiful young Estella, proud and refined, coming towards me, and I thought with absolute abhorrence of the contrast between the jail and her. (33.46)

    Estella is pretty, the jail is not. Estella wears perfume, the jail doesn't. Estella has nice clothes, the jail doesn't, etc., etc., etc. We get it. They're different. But when we think about it, Estella and the jail would probably hit it off pretty well on a blind date. Remember how Estella was always the gatekeeper when Pip was little? Remember how inaccessible and untouchable Estella is to Pip? Remember how Pip wants to become a gentleman and to be accepted by society in order to please Estella?

    Chapter 40
    Pip

    I cautioned him that I must hear no more of that; that he was not at all likely to obtain a pardon; that he was expatriated for the term of his natural life; and that his presenting himself in this country would be an act of felony, rendering him liable to the extreme penalty of the law. (40.96)

    Jaggers, who is a beacon of truth and lawfulness, lays out very clearly the reasons why Magwitch should not return to England. And the way he phrases it, we have to agree: Magwitch should definitely not ever return to England. The problem? The legal system is broken. Why should Magwitch have to obey a corrupt system?

    Chapter 42
    Abel Magwitch

    "I first become aware of myself, down in Essex, a thieving turnips for my living. Summun had run away from me—a man—a tinker—and he'd took the fire with him, and left me wery cold." (42.2)

    Naughty Magwitch. How dare you steal turnips to survive as a homeless, orphaned little boy? Rules are rules, and a turnip is a turnip, and it's off to juvie for you. Unfortunately, there was no such thing as sealing your records in the nineteenth century—these early thefts are with him for good.

    "When we was put in the dock, I noticed first of all what a gentleman Compeyson looked, wi' his curly hair and his black clothes and his white pocket-handkercher, and what a common sort of a wretch I looked. When the prosecution opened and the evidence was put short, aforehand, I noticed how heavy it all bore on me, and how light on him. When the evidence was giv in the box, I noticed how it was always me that had come for'ard, and could be swore to, how it was always me that the money had been paid to, how it was always me that had seemed to work the thing and get the profit. But, when the defence come on, then I see the plan plainer; for, says the counsellor for Compeyson, 'My lord and gentlemen, here you has afore you, side by side, two persons as your eyes can separate wide; one, the younger, well brought up, who will be spoke to as such; one, the elder, ill brought up, who will be spoke to as such; one, the younger, seldom if ever seen in these here transactions, and only suspected; t'other, the elder, always seen in 'em and always wi'his guilt brought home. Can you doubt, if there's but one in it, which is the one, and, if there's two in it, which is much the worst one?" (42.32)

    Wow, what a balanced, unbiased, and egalitarian legal system. It makes total sense: the criminal who is young, articulate, well dressed, who has pretty manners, and who knows how to shake a handkerchief is totally capable of reforming. But the grimy, poorly dressed, often convicted, perpetual rule breaker will never reform. We love when life is so black-and-white, and when the law sees it that way too.

    "'This is a terrible hardened one,' they says to prison wisitors, picking out me. 'May be said to live in jails, this boy.' Then they looked at me, and I looked at them, and they measured my head, some on 'em—they had better a-measured my stomach—and others on 'em giv me tracts what I couldn't read, and made me speeches what I couldn't understand. They always went on agen me about the Devil. But what the Devil was I to do? I must put something into my stomach, mustn't I?—Howsomever, I'm a getting low, and I know what's due. Dear boy and Pip's comrade, don't you be afeerd of me being low." (42.5)

    The law enforcers see Magwitch as the root of all that is wrong in their society—but Magwitch sees society as the root of all that's wrong with him. With no other option, what was he supposed to do but steal turnips?

    "Dear boy and Pip's comrade. I am not a-going fur to tell you my life, like a song or a story-book. But to give it you short and handy, I'll put it at once into a mouthful of English. In jail and out of jail, in jail and out of jail, in jail and out of jail. There, you got it. That's my life pretty much, down to such times as I got shipped off, arter Pip stood my friend." (42.1)

    Magwitch is distinctly aware of the power of storytelling and the power of framing a story in a certain way. He can himself distill his life's story down to a very nice one-liner (compact and travel-sized too), "in jail and out of jail." He knows that the world loves these compact, travel-sized descriptions of people. But he also, without even seeming to mean it, helps us think that maybe not all criminals are born that way.

    Chapter 49
    Pip

    I still held her forcibly down with all my strength, like a prisoner who might escape; and I doubt if I even knew who she was, or why we had struggled, or that she had been in flames, or that the flames were out, until I saw the patches of tinder that had been her garments, no longer alight but falling in a black shower around us. (49.76)

    Pip has told Miss Havisham that he's not mad at her, he's forgiven her, all's well in Denmark, etc., etc. But, uh, there seems to be a tinge of aggression when Pip puts Miss Havisham's fire out. The fact that Dickens invokes prisoner language and imagery here suggests to us that Pip may feel the desire to reprimand or punish Miss Havisham for the destruction she's inspired.

  • Love

    Chapter 17
    Pip

    "If I could only get myself to fall in love with you—you don't mind my speaking so openly to such an old acquaintance?"

    "Oh dear, not at all!" said Biddy. "Don't mind me."

    "If I could only get myself to do it, that would be the thing for me."

    "But you never will, you see," said Biddy. (17.53-56)

    Oh, Pip, you are such a charmer. We just love it when someone tells us that he wishes he could force himself to fall in love with us in order to solve all of his problems—it makes us feel just like cough medicine or extra-strength Advil. In this moment, Pip identifies his inability to control love as well as the way in which he's been blinded by love, but he's still so blind that he can't see that Biddy is TOTALLY IN LOVE WITH HIM. For now.

    Chapter 28
    Estella Havisham

    "At least I was no party to the compact," said Estella, "for if I could walk and speak, when it was made, it was as much as I could do. But what would you have? You have been very good to me, and I owe everything to you. What would you have?" "Love," replied the other. "You have it." "I have not," said Miss Havisham. (2.38.36-39)

    Having raised Estella, bought her pretty things, given her all her jewels, Miss Havisham expects Estella to love her in return—but she's seriously misjudged the nature of love, just like she did when she was getting ready to marry a con artist.

    Chapter 29
    Miss Havisham

    Before I could answer (if I could have answered so difficult a question at all), she repeated, "Love her, love her, love her! If she favours you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces—and as it gets older and stronger, it will tear deeper—love her, love her, love her!" (29.85)

    Miss Havisham reminds us here of a malfunctioning wind-up toy—all the wires are popping out and it's beginning to smoke. But at least we're getting a good look at how she works, and it's all betrayed and disappointed love.

    Estella Havisham

    "I have not bestowed my tenderness anywhere. I have never had any such thing." (29.75)

    Estella has never loved anything in her life—not even her jewels. (Shocking, right?) We never really get to know Estella, because the extent of her relationship with Pip is a few card games, some dark passage ways, and brief, cryptic conversations in which she tells Pip to stop loving her. Gee. If that's not the basis for a lifelong love affair, we don't know what is.

    Pip

    The unqualified truth is, that when I loved Estella with the love of a man, I loved her simply because I found her irresistible. Once for all; I knew to my sorrow, often and often, if not always, that I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be. Once for all; I loved her nonetheless because I knew it, and it had no more influence in restraining me, than if I had devoutly believed her to be human perfection. (29.2)

    Hm. Is Pip maybe just in lust with Estella? He sees her faults, but she's still impossible to resist—almost like she's put a spell on him. That doesn't sound like a love we want to be part of.

    She said the word often enough, and there could be no doubt that she meant to say it; but if the often repeated word had been hate instead of love—despair—revenge—dire death—it could not have sounded from her lips more like a curse. (29.88)

    Well, love is kind of a curse in Great Expectations. Literally the only people who end up together who actually seem to be in love are Clara and Herbert—and they have to go to Cairo for their happy ending.

    Chapter 30
    Herbert Pocket

    "Told me! You have never told me when you have got your hair cut, but I have had senses to perceive it. You have always adored her, ever since I have known you. You brought your adoration and your portmanteau here, together. Told me! Why, you have always told me all day long. When you told me your own story, you told me plainly that you began adoring her the first time you saw her, when you were very young indeed." (30.21)

    Basically, everything Pip says really means, "I love Estella." We're surprised Herbert puts up with him.

    Chapter 35
    Pip

    By degrees she led me into more temperate talk, and she told me how Joe loved me, and how Joe never complained of anything—she didn't say, of me; she had no need; I knew what she meant—but ever did his duty in his way of life, with a strong hand, a quiet tongue, and a gentle heart. (35.40)

    Pip: feverish, inconsistent, and irrational. Joe: even, constant, and unconditional. Which kind of love would you want to have?

    Chapter 44
    Pip

    "Estella," said I, turning to her now, and trying to command my trembling voice, "you know I love you. You know that I have loved you long and dearly." (44.37)

    Hm. We can't help but think that when Pip uses the word "love" here, he means something else. This sounds a lot more like "obsession" and "infatuation" than actual, grownup love.

    "Out of my thoughts! You are part of my existence, part of myself. You have been in every line I have ever read, since I first came here, the rough common boy whose poor heart you wounded even then. You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since - on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the light, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea, in the streets. You have been the embodiment of every graceful fancy that my mind has ever become acquainted with. The stones of which the strongest London buildings are made, are not more real, or more impossible to be displaced by your hands, than your presence and influence have been to me, there and everywhere, and will be. Estella, to the last hour of my life, you can't choose but remain part of my character, part of the little good in me, part of the evil. But, in this separation I associate you only with the good, and I will faithfully hold you to that always, for you must have done me far more good than harm, let me feel now what sharp distress I may. O God bless you, God forgive you!" (44.70)

    Sigh. This is pretty much one of the best love speeches ever, right? And notice that Pip grounds his description of love in images of nature and of the landscape that surrounds him: Estella isn't even human, she's so much a part of the particles around him. But—and this is just a thought—maybe this is part of the reason that Dickens didn't want Estella and Pip to end up together: his love isn't exactly selfless. In fact, it's still all about himself.

  • Lies and Deceit

    Chapter 22
    Herbert Pocket

    "He practised on her affection in that systematic way, that he got great sums of money from her, and he induced her to buy her brother out of a share in the brewery (which had been weakly left him by his father) at an immense price, on the plea that when he was her husband he must hold and manage it all." (22.52)

    We just love when our boyfriends are "systematic" with us. It's so romantic. Which makes us ask: how could Miss Havisham possibly not know that Compeyson was conning her? Was she just fooling herself?

    "He says, no varnish can hide the grain of the wood; and that the more varnish you put on, the more the grain will express itself." (22.52)

    Herbert gives us some wisdom straight from his dad: you can't hide someone's true nature. Matthew might like some other expressions: put lipstick on a pig, put rouge on the corpse, making a purse out of a swine's ear, putting a racing stripe on a … never mind. We'll let you complete that one yourself.

    Chapter 28
    Pip

    All other swindlers upon earth are nothing to the self-swindlers, and with such pretences did I cheat myself. Surely a curious thing. That I should innocently take a bad half-crown of somebody else's manufacture, is reasonable enough; but that I should knowingly reckon the spurious coin of my own make, as good money! An obliging stranger, under pretence of compactly folding up my bank-notes for security's sake, abstracts the notes and gives me nutshells; but what is his sleight of hand to mine, when I fold up my own nutshells and pass them on myself as notes! (28.1)

    Actually, the way Pip describes this self-swindling, it sounds pretty impressive—like when you lie so hard about where you were after curfew that you even convince yourself.

    Chapter 33
    Estella Havisham

    "You have not every reason to say so of the rest of his people," said Estella, nodding at me with an expression of face that was at once grave and rallying, "for they beset Miss Havisham with reports and insinuations to your disadvantage. They watch you, misrepresent you, write letters about you (anonymous sometimes), and you are the torment and the occupation of their lives. You can scarcely realize to yourself the hatred those people feel for you." (33.22) 

    Here's a pretty good example that lying about someone just makes you look bad. Miss Havisham sees right through this Mean Girls gossip and loves it.

    Chapter 34

    There was a gay fiction among us that we were constantly enjoying ourselves, and a skeleton truth that we never did. To the best of my belief, our case was in the last aspect a rather common one. (34.8)

    This is like someone posting a bunch of party pictures on Facebook in the attempt to convince her friends (and herself) that she is having the time of her life, when really she's exhausted and doesn't even like parties. Pip and Herbert are trying to keep up with society, but they're just hungry and getting into debt.

    Chapter 39
    Estella Havisham

    "Do you want me then," said Estella, turning suddenly with a fixed and serious, if not angry, look, "to deceive and entrap you?" (39.105)

    Hm. When we think about it, Estella just might be one of Great Expectations' only honest characters. She's never tried to lead Pip on, but she's been cold and haughty all of her life. She just doesn't care enough to lie.

    Chapter 40

    To my thinking, there was something in him that made it hopeless to attempt to disguise him. (40.107)

    Once a thief, always a thief: Magwitch might think he's being oh-so-clever by taking a new name and dressing up in nice linen, but he just screams "common criminal." You can't make a gentleman out of him. Is Pip the same way? Is there always something a little blacksmith-y about him?

    Mr. Jaggers

    "Not a particle of evidence, Pip," said Mr. Jaggers, shaking his head and gathering up his skirts. "Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence. There's no better rule." (40.92)

    Mr. Jaggers may like to know the truth—but only so he can disguise and massage it by, say, dressing it up in a frilly outfit so it looks weak and non-murderous. (Ahem, Molly.)

    Chapter 44
    Miss Havisham

    "You made your own snares. I never made them." (44.22)

    Miss Havisham points out that Pip is totally to blame for his own deception. He wanted to believe Miss Havisham left him a fortune; he wanted to believe that he was meant to marry Estella, even though there was literally never a single reason for him to think that—except his own stupidity. (Sorry, dude.)

    Chapter 48

    He turned his eyes on Mr. Jaggers whenever he raised them from the table, and was as dry and distant to me as if there were twin Wemmicks and this was the wrong one. (48.13)

    There ARE twin Wemmicks. Wemmick is so good at changing his persona when at Jaggers' office we almost feel a little uneasy about his integrity.