Great Expectations By Charles Dickens Summary and Analysis Chapters 10-12

Summary

Trying to become less coarse to impress Estella, Pip goes to Biddy for tutoring. One evening, while at the Jolly Bargemen with Joe, Pip notices a stranger who keeps watching him. When the stranger stirs his drink with a file, the same file Pip stole for the convict on the marshes, Pip knows the man has been sent by his convict and is terrified that his secret will be revealed. Instead, before the man leaves he gives Pip a new shilling wrapped in old paper. At home Pip and Joe discover the "old paper" is really two one-pound notes. Joe tries to catch up with the man but it is too late, so Mrs. Joe sets the money aside in the state parlor. Pip is haunted, both while awake and in his dreams by convicts, files, and the coarseness of such affiliations.

He meets Miss Havisham's toady relatives who pretend to care about her, and who absolutely hate Pip. They talk about a "Matthew," who is apparently an outcast in the family. Estella taunts Pip again and when he tells her she is not as insulting as the last time, she slaps him hard trying to make him cry. He tells her he will never cry for her, but knows that is a lie. While there, Pip also meets a burly man who warns him to behave himself. Miss Havisham has Pip walk her from her bedroom to the wedding-feast room that even has a large table with a rotting bug-infested bride-cake. Estella and the toady relatives join them and Pip watches as Miss Havisham amuses herself by annoying them. She dismisses them and tells Pip it is her birthday. She continues to point out Estella's beauty to Pip, then sends him to be fed outside again. While outside he meets and fights with a pale young gentleman. Estella is ecstatic over this display and even rewards Pip for winning the fight by letting him kiss her. Pip is convinced he will be arrested because of the fight, but nothing is ever said and the pale young gentleman is not there the next time Pip visits. These visits continue every alternate day for eight to ten months, with Estella's behavior varying and Miss Havisham always taunting him with her beauty. Pip tells no one but Biddy about Estella. One day Miss Havisham tells Pip to bring Joe because it is time to set up his apprenticeship. Mrs. Joe reacts with rage because she is not invited.

Analysis

"What could I become with these surroundings?" These words, spoken in the novel by the older Pip looking back on his life, foreshadow what direction his life will take and what power these surroundings and people will have over him. It is obvious to him that even if he is apprenticed to Joe, things are not going to go the way Pip and Joe dreamed they would when he was younger. Pip's enlisting of Biddy to tutor him shows his sheer determination to rise above his coarseness and shame. Already his snobbish instincts are surfacing: When he confides all his feelings to Biddy, he never notices the intense interest she has in him. She is below his aspirations so he doesn't notice her as a person, but as a tool to gain an education.

Guilt, terror, and secrecy continue to surface, both in the scene with the convict at the Jolly Bargemen, and in Pip's fear of arrest after fighting with the pale young gentleman. The number of secrets Pip is carrying within him is increasing. The theft of food for the convict years ago continues to haunt him, especially when the man with the file shows up in the Bargemen. Pip can never seem to escape the taint of the criminal element. He has never told Joe about the convict and currently has told Joe nothing of Miss Havisham or his fight with the young man there. Secrecy rules.

Dickens works his satire of parasitic relatives through the characters of Miss Sarah Pocket, Camilla and Mr. Raymond, and Georgiana. It is particularly telling that Dickens often calls Raymond "Mr. Camilla," mocking him as a henpecked husband at the mercy of his wife. While the relatives pretend excessive concern and worry for Miss Havisham, none of them can stand each other and Miss Havisham has one of her more normal delights in taunting all of them. They are essentially vultures waiting for her to die so they can collect her money. Dickens' descriptions are superb in adding to their distasteful personalities. He paints Sarah Pocket as "a little dry brown corrugated old woman, with a small face that might have been made of walnut-shells, and a large mouth like a cat's without the whiskers." Sarah's character tag becomes the walnut-shell countenance; the phrase repeats throughout the book.

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