Summary and Analysis
Chapters 32-34 - (Volume II, Chapters 13-15)
Dickens uses the very effective plant metaphors when showing Wemmick talking to the clients in prison. Wemmick is the gardener, the prison is the greenhouse, the prisoners are the various plants, and the Colonel is the dead plant. The issues of mourning rings and portable property come up again when the Colonel, unable to buy a ring for Wemmick, agrees to give the clerk two pigeons. When one's finances are limited, even pigeons are portable property. Jaggers' renown in the prison both impresses and unnerves Pip. At times, he wishes he had a guardian of lesser abilities.
Pip is irrational, as usual, where Estella is concerned. Hearing she is coming to London, he regrets there is no time to have several new suits made, and he arrives five hours early to meet her. The taint of prison and crime continues to plague him and he feels contaminated in her presence after his visit to Newgate. He makes himself feel better when he demeans the waiter who brings Estella's tea. Regarding Estella, he continues to know she is wrong for him, observing that everything they do together gives him pain. He spends every minute dreaming of being with her and when he is, is it sheer agony. Estella continues to be honest in her warnings to him. Her mention of gratitude to him for making Miss Havisham's relatives miserable does give insight to her strange loyalty to him and a glimpse of an unhappy childhood.
Satire of abusive parents continues. Mrs. Pocket appears unconcerned for her baby's health after the baby seems to have ingested some pins. Her only response is to send the baby to bed. Pip himself is crossing a line of abusive behavior. Stressed about his finances, Pip complains about his servant, the Avenger, constantly. Instead of taking action and just firing the boy to save money, Pip acts as though he is the victim. Finally, one day when his frustrations peak over his debts, Pip grabs the boy and shakes him, acting abusive just like his sister did.
The social theme of prison reform is alluded to by the description of prison conditions at Newgate.
set fire to their prisons . . . improving the flavour of their soup prison conditions were terrible in the early 1800s and reform was years off. By 1861, the outrage and reform had gone in the other direction, with prisoners rioting because they did not like their food. This pun refers to the fact that, at the time of this story, everyone's food was bad, whether prisoner, soldier, or pauper, so prisoners had not gotten to the point of rioting to "improve the flavour of their soup." Flavour is the British spelling for the word "flavor."
potman; prisoners buying beer prisoners were allowed all the beer they wanted in prison so long as they could pay the potman, someone from a local tavern who came to the prison to sell beer.
cistern a large receptacle for storing water; especially, a tank, usually underground in which rainwater is collected for use.
a Coiner a counterfeiter.
Moses in the bullrushes . . . butter in a quantity of parsley the appearance of a bit of butter nestled in a quantity of parsley reminds Pip of the baby Moses hidden in the bullrushes to escape Pharaoh's soldiers. This is from the Bible, Exodus 2:3.
ostler a person who takes care of horses at an inn, stable, and so on.
chary wary, careful.
Here is the green farthingale . . . and the blue solitaire a farthingale is a hooped petticoat worn by ladies in the early eighteenth century. The solitaire was a wide tie or cravat worn by men in the same period. These are no longer in fashion in Pip's time. This reference indicates the house is old and has seen its share of stately parties for many generations.