Summary and Analysis
Mrs. Joe displays her insecurity and fear when she is left out of dealings with Miss Havisham. She pouts all night while cleaning, and makes a self-important display of herself and her treasures as she walks to Pumblechook's. Her reaction to Miss Havisham's money indicates her concern for wealth and disregard of Pip's happiness. Mrs. Joe's raging at Orlick and their taunts back and forth foreshadow the harm to come. She is demeaning and bent on controlling everyone. Orlick, a deprived member of society, already feels jealous of Pip and has little self-esteem — Mrs. Joe's insults make him feel even worse and trigger a violent reaction. Orlick is just unstable enough to actually act out his rage, doing to Mrs. Joe what everyone else would like to do — kill her.
Joe's ignorance and wisdom are both evident. He is uneducated and cannot spell even simple words like "out." When he wants to let people know the forge is closed he writes "hout." Yet Joe has a natural wisdom and dignity about relationships. He is happy to learn things from Pip, but he is content with who he is in life. He is honorable and so defends his wife, makes amends with his co-worker, and stands his ground at Miss Havisham's when he says that Pip's happiness, not money, is what matters most. When Pip wants to visit Miss Havisham, Joe tells him she might view this as seeking something more from her when she has indicated the relationship is over. When Pip persists, saying he wants to thank her, Joe, speaking in the symbols of his trade — door-chains, gridirons, and brass — tries to explain that there is no gift Pip could offer her in thanks that she does not already have. Joe intuitively knows the visit is a mistake, yet he does not stand in Pip's way and merely tells him that this visit should be the last unless Miss Havisham encourages more.
Pip, on the other hand, lacks Joe's intuitive and natural dignity and knowledge. When they meet with Miss Havisham, Pip is embarrassed by Joe. The older Pip who is narrating the story says, "I am afraid I was ashamed of the dear good fellow — I know I was ashamed of him." Interestingly, Miss Havisham shines here. "Miss Havisham . . . understood what he really was, better than I." She grasps Joe's dignity and honesty, treats him with respect, and does not mock him. But Pip, ashamed of his home, feels trapped in the forge. He recognizes that Joe has always brought a sanctity to their home, but having had a taste of Satis House, Pip can never be happy in the forge. As to whose fault this is, Pip, the narrator, does acknowledge that some was his, some was his sister's, and some was Miss Havisham's.
Pumblechook continues to be ridiculous by pompously pretending he knew about the money Miss Havisham gives to Joe, and acting as if he were responsible for this. Also, themes of guilt and crime continue. Pip feels tremendous guilt about not wanting to work in the forge. He is also mortified when Pumblechook drags him to court to be apprenticed, because everyone thinks he is a common criminal. Some character tags and symbols that appear in these chapters: Joe playing with his hat at Miss Havisham's, which will appear again later in Chapter 27, when Joe visits Pip in his "gentleman's" flat; the white-sailed vessels going out to sea, symbolizing Miss Havisham and Estella and the sense of freedom and excitement Pip feels around them. Mrs. Joe's "rampage" tag is used to show that her role in the story is almost over, when Pip says she will never again be on the rampage.
Great Seal of England in plaited straw the Great Seal of England is an important symbol carried by the Lord Chancellor. Here, Mrs. Joe carries her plaited-straw basket importantly, like her own straw version of the Great Seal of England.
a pair of pattens protective footgear for wet weather. They were wooden soles strapped on over the shoes.
Rantipole Mrs. Joe sarcastically calls Pip this name and the reference has a couple possible meanings. There were two references in Dickens' time—one referred to a wicked child in a children's story of the time, the other to Napoleon III, who was much in the news in 1860 waging wars and generally disturbing things in Europe. In either case, the name is not a compliment.
fired a rick set fire to a haystack. Pip's reference to this crime means people would have viewed him as a major criminal because at that time, children even as young as seven were sometimes hanged for arson.
a tract ornamented with a woodcut a tract was a pamphlet expounding on some topic, usually religious or political. Pictures were often applied by cutting a design into a block of wood, inking the wood, and then pressing it onto the paper.
excrescence an ugly, abnormal, or disfiguring addition to something. At his party for his apprenticeship, Pip is miserable while the adults are having a great time. Thus, Pip is an excrescence on their fun.
The Commercials underneath . . . Tumbler's Arms When Mr. Wopsle does his "Ode on the Passions" performance at Pip's party, he throws his "sword down in thunder," making so much noise that the traveling salesmen in the rooms below complain. The waiter is telling Mr. Wopsle that the inn is not a place for circus performers as the Tumbler's Arms is, so quiet down.
O Lady Fair a popular song of the time, written and set to music by the Irish poet Thomas Moore (1779-1852).
descrying to discern, or think you see, something.
shark-headed screws round-headed screws.
gridiron a framework of metal bars or wires on which to broil meat or fish. Joe is trying to use terms of his work to tell Pip there is nothing special he could make and bring to Miss Havisham that would be enough even if he were the best of craftsmen. Even the best cannot change a gridiron into something special.
Cain or the Wandering Jew Pip describes Orlick as a skulking, evil sort of person. He associates Orlick's appearance and mannerisms with the Bible character Cain, a fugitive and vagabond after killing his brother Abel, and with the Wandering Jew, a legendary medieval character who wandered the earth as punishment for his cruelty to Christ.
sluice-keeper sluices were floodgates that controlled the flow of water through the marshes. The sluice-keeper was responsible for managing these gates. Orlick lodges with the sluice-keeper near the forge.
George Barnwell; meditating aloud in his garden at Camberwell; died amiably at Camberwell; game on Bosworth Field; and in the greatest agonies at Glastonbury after Pip visits Miss Havisham, he stops at Pumblechook's and listens to Wopsle perform the part of an uncle who is murdered in the play The London Merchant. Barnwell is the young hero in the story who kills the uncle. As Pip and Wopsle walk home from Pumblechook's, Wopsle continues his rendition of famous death scenes: the Camberwell reference is still from the Barnwell tragedy, and the Bosworth Field reference is from Richard III; the Glastonbury reference is unclear because Dickens may have confused Glastonbury with Swinstead Abbey, from Shakespeare's play King John.