Study Guide

Great Expectations Chapter 2

By Charles Dickens

Chapter 2

  • Pip's sister is more than twenty years older than him, and she's ugly. She's famous in the neighborhood for having raised Pip "by hand."
  • This phrase can just mean that he was bottle-fed (or, more like tea-cup fed!), but also means that she chose not to leave him out on the street and instead adopted and raised him herself. It probably also has something to do with her being a fan of corporal punishment.
  • Pip's brother-in-law, Joe Gargery, is pretty much Pip's best friend in the whole wide world. He has big blue eyes and is really, really nice.
  • Joe is a blacksmith and his smithy is attached to the Gargery house. Even six-year-old Pip can't figure out why a man as gentle and sweet as Joe would ever marry a woman as mean and hard as his sister.
  • Anyway, Pip gets back from being hanged upside down by a terrifying escaped convict, only to find that his sister has been out looking for him, that she's furious he's been gone so long, and that she plans to use the Tickler on him.
  • No matter what you're thinking, the Tickler isn't some fun Fisher-Price toy. It's a wax-ended cane that she likes to beat him with.
  • At dinner, Pip secretly stuffs his buttered bread down his pants, which sounds awfully greasy to us. They think he's gulped it whole, and his sister threatens to make him drink tar water to make him digest better.
  • Guns fire in the distance, which is standard operating procedure anytime a prisoner escapes from the convict ships that hang out in this part of England.
  • Understandably, this doesn't make Pip feel any better.
  • Oh, by the way, it's Christmas Eve, and Pip has to stir the Christmas pudding for a long, long time, which means he doesn't have an opportunity to pilfer more food for his convict.
  • After a long night of no sleep, he gets up at the crack of dawn and steals a delicious pork-pie, brandy, some bread, mincemeat, and a meat bone. Grabbing a file from Joe's smithy, he runs off into the marshes.
  • There's a lot of marsh-running in this novel.