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Great Expectations | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Great Expectations | Discussion Questions 31 - 40


In Chapter 44 of Great Expectations, for what purpose does Dickens use figurative language in the paragraph beginning, "Out of my thoughts"?

Dickens uses figurative language to convey Pip's broken heart about Estella. Pip says Estella is present in everything he sees, "on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the light." Then Pip compares the strength of Estella's presence in his life to "the stones of which the strongest London buildings are made." By using this figurative language, Pip emphasizes that Estella is not an abstract dream but instead a tangible reality in his life. Because of this Estella has become a part of Pip or, as Pip says, "part of the little good in me, part of the evil."

In Chapter 45 of Great Expectations, how does Dickens indicate the need for secrecy concerning Magwitch?

Dickens emphasizes the need for secrecy concerning Magwitch through the manner in which Wemmick responds to Pip. First of all Wemmick emphasizes that "we are in our private and personal capacities." He does this to make sure Pip realizes that what is about to be discussed should not be made known in official quarters. Indeed Wemmick refuses to answer any question by Pip that might "clash with official responsibilities." When Pip asks direct questions about Compeyson, Wemmick only nods because he doesn't dare give verbal responses. Also when Wemmick refers to Magwitch, he doesn't dare mention his name either but instead calls him "Tom, Jack, or Richard." By using this indirect way of responding, Wemmick clearly communicates about Magwitch to Pip without directly admitting any knowledge of Magwitch's presence in England.

At the beginning of Chapter 47 of Great Expectations, how does Dickens convey the concept of redemption?

Pip talks about his financial problems, mentioning how creditors have pressed him for money. Because of this Pip has resorted to pawning some jewelry for ready cash. However, despite this dire situation, Pip refuses to take more money from Magwitch, even though the former convict is eager to give his money to Pip. Pip states, "I had quite determined that it would be a heartless fraud to take more money from my patron." As a result Pip returns Magwitch's pocketbook unopened. By doing this Pip attains a type of redemption. Pip states, "I felt a kind of satisfaction ... in not having profited by his generosity since his revelation of himself."

In Chapter 48 of Great Expectations, how does Dickens use Wemmick to interrelate the theme of social class and the themes of uncertainty and deceit?

Through Wemmick's dual personality, Dickens identifies a characteristic of many middle-class workers. At work Wemmick is reserved and businesslike, but at home he is relaxed and caring. So while eating dinner with Jaggers and Pip, Wemmick is very reserved. However, when the clerk walks home with Pip, Wemmick becomes more open and clarifies as far as he can any uncertainty Pip has about Molly's identity. By doing this Wemmick reveals how Jaggers used deceit to defend Molly. Jaggers's deception involves changing Molly's appearance. Wemmick says, "This woman was so very artfully dressed from the time of her apprehension, that she looked much slighter than she really was."

In Chapter 49 of Great Expectations, why is Miss Havisham's "vanity of sorrow" one of the "curses in this world"?

Pip compares Miss Havisham's "vanity of sorrow" to other vanities, such as "the vanity of penitence, the vanity of remorse, the vanity of unworthiness." Like these other vanities, the "vanity of sorrow" is an act of pride, which makes a person feel superior to and separate from other people. Miss Havisham believes her sorrow so far exceeds the sorrow of any other human being that she becomes isolated in her house as a queen of sorrow, plotting vengeance on men. Also by doing this, Miss Havisham has cut herself off from the healing influence of life. So the vanity of sorrow, like other vanities, is a curse on the world because it works against the love and healing between people.

In Chapter 51 of Great Expectations, how does the awkwardness between Mr. Jaggers and Wemmick reflect their social classes?

When Pip talks to Jaggers about the identity of Estella, he mentions that Wemmick is a pleasant person who takes care of his father. This news is a revelation to Jaggers. Because Wemmick keeps his home life completely separate from his work life, he has never even hinted to Jaggers about having a father or having pleasant manners. The strict boundary of propriety between the middle-class clerk and the employer has been crossed. As a result Wemmick and Mr. Jaggers look oddly at each other. Jaggers teases Wemmick about being an imposter, and in response Wemmick calls Jaggers an imposter who also wants to have a pleasant home when he retires. Because of this atypical interchange between employer and employee, Jaggers eases his strict legal code of conduct and reveals more about Estella.

In Chapter 54 of Great Expectations, how does Dickens heighten suspense, and for what purpose?

Dickens heightens suspense by building one suspicious event after another. Early in the escape route, Pip looks around for signs of being suspected but sees none. However, when Pip, Magwitch, Herbert, and Startop stay overnight at a public house, Pip hears about a four-oared galley on the Thames that might contain customs authorities. This news seems suspicious and makes Pip uneasy. After Pip wakes up in the morning, he sees two men inspecting his boat, which also seems suspicious. As Pip and his companion head out on the Thames to intercept the foreign packet-boat, a four-oared galley approaches. One of the sitters in the galley is cloaked, thereby hiding his identity. This is another suspicious act. Dickens heightens the suspense to generate reader interest and also to make the reader identify with Pip and Magwitch. Technically Magwitch is breaking the law and should be prosecuted. However, by using suspense Dickens encourages the reader to root for Pip and Magwitch to get away.

In Chapter 50 of Great Expectations, how does Dickens convey redemption and uncertainty through Magwitch?

Dickens uses Magwitch to show redemption through the improvement of his character. For example, Pip says to Herbert, "I said to you I thought he was softened when I last saw him." Herbert agrees, saying that Magwitch talked more about his life, including his relations with a jealous woman. Apparently Pip's and Herbert's kindness to Magwitch has softened his soul. This development reinforces Dickens's view of social conditions strongly influencing a person's character. Also by having Magwitch open up, Dickens conveys the theme of uncertainty. As Magwitch talks more about himself, he clarifies the identity of Estella. After hearing about Magwitch losing his daughter, Pip becomes certain that Estella is Magwitch's daughter.

In Chapter 56 of Great Expectations, how does Dickens show that Pip views Magwitch as a beloved father?

Dickens shows that Pip has formed a close, loving bond with Magwitch. For example, during the trial Pip sits near Magwitch in the dock and holds his hand. After Magwitch is sentenced to death, Pip writes numerous letters of appeal to officials, asking for Magwitch's reprieve. Indeed Pip becomes so absorbed in this task that he hardly sleeps. Pip states, "For several days and nights after he was sentenced I took no rest except when I fell asleep in my chair, but was wholly absorbed in these appeals." While Magwitch is in the infirmary, Pip visits him on a daily basis. Magwitch comes to rely on Pip's visits, like a father would rely on the visits of a beloved son. Pip willingly accepts this role, waiting at the gate until it opens so he won't lose a moment of time with Magwitch. Near Magwitch's death, Pip tells him that his daughter is alive and is a beautiful lady. Then Pip says that he loves her but does not mention anything about her being married to someone else. So in a way Pip wants Magwitch to view him as a son-in-law.

In Chapter 57 of Great Expectations, why does Pip feel guilty as he comes close to fully recovering from his illness?

As Pip gets stronger, he notices that Joe becomes more uneasy around him. Pip feels guilty about Joe's change of manner. Pip knows that when he was prosperous he acted rudely toward Joe, indicating he didn't want Joe's company. Because of this Joe now acts more guardedly with Pip as he gets stronger. Pip wonders, "Ah! Had I given Joe no reason to doubt my constancy, and to think that in prosperity I should grow cold to him and cast him off? Had I given Joe's innocent heart no cause to feel instinctively that as I got stronger, his hold upon me would be weaker, and that he had better loosen it in time and let me go, before I plucked myself away?" Joe realizes Pip will become less vulnerable as he gets better and, therefore, will be able play the role of the upper-class gentleman. Joe fears that when this happens Pip will reject him as before.

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