Great Expectations | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Great Expectations | Chapters 25–26 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 25

Pip describes Drummle as a sluggish snob who is not intelligent and keeps to himself. In contrast Startop is a person who was spoiled by his mother and is devoted to her. Herbert has become a "friend and companion" of Pip, and the two often have long talks as they walk between Hammersmith and London. Mr. and Mrs. Camilla and Georgiana show up at Mr. Matthew Pocket's house. Mrs. Camilla is Mr. Pocket's sister, and Georgiana is a cousin. The Camillas and Georgiana fawn over Pip because of his newfound prosperity. Pip does well with his studies but has developed expensive habits.

One evening after work, Wemmick takes Pip to his home in Walworth for supper. Pip finds that Wemmick's small house resembles a castle. Wemmick has cut out the top of the house to look like a battery with guns. The house has a plank that serves as a drawbridge over a ditch and an attached small fortress mounted with a cannon, which the clerk fires promptly at nine o'clock each night.

Inside the main house, Wemmick introduces Pip to Wemmick's elderly father, called the Aged P. Hard of hearing, the Aged P. seems like an agreeable person who is proud of his son and the house he built. The Aged P. enjoys people nodding at him and hearing the cannon go off at nine. Wemmick serves punch to Pip and talks about how "the office is one thing, and private life is another." Indeed Mr. Jaggers has never been to Wemmicks' castle-like home and knows nothing about it or the Aged P. The next morning after breakfast, Wemmick takes Pip back to London. During the walk Pip notices how Wemmick's demeanor seems to harden as they walk along.

Chapter 26

Pip, Startop, and Drummle go to Mr. Jaggers's office, where they see the lawyer thoroughly washing his face and hands after a case. Jaggers takes the three young men to his home for dinner. Jaggers has a stately but dingy house. Inside Pip sees a stone hall and a "dark brown staircase," which leads up to three rooms on the first floor. In the best of these rooms, Jaggers has a nicely set table. The lawyer himself distributes the food and drinks to his guests. Jaggers seems to take a special interest in Drummle. The courses for the dinner are brought in by a tall, pale woman with streaming hair whose face looks as if "disturbed by fiery air." This housekeeper seems to dread Mr. Jaggers's disapproval.

Jaggers encourages his guests to talk about themselves, thereby revealing their faults. During the conversation Jaggers grabs the housekeeper's hand and tells her to show his guests her strong wrists. The housekeeper begs Jaggers not to make her do this, but he insists. She then holds out both wrists, which are deeply scarred across. Jaggers casually discusses the strength of her hands and lets her go. Afterward Pip gets into an argument with Drummle. As the three young men leave the house, Pip goes back inside and apologizes to Jaggers for anything disagreeable that happened during dinner. Jaggers indicates there is no need to apologize and says he especially likes the "Spider," meaning Drummle.

Analysis

In Chapters 25 and 26 Dickens focuses on the theme of social class by contrasting the domestic lives of Mr. Wemmick and Mr. Jaggers. The author shows Wemmick as a person who leads two distinct lives. At the office he is all business and seems efficient and brusque. However, Wemmick's private life is totally the opposite. At home Wemmick is a kind, loving man who takes excellent care of his aged parent and treats his guest, Pip, with generosity and openness. Wemmick has spent years creating a whimsical castle for himself and his father. Pip feels at ease with Wemmick at his house while marveling at the abode's unique features. However, as Pip walks with Wemmick back to Jaggers's office, Pip notices how the clerk's demeanor changes. Pip states, "By degrees, Wemmick got dryer and harder as we went along, and his mouth tightened into a post-office again." So as Wemmick approaches his office, he becomes less vulnerable and more cold-hearted. Apparently because of the type of work Wemmick does, he feels the need to wear this hardened mask to do his job as Jaggers wished.

In contrast Dickens depicts Mr. Jaggers as a person who never leaves his work. The room where Jaggers and his guests eat dinner also includes bookshelves filled with volumes about criminal law and a small desk with papers and a lamp. Pip states, "He [Jaggers] seemed to bring the office home with him ... and to wheel it out of an evening and fall to work." Also Jaggers's attitude remains the same at work and at home. He always seems to be examining people for his own professional ends. For instance, he takes a special interest in Drummle, even though he is obviously a selfish snob. Jaggers probably realizes Drummle will have legal troubles later in life, perhaps by spending too much money, and therefore will need the lawyer's services.

However, even though Jaggers is shrewd and calculating, his keen powers of perception allow him to see people for who they really are. Jaggers immediately sees through Drummle's pretensions and realizes he's a fool who will come to no good. Also Jaggers gives good advice to people he likes more. Because of this he warns Pip to "keep as clear of him [Drummle] as you can."

Jaggers tries to get rid of the unpleasantness of his work by thoroughly washing his hands after dealing with cases and certain people. This gesture resembles Pontius Pilate washing his hands after sentencing Jesus to death. Both instances represent an attempt to symbolically wash away guilt and discomfort about working within a corrupt legal system.

In addition Dickens develops the theme of uncertainty and deceit through the interaction between the housekeeper and Mr. Jaggers. Pip portrays the housekeeper as an unusual, eerie person who resembles the witches in Macbeth. Jaggers treats the woman like a trained beast, making her show her scarred wrists even though she hates doing so. Pip must wonder what a woman like this is doing in Jaggers's household and why Jaggers treats her in this manner.

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