Great Expectations By Charles Dickens Summary and Analysis Chapters 38-39 - (Volume II, Chapters 19-20)

Summary

Estella's attitude toward Pip remains unchanged and her warnings not to care for her continue. She tells him that she deceives and entraps all men but him. Pip accompanies her on a number of visits to Satis House, which continue to be painful because of Miss Havisham's vengefulness and Estella's indifference. Pip concludes that Miss Havisham will not make Estella his until she has had enough revenge. On one of these visits, Pip witnesses an argument between the two women. Estella is tired of Miss Havisham's clinging and pulls back. Hurt, Miss Havisham accuses her of being ungrateful and unloving. Estella points out that she is grateful and obedient but that giving love is the one thing she cannot do as she was not taught it. Miss Havisham is miserable and it becomes apparent that her plans have backfired. While Pip never again sees the two women argue, he notices an element of fear in Miss Havisham now. He is also upset because, as he discovers on his return to London, Drummle has been courting Estella.

At twenty-three, Pip has completed his time with Mr. Pocket, and now lives with Herbert in a flat at the Temple, a building near the Thames mostly occupied by lawyers and law students. He is unable to stick with anything except reading, and is restless and uncertain about his future and his wealth. Herbert is doing well with Clarriker and is away on business. The weather has been wretched, cold, and stormy and on one particularly miserable night, a stranger arrives at Pip's home. The stranger knows Pip's name and is happy to see him. Pip is at first afraid of the stranger, then repulsed when he recognizes the man is his convict from years ago. The convict is pleased to see how well Pip has grown and thrilled to see he is such a gentleman. Pip encourages him to leave, but seeing tears in the man's eyes, softens, and offers him a drink. In the course of their conversation, the convict reveals that he is the source of Pip's expectations, his way of rewarding Pip for helping him on the marshes. He wanted to make Pip a gentleman who could live an easy, upper-class life. Pip is revolted and depressed. He realizes now that Miss Havisham is not his benefactor, Estella can never be his, and worst of all, he has deserted Joe for the money of a convict. He is also fearful because the convict came back to England to see Pip and will be hanged if he's caught.

Analysis

"Money as power" is a dominant theme in these chapters. Pip escorts Estella to Satis House and always, she pays. By not allowing Pip to pay, Estella controls the situation and is beholden to no one. Whoever holds the money, therefore, holds the control. The convict holds the power over Pip because he is the benefactor. His money has provided Pip's easy life and, prepared for no other profession, Pip has become totally dependent on that money. Pip's blind pursuit of money to win Estella has also cost him Joe. He has traded Joe for the convict — the guilt and shame nearly crush Pip.

The reader senses a fair bit of hinting and foreshadowing in these chapters, as when Dickens ends Chapter 19 with a tale of ceilings falling in on Pip. Something bad is about to happen. Also, before Magwitch actually reveals that he is Pip's benefactor, he drops a number hints to give Pip the chance to guess this fact.

The fantasy descriptions of Miss Havisham continue. She has also become the victim of her own madness. Estella tells her and Pip that she is incapable of loving anyone because that has been her training. Miss Havisham never intended for that weapon of revenge to wound her, as well as the young men that Estella rejects. Yet, Estella is being as kind as she is capable of through her openness and honesty. She is dutiful, grateful, generous, and obedient to Miss Havisham but she cannot love her. Miss Havisham is now afraid of her own creation. With Pip, Estella shows her own sense of caring and fairness, a kind of loyalty. She does not use him the way she uses all other men and she continually reinforces her warnings to him. Pip's constant unhappiness in her presence remains unchanged yet he cannot pull away. He is also sickened watching Miss Havisham's desperate clinging to Estella. In a moment of insight, he sees his obsession as a dark, sick thing and feels dependent, degraded, controlled, but is unable to pull out of it. He resents Drummle's seeing Estella and the spider metaphor returns in descriptions of Drummle's movements around Estella.

Glossary

fête days festival days or days with gala parties held outdoors.

he knew where I was to be found Pip is so upset when Drummle toasts Estella at a meeting of the Finches and tells everyone he is acquainted with her, that Pip challenges him to a duel. The Finches arrange a bloodless way to resolve the fight with Drummle producing a certificate from the lady proving his acquaintance and Pip apologizing when he does.

In the Eastern story . . . the ceiling fell from a book Dickens read as a boy, Tales of the Genii, with stories similar to the Arabian Nights. The sixth tale in this book has the wise vizier for the sultan foiling the sultan's enemies with an elaborate trap like the one mentioned here. A stone crushes the enemies as they sleep. The point is that the enemies thought they were at the peak of their power having trapped the sultan, and suddenly their luck ran out. The same is about to happen to Pip.

"It's death to come back." These words spoken by the convict to Pip set the main danger and conflict for the rest of the novel. However, the direness of the convict's situation was most likely nowhere near as bad as Dickens makes it out to be in the book. The last time someone hanged for returning to England after being banished was in 1810. From 1827-1830, out of eight returned convicted transports, none was executed. By 1834, the death penalty for illegal reentry had been taken off the statute books.

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