Great Expectations | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Great Expectations | Discussion Questions 21 - 30


In Chapter 29 of Great Expectations, how does Dickens use Miss Havisham to combine the idea of ambition with the ideas of uncertainty and deceit?

Miss Havisham continues her deceitful plot of having Estella break men's hearts by encouraging Pip to love Estella. For Miss Havisham, having Pip love Estella is an obsessive ambition. She says to Pip, "If she favours you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces—and as it gets older and stronger, it will tear deeper—love her, love her, love her!" Although Pip is now aware of Miss Havisham's motives, he still believes that the recluse intends for Pip to eventually marry Estella. Pip says, "Then, a burst of gratitude came upon me, that she should be destined for me, once the blacksmith's boy." Therefore he remains deceived by Miss Havisham. Also Pip is uncertain when Estella will start to show her love for him.

In Chapter 32 of Great Expectations, why might Dickens have decided to show Wemmick's treatment of prisoners?

Dickens shows Wemmick's treatment of prisoners to emphasize the themes of social class and ambition. Wemmick treats the prisoners like a gardener treats his plants. Pip narrates, "This was first put into my head by his seeing a shoot that had come up in the night, and saying, 'What, Captain Tom? Are you there? Ah, indeed!'" Therefore Wemmick, a lower-middle-class clerk, treats the lower-class prisoners like plants to be cultivated. The reason for this cultivation is for the prisoners to provide income to Mr. Jaggers and thereby to Wemmick. Indeed the conversation between Wemmick and the prisoners often involves the payment of fees. Dickens thus emphasizes that members of the middle class often treat members of the lower class as objects to be used.

In Chapter 33 of Great Expectations, how does Dickens indicate that Estella views Pip as a friend?

Dickens has Estella often pair herself with Pip in her manner of speaking. For instance, Estella tells Pip, "We are not free to follow our own devices, you and I." Also Dickens has Estella confide in Pip by sharing with him how Miss Havisham's relatives have tried to discredit Pip. Estella says, "for they beset Miss Havisham with reports and insinuations to your disadvantage." Estella finds these attempts to be ridiculous, thereby showing a regard for Pip's character. Also Estella is honest with Pip. When Pip kisses her hand she says, "You ridiculous boy. Will you never take warning?" Estella refers back to her telling Pip that she does not have a heart. She does not show such honesty with the other men interested in her. Also she does not want to hurt Pip, which is the act of a friend.

In Chapter 35 of Great Expectations, how does Mrs. Joe convey guilt and redemption?

Mrs. Joe's actions show that she feels some remorse about the way she treated Joe in the past and wants to treat him kindly now. In this way she attains redemption concerning her husband. For example, Mrs. Joe has been in an oblivious state for quite a while. Then she clearly says the word Joe. Her husband sits next to her, and Mrs. Joe indicates she wants her arms around his neck. Biddy does this for her. Then Mrs. Joe rests her head on his shoulder. Then Mrs. Joe says three words to her husband: Joe, pardon, and Pip. Mrs. Joe's words and gestures reveal her feelings of guilt about how she treated Pip and her desire for forgiveness. Therefore with her last act Mrs. Joe redeems herself concerning Pip as well.

In Chapter 36 of Great Expectations, how does Dickens use Mr. Jaggers to explore the idea of guilt?

Dickens shows how Mr. Jaggers creates an atmosphere of guardedness and suspicion, thereby making people feel guilty even if they haven't done anything wrong. For example, Mr. Jaggers tells Pip in a very guarded manner that he has come of age and will receive a large annual income. This atmosphere of guardedness and suspicion affects Wemmick. When Pip asks Wemmick's advice about providing money to help a friend get started in business, Wemmick says such an idea is foolish. He says this because he fears Jaggers will overhear him, and he know Jaggers would approve of no other response. So Wemmick feels guilty about answering Pip at Jaggers's office. However, Wemmick tells Pip his answer might be different if the question were presented at his home. So when Wemmick removes himself from Mr. Jaggers's influence, his guilt vanishes. Herbert also reveals how Jaggers makes people feel guilty. After being with Jaggers, Herbert says he thought "he must have committed a felony and forgotten the details of it, he felt so dejected and guilty."

In Chapter 38 of Great Expectations, how does Miss Havisham's influence on Estella work against the recluse?

Miss Havisham knows she has created in Estella a person who is not only breaking the hearts of men but also breaking Miss Havisham's heart. Consumed by her own hate, Miss Havisham must accept its results—an unloving adopted daughter. For Miss Havisham to redeem herself, she would have to totally change her way of life and how she treats people, especially Estella. However, she is unable or unwilling to do this. Instead, after Miss Havisham realizes that Estella cannot love her, Pip hears the recluse pacing in her room and moaning. So like a ghost doomed to haunt a mansion, Miss Havisham has been entrapped by her own creation, namely an unloving daughter.

In Chapter 37 of Great Expectations, how does Dickens use the symbol of tears?

Dickens uses the symbol of tears to represent joy for doing a good or redemptive act. For instance, after Pip's plan to help Herbert get started in business succeeds, Pip cries. Pip states, "At length, the thing being done, and he having that day entered Clarriker's House, and he having talked to me for a whole evening in a flush of pleasure and success, I did really cry in good earnest when I went to bed, to think that my expectations had done some good to somebody." By helping Herbert, Pip feels he has made amends for the bad influence he has had on his friend. Also like other tears expressed in the novel, Pip's tears seem to have a restorative effect, making Pip feel better about himself.

In Chapter 39 of Great Expectations, how does Pip's abhorrence of Magwitch create situational irony?

Situational irony happens in a story when there is a difference between what is expected to happen and what really happens. Pip expects he will show appreciation and reverence for his benefactor. Indeed in Chapter 19 when Pip believes Miss Havisham is his benefactress, he respectfully kneels before her and kisses her hand. However, in Chapter 39 when Pip finds out his benefactor is really Magwitch, he responds with terror and abhorrence toward the former convict. Pip states, "The abhorrence in which I held the man, the dread I had of him, the repugnance with which I shrank from him, could not have been exceeded if he had been some terrible beast." Therefore instead of adoring the person who made him a gentleman, Pip is revolted by him. This response is totally the opposite of what Pip expected and is thus ironic.

In Chapters 39 and 40 of Great Expectations, how does Dickens convey uncertainty and deceit?

Pip shows uncertainty about many things, including who the stranger visiting him is and who he stumbled over during the night. Also, although the uncertainty of Pip's benefactor is clarified, this realization creates more uncertainty for Pip, namely how to disguise and hide Magwitch. Pip knows he must resort to deceit to protect his benefactor from the law. In addition Pip knows he has been deceived about Estella being intended for him. Pip states, "Miss Havisham's intentions towards me, all a mere dream; Estella not designed for me; I only suffered in Satis House as a convenience, a sting for the greedy relations, a model with a mechanical heart to practise on when no other practice was at hand."

In Chapter 44 of Great Expectations, how does Dickens deal with guilt and redemption?

Dickens uses Pip's inability to complete his redemptive act for Herbert as motivation to ask Miss Havisham to consider completing it for him. Then Dickens describes Miss Havisham as showing guilt as she stares at Pip and Estella when the two of them talk about Estella marrying Drummle. Pip states, "I saw Miss Havisham put her hand to her heart and hold it there, as she sat looking by turns at Estella and at me." Later after Pip expresses the pain of his broken heart to Estella, "Miss Havisham, her hand still covering her heart, seemed all resolved into a ghastly stare of pity and remorse." Miss Havisham begins to regret the pain she has caused both Pip and Estella.

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