Study Guide

Great Expectations Wealth

By Charles Dickens


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

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

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

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.

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