Great Expectations By Charles Dickens Summary and Analysis Chapters 7-9

Summary

Because he is not old enough to be apprenticed in the forge yet, and Pip's sister has decreed that he is not to be "pompeyed" (pampered), she sends him to do odd jobs and keeps whatever he earns. He also attends the evening school run by Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt. The school is a farce — the old woman sleeps through class. Biddy, an orphan like Pip and the woman's granddaughter, gives Pip extra help with his reading, writing, and numbers. Later, Pip shows Joe a letter he wrote, and Pip realizes Joe cannot read, although Joe tries to hide that fact. Pip is somewhat patronizing and asks Joe why he never went to school.

Joe explains that his father was an alcoholic who beat him and his mother, and rarely worked. Because Joe supported the family from a young age, there was no time for school. He finishes the story by telling Pip how lonely he was after his parents died and how happy he was to have Pip's sister join him at the forge. Pip is skeptical, but Joe is firm on this, and Pip is overwhelmed with gratitude to Joe for taking him in as a baby. He feels a new level of respect for the man. The two agree that Pip can teach Joe some of the things he has learned, but Mrs. Joe is not to know. She would feel threatened by Joe's improvements, because she likes to be in charge of things.

At this point Mrs. Joe and Pumblechook return from a shopping trip with good news — Pip is to be sent to Miss Havisham's to play with her daughter. Miss Havisham is a reclusive but wealthy woman and Mrs. Joe and Pumblechook hope there will be a financial gain from this arrangement. He will spend the night at Pumblechook's and see Miss Havisham in the morning. Breakfast with Pumblechook is an unpleasant experience: The merchant barely feeds Pip while he stuffs his own face and fires math questions at Pip.

Miss Havisham is a strange woman who is dressed in an old wedding gown and tells Pip how her heart was broken and how she has not seen the sun since before he was born. Her house is the same as it was on her wedding day and all the clocks show the time her wedding was canceled. He meets Estella, Miss Havisham's proud and haughty adopted daughter, who humiliates Pip by saying he is a common laboring boy with coarse hands and thick boots. Miss Havisham tells her to break his heart, and then taunts Pip with Estella's beauty. Pip is told to return in six days, and is then brought outside to be fed like a dog. Pip is hurt and vents his fury by kicking a wall and pulling at his hair. As he wanders through a brewery on the grounds, Pip imagines he sees Miss Havisham hanging from a beam and runs in terror. Estella shoves him out the gate and sends him on his way.

His sister wants to know everything that happened and when he does not answer, pounds him on the head and shoves his face into the wall. Pumblechook comes by and adds to the pressure. Pip does not feel they will understand even if he tells them what he saw, and he does not want to expose Miss Havisham to their criticisms. Finally, he makes up lies about black coaches, cake and wine on gold plates, and waving flags and swords. Later, Pip tells Joe the story was all lies and that he feels coarse and common. Joe tells Pip lies just do not work and to think about that during his night prayers. Instead, Pip thinks about Joe's commonness and on what a memorable day it has been for him.

Analysis

Humor, satire, crisp descriptions, and tension are strong elements in these chapters. Dickens satirizes the educational system with the doddering great-aunt sleeping through her class. He criticizes child labor and the way families use their children to support them, by showing Pip's sister putting him to work and keeping the money, and then sending him to Miss Havisham's in the hope of some financial gain. (Dickens' own mother preferred him to work rather than send him to school.) He satirizes the merchant class when Pip observes that Pumblechook conducts business by watching the sadler, who watches the coachmaker, who watches the baker, who watches the grocer, who watches the watchmaker, who is working. Pip concludes that the watchmaker is the only one actually engaged in his trade. Playful humor is exercised when Pip assumes that he is always supposed to walk the same way home because his Catechism said to walk the same way all the days of his life.

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