Summary and Analysis
Miss Havisham and her house are examples of Dickens' masterful use of detail and description to create character and atmosphere. Tension is present even in static scenes such as Pip and Pumblechook having breakfast. Pumblechook's firing questions interspersed with Pip's trying to eat, think, or walk gives the scene a sharp, see-sawing rhythm. The questions are almost physical attacks more than they are words.
Dickens continues to use the tool of repetition to remind his readers of a character's personality. Some examples to watch for are Joe repeatedly wiping his hand across his nose when he is in trouble with Mrs. Joe; Joe calling Mrs. Joe a "fine figure of a woman"; Pumblechook repeating his command to "be grateful to them which brought you up by hand"; Miss Havisham's finger movements and her corpse-like, waxwork, and skeleton appearance; and Pip's recurring reference to coarse hands, thick boots, and Jacks and knaves.
Guilt, gratitude, fantasy, and secrecy are themes in these chapters. Pip feels guilty when Joe describes what an ugly baby he (Pip) was, and then feels deeply grateful that Joe took him in anyway. Mrs. Joe and Pumblechook impart their good news about Miss Havisham by first reminding Pip how grateful he needs to be, and Pumblechook constantly admonishes Pip to be forever grateful to them that brought him up by hand. Secrecy is seen with Joe not wanting Mrs. Joe to know about his lessons, and Pip's willingness to lie just to keep his sister and Pumblechook from knowing the details about Miss Havisham. He feels guilty doing this, but he wants to protect Miss Havisham from the judgements his sister and Pumblechook may pass. Satis House is a fantasy world with Miss Havisham as the witch and Estella as the beautiful princess. Pip is a dreamer living in an abusive situation, so he responds strongly to a fantasy escape. He wants to keep it all to himself and does not want its glow tarnished by reality and the light of day, something his sister would bring to it. The enchantment with Satis House and its pull on Pip will intensify as the story progresses.
The themes of ambition and snobbery start to appear. When Joe compliments him for being a scholar, Pip notes that he should like to be, evidence that even at this young age he has a drive to achieve something more in life than those around him. Pip sees all the seeds in the little drawers at Pumblechook's store and wonders if they want to be free of their jails to grow. This symbolizes the themes of freedom and growth. No doubt, Pip's sister and her condescending attitude toward Joe and his work also fuel this drive. She has made it clear she does not like her station in life. Pip, in turn, shows some condescension toward Joe and his lack of education. He also describes Biddy in somewhat uncomplimentary terms, but she has knowledge and so they become friends.
Joe is a loyal man, calls his wife a fine figure of a woman and a mastermind, and when Pip tries to pick a fight with him on these counts, Joe stops it with a fixed look and a firm word. He is also very astute and aware. Mrs. Joe likes "governing" the house and he recognizes her skills in this regard. Knowing she will be threatened if he starts to become educated, he insists on keeping his lessons with Pip a secret. Joe has the ability and compassion to recognize a person's faults and still see their good points. In spite of his father's drinking and abuse, Joe speaks of the man's good heart. Also, because of what his mother suffered with his father, Joe willingly endures Mrs. Joe's abuse so she never has to suffer the pain his mother did. Joe does regret that his choice means Pip gets hit with the Tickler from time to time. He is sorry about that and notes it as a shortcoming of his. This point will surface again in Chapter 57, when Joe speaks to Pip of his failure to protect him as much as he should have. Yet in spite of his shortcomings and lack of education, Joe is an ethical, genuine, fair man with innate goodness and a natural knowledge of life. He senses it is a problem to mix children of different social classes for play, and his morality is straight and clear. When Pip admits he feels coarse and common and that he lied in describing his visit to Miss Havisham's, Joe tells Pip that you have to be common before you can be uncommon, that no good comes of lies, and if you cannot get to be uncommon by being honest, you will never get there by being dishonest.
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