Great Expectations | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Great Expectations | Chapters 57–58 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 57

Pip reveals he has accrued large debts. Also Pip becomes so ill that he is unable to leave his bed. Officials visit him there and inform Pip that he is being arrested because of his debts. However, realizing that Pip cannot be moved, they delay arresting him. Pip falls into a feverish delirium, during which he often sees the face of Joe. Pip then gains enough consciousness to realize that Joe has indeed been nursing him during his illness. Overwhelmed by guilt, Pip asks Joe not to be so good to him. Joe seems overjoyed that Pip's fever has broken. Joe continues to nurse Pip as he gradually gains strength.

During Pip's recovery Joe informs Pip of Miss Havisham's death. The recluse left most of her wealth to Estella but also left 4,000 pounds to Mr. Matthew Pocket. Pip is pleased to hear this. Then Joe relates how Orlick and some of his friends broke into Pumblechook's shop and harassed the seed merchant. Orlick has been arrested.

As Pip becomes stronger, he notices Joe becoming uneasy with him. At times Joe even refers to Pip as "sir." Pip has refrained from telling Joe about his debts and how he no longer has a fortune. He resolves to reveal all to Joe. However, the next morning Pip sees a note from Joe stating that he doesn't want to intrude on Pip now that his friend is well. Pip sees a receipt for his debts and realizes that Joe has paid them. Pip decides to go to Joe's forge, where he will apologize to Joe for the way he has treated him. Then Pip plans to ask Biddy to marry him.

Chapter 58

Pip goes to his hometown and stays at the Blue Boar, where the employees have heard of Pip's reversal of fortune. The next morning Pip walks to Satis House and learns that the building and its furniture are to be auctioned. Pip eats breakfast at the Blue Boar with Pumblechook hovering nearby and showing false sympathy for Pip's financial decline. Unable to take any more, Pip shows how annoyed he is at Pumblechook's attitude. As a result Pumblechook accuses Pip of being ungrateful about Pumblechook's role in securing Pip's fortune.

Pip heads for Joe's forge with the noble intention of asking Biddy to marry him. However, he soon notices that the forge is closed and the entrance to Joe's house is decorated with flowers. Then Joe and Biddy appear arm in arm and are ecstatic to see Pip. Joe and Biddy have just been married. Pip is delighted by this news and relieved that he didn't tell Joe about his intention to marry Biddy. Pip wishes the couple well and asks for their forgiveness concerning the way he treated them. Joe says there is no cause to offer forgiveness but does so anyway. Biddy does the same. Pip eats a meal with his two friends and then says goodbye. Pip sells all his belongings and uses the proceeds to pay back the money Joe supplied for Pip's debts.

Pip goes to work for Herbert's company, Clarriker and Co. Soon Clara's father dies, allowing Clara and Herbert to marry. After many years Pip becomes a third partner at Clarriker. Eventually the senior partner tells Herbert about Pip's role in securing Herbert's partnership. This news amazes and moves Herbert. The three partners of Clarriker and Co. have moderate success with their business.

Analysis

In Chapters 57 and 58 the theme of guilt and redemption take center stage. Pip feels guilty when he realizes Joe has been nursing him. After the way he has treated Joe, Pip doesn't feel he deserves Joe's kindness. Pip exclaims to Joe, "Tell me of my ingratitude. Don't be so good to me!" Later as Pip grows stronger, he senses that Joe is less easy with him and realizes the cause. After Pip came into his expectations he treated Joe as someone to be ashamed of. Because of this, Pip now feels ashamed of his actions.

In an attempt to redeem himself, Pip plans to marry Biddy. Still affected by a sense of superiority about being a gentleman, Pip assumes that Biddy, being from a lower class, would be overjoyed to accept Pip's proposal. However, when Pip arrives at Joe's forge, he realizes that Joe and Biddy have just gotten married. Pip apparently faints from the shock of this realization. After recovering his wits, Pip gains redemption by being emotionally honest with Joe and Biddy and asking them for their forgiveness. After this Pip attains a different type of redemption by working hard at his job for Clarriker and Co. Pip gains self-respect by earning his money instead of having it given to him. Also he forms an even stronger bond with Herbert and his wife, Clara.

Dickens conveys the theme of social class and ambition by showing how Pumblechook and the people at the Blue Boar treat Pip differently when they learn of his financial decline. The author shows that Pumblechook's and the Blue Boar's high regard for Pip was based solely on their personal ambition of gaining something from him. When his fortunes decline, their attitude toward Pip makes an about-face. They now treat Pip coldly and with disdain. Thus for Dickens, many members of the middle class put on airs to curry favor with the upper class. However, some members of the middle class, such as Joe and Biddy, remain constant and true to themselves, even when dealing with a person from the upper class.

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