Great Expectations | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Great Expectations | Chapters 37–38 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 37

Pip visits Wemmick's house, crossing the drawbridge and entering the castle. The Aged P. pulls up the drawbridge and informs Pip that Wemmick will be home soon. Soon Wemmick arrives with a woman. Wemmick introduces Pip to Miss Skiffins, a genial lady who wears green gloves. Pip learns that Miss Skiffins, a few years younger than Wemmick, often visits the castle. Pip and Wemmick take a walk on the small property, during which Pip expresses his desire to use part of his fortune to anonymously help Herbert get started in business. Pip asks Wemmick if he could think of any way to bring this about. Wemmick appreciates Pip's confidence and says he'll give the matter some thought.

After tea the Aged P. reads out loud from a newspaper with Pip, Wemmick, and Miss Skiffins listening. During the reading Pip notices Wemmick putting his arm around Miss Skiffins's waist. The lady calmly halts Wemmick's advance, uncoils his arm, and places it between her and him in neutral territory. The procedure happens several times. After the Aged P. doses off, Pip says his goodbyes.

Soon Wemmick arranges a business deal with a shipping broker, who is Miss Skiffins's brother; Pip pays the broker 250 pounds, and the broker takes on Herbert as a partner. Herbert will never be told of Pip's involvement in the matter. Before long Herbert expresses his joy to Pip about finding an opportunity with a shipping broker.

Chapter 38

Pip often visits Estella at Richmond, where he watches her romantically ensnare other men. Estella allows Pip to be familiar with her but gives him no hope that his love for her will be returned. As a result all the parties, concerts, and other social events Pip attends with Estella make him miserable.

Pip accompanies Estella to Satis House. There Miss Havisham eagerly looks at the beautiful Estella and relishes her painful effect on Pip. Pip admits to himself that Miss Havisham uses Estella to seek revenge on men. However at one point during the visit, Estella pulls away from Miss Havisham and stands by the fireplace. Hurt by the lack of affection, Miss Havisham accuses Estella of being a cold, hard woman. Estella seems amazed by Miss Havisham's accusation, stating that she has become what Miss Havisham has made her—a woman who cannot love and who scorns the attentions of men. During the night Pip hears Miss Havisham pacing and moaning in her room. The following day Miss Havisham and Estella seem to have made up, except the recluse now regards her ward with a hint of fear.

During a dinner at the Finches attended by Drummle and Pip, Drummle toasts Estella. Pip is offended by this and accuses Drummle of toasting a woman he doesn't know. Later Drummle produces a note written by Estella stating that she has danced with him several times. After a ball Pip expresses his shock to Estella that she would bestow her regard on a brute like Drummle. Estella admits to deceiving and entrapping Drummle and many other men but not Pip.

Analysis

Chapter 37 focuses on the theme of guilt and redemption. Pip feels guilt about his bad influence on Herbert and, to make up for it, expresses to Wemmick a desire to anonymously establish Herbert in business. The attempt succeeds. As a result Pip achieves some redemption. Pip's act of kindness even has a redemptive effect on Wemmick. The clerk feels that assisting Pip to help Herbert will help him deal with the type of work he does for Jaggers. Wemmick states, "There are Newgate cobwebs about, and it brushes them away."

In Chapter 38 the themes of ambition and deceit take center stage. Pip realizes that Miss Havisham's ambition in life is for Estella to break the hearts of men. However, he still believes Miss Havisham wants Pip to have Estella after she has broken enough hearts. In this way Pip remains deceived. Dickens also shows how Miss Havisham's ambitions have backfired on her. She wants Estella to be cold and unfeeling toward men but to show love to her. Estella, though, claims she is unable to do this. She states, "I must be taken as I have been made. The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me." To Miss Havisham's horror, she realizes that the puppet she has created cannot act against its nature and show love to its creator. Therefore Miss Havisham has deceived herself.

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