Great Expectations | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Great Expectations | Chapters 27–28 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 27

A letter from Biddy to Pip announces that Joe is coming to London to visit Pip. Pip prepares for the visit, feeling worried about how Joe will fit in with Pip's gentlemanly lifestyle. Pip's apartment has changed from its original appearance, being decorated with fine things and having a servant dressed in a uniform. Pip expects Joe to arrive for breakfast and waits for his old friend with fear. He hears a person climbing the stairs and realizes it is Joe by his clumsy gait. Joe and Pip greet each other as old friends, but Pip immediately senses Joe's discomfort. The blacksmith is uncomfortably dressed in a suit and talks in an awkward way, trying to show respect for Pip as a gentleman.

Joe informs Pip that Mr. Wopsle has left the church and become an actor. Herbert enters and greets Joe, who carefully takes off his hat and balances it on the edge of the fireplace mantle. During breakfast the hat topples, causing Joe to catch it and place it back on the mantle. This routine happens several times, until the hat ends up splashing into the slop basin. Pip feels impatient and upset. After breakfast Herbert leaves. Joe informs Pip that Miss Havisham wants the young man to visit her and Estella, who has come home. Then Joe admits he's wrong out of the forge and out of his work clothes and says goodbye to Pip.

Chapter 28

Pip feels regret about the way he treated Joe during his visit. Because of this Pip at first plans to stay at Joe's home when visiting Miss Havisham. However, Pip gradually convinces himself that such an arrangement would not work well, so he decides to stay at the Blue Boar. On the day of Pip's journey to visit Miss Havisham, he notices two convicts who will be traveling with him. Pip recognizes one of the convicts as the man who gave Pip a shilling wrapped in two one-pound notes. During the journey Pip overhears the convicts talking. Pip's convict relates the story of how a fellow convict told him to find a boy and give him two one-pound notes. When Pip arrives at the Blue Boar, he reads a newspaper article that describes Pumblechook as Pip's earliest patron and "the founder of ... [his] fortunes."

Analysis

In Chapter 27 Dickens continues to convey the theme of social class through the interaction of a middle-class person with an upper-class person. Although Pip is not technically a member of the upper class until he comes into his fortune, he has been educated as a gentleman and thus has adopted the manners of the upper class. Also Pip has changed his apartment to reflect upper-class tastes. Indeed Pip could be seen as becoming obsessed with giving the appearance of the upper class. He has even hired a servant whom he detests. Pip says about this servant: "I had made the monster ... and had clothed him with a blue coat, canary waistcoat, white cravat, creamy breeches ... I had to find him a little to do and a great deal to eat ... he haunted my existence." So even though Pip hates the servant, he puts up with him for appearances' sake. Pip's spending to keep up these appearances has already put him in debt to an upholsterer.

Joe's visit demonstrates the gap between working class and upper class. To show respect for his friend, Joe dresses in an uncomfortable suit and addresses Pip formally, calling him "sir." Joe obviously feels like a fish out of water. Realizing Joe's awkwardness and yet embarrassed by his common manners, Pip becomes impatient and upset. Through this meeting Dickens clearly shows the broad divide between the working class and the upper class and the difficulty of overcoming this chasm, even between two old friends.

Also in Chapters 27 and 28 Dickens presents the theme of guilt through Pip's feelings of regret about his breakfast with Joe. Pip reflects that if he had more good sense he would have realized his responsibility for the awkwardness: "If I had been easier with Joe, Joe would have been easier with me." Pip plans to make up for his ill treatment of Joe by staying at Joe's place when visiting Miss Havisham. However, Pip convinces himself with various trumped-up reasons that staying with Joe would not work. Torn between his snobbishness as a gentleman and his friendship for Joe, Pip allows his snobbishness to win out without admitting his true motives. Pip berates himself, stating, "All other swindlers upon earth are nothing to the self-swindlers."

Pip shows a residue of guilt about his working-class upbringing and his contact with the criminal world in his childhood. Because of this he senses a fear about being recognized at the Blue Boar and also a more nebulous fear. Pip states, "As I walked on to the hotel, I felt that a dread, much exceeding the mere apprehension of a painful or disagreeable recognition, made me tremble. I am confident that it took no distinctness of shape, and that it was the revival for few minutes of the terror of childhood."

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