Great Expectations | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Great Expectations | Chapters 19–20 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 19

Pip and Joe spend their last time together at the Battery. Later Pip asks Biddy to improve Joe's education and manners so the blacksmith will fit in better when Pip raises his station in life. Biddy claims that asking Joe to improve his manners will hurt his pride. Pip becomes offended by Biddy's implication that he views Joe as inferior.

Pip goes to the tailor, Mr. Trabb, to be fitted for a new suit. At first Mr. Trabb treats Pip casually, but when the tailor learns of Pip's new prospects he becomes more attentive. Having heard of Pip's rise in fortune, Pumblechook anxiously awaits Pip at his shop. When Pip arrives, Pumblechook fawns over the young man, serving him a huge lunch and wine. Pumblechook constantly asks Pip for the honor of shaking his hand to congratulate him. Pip laps up Pumblechook's compliments.

Dressed in his new suit, Pip visits Miss Havisham, who has heard of Pip's good fortune. She knows that Pip's guardian is Mr. Jaggers and the benefactor is anonymous. When Pip kneels and kisses Miss Havisham's hand, he clearly indicates that he believes her to be his benefactor. Later Pip says goodbye to Joe, telling him not to come to the coach. In his new suit Pip feels ashamed of being seen with Joe in public. After Pip gets on the coach, he considers going back to his home to have a better parting from Joe. But he doesn't act on this impulse and continues in the coach toward London.

Chapter 20

Pip arrives at Mr. Jaggers's office in Little Britain. Pip enters the office and meets a clerk, who tells Pip to wait for Mr. Jaggers in his room. As Pip waits he notices odd objects, such as "two dreadful casts on a shelf, of faces peculiarly swollen, and twitchy about the nose." Eventually the two casts annoy Pip, so he decides to step outside.

Pip wanders into a filthy meat market named Smithfield and the Newgate Prison area, where people are hanged and publicly flogged. Then Pip looks around Little Britain and finds many people who know Mr. Jaggers and are waiting anxiously to have an audience with him. Finally Pip sees Mr. Jaggers approaching. As Mr. Jaggers leads Pip past the waiting people, the lawyer treats them all with contempt.

Mr. Jaggers takes Pip into his office, where he explains that Pip is to live in Barnard's Inn and share rooms with young Mr. Pocket. On Monday young Mr. Pocket will take Pip to his father's house, where the father will tutor Pip. Also Pip receives a generous allowance for clothes and other items. Mr. Jaggers has his clerk, named Wemmick, take Pip to Barnard's Inn.

Analysis

In Chapters 19 and 20 Dickens focuses on the theme of social class and ambition. In Chapter 19 the author shows how middle-class shopkeepers instantly change their attitude toward Pip when they find out he is now wealthy. These people have their own ambitions, namely to increase their financial gain and fawn over Pip with the hope that he will spend money with them. For example, the tailor, Mr. Trabb, asks Pip to patronize his store every now and then.

Dickens also shows more fully what the author hinted at in Chapter 18, namely that Pip's social ambition has begun to make him into a snob. Pip wants Biddy to educate Joe to make him fit in better with Pip's new status. Later Pip, dressed as a gentleman, is ashamed to be seen walking with Joe. Pip now feels superior to all the common people in the village and, because of this, pities them. He promises himself condescendingly to buy dinner for everyone in town.

Dickens also develops the theme of social class by showing the legal system in London. The author depicts Mr. Jaggers as a successful, middle-class lawyer who has control over the many lower- or working-class people who need his help. Mr. Jaggers treats these people with disdain. He seems mainly concerned with them as a source of income.

Dickens explores the theme of guilt by showing Pip's guilt about his snobbish attitude. Although Pip does not tell Joe he is ashamed of the contrast in their appearance, he still arranges to walk alone into town. Later when Pip is riding in a coach away from his village, he again feels guilty and considers going back home, staying overnight, and having a "better parting" the next day.

Dickens also expands on the symbol of tears. At the end of Chapter 19, Pip cries about his ingratitude toward Joe. Pip states that a person should never be ashamed of tears because "they are rain upon the blinding dust of earth, overlying our hard hearts." Dickens, therefore, shows that the cause of tears can vary. They can be caused by shame, love, regret, and sadness. Whatever the cause, they have a benevolent and clarifying effect on a person's soul.

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