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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Barron's Booknotes
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A powerful evil seems to seethe below the surface in lawyer
Jaggers. He is dark and secretive, with a repulsive soap scent
and a heavy beard showing through his skin. He has a
threatening way of biting his forefinger and pulling out his
handkerchief. Criminals won't even dare rob him.

Jaggers obsessively washes his hands for a reason: to remove
the taint of his scummy business. Jaggers seems to have seen
the worst secrets of everybody's soul. The first time he meets
Pip, he accuses him of being "a boy." Even on social occasions,
Jaggers somehow brings out the worst in people. Jaggers
protects himself from this evil by dwelling on the letter of the
law. Watch him at work, describing a case with legal skill that
somehow avoids the real nature of crime. Jaggers is one in a
long line of Dickens' satirical portraits of English lawyers.

But there's more to Jaggers. His clerk Wemmick says he's
"deep." During the novel, he deepens from a villain into a
complex man. The longer Jaggers is Pip's guardian, the more
he disclaims any responsibility for Pip's expectations, as
though he's growing concerned for the boy. After he's finished
as guardian, he gives Pip advice in an almost fatherly tone.

If Jaggers is a warm, caring human being underneath, why is
he hiding it? Some readers explain that Jaggers is a portrait of
Victorian repression, that his physical and verbal tics spring
from deep psychological conflicts. Others see a man whose
human potential has been warped by his work. Still others
think he has been totally disillusioned by the vice and
corruption he has seen. Whatever else, he is intelligent and
worldly wise. He could be a moral guide for Pip-or another
warning figure.


Pip's sister keeps a spotless house, but she doesn't know how to
make it a home. In her mind, the sole ingredients of child-
rearing are a firm spanking and a dose of tar-water. Her apron,
which ought to cover a snuggly lap, offers only a bib bristling
with pins. Maybe she's deliberately cruel-or maybe she just
has mistaken notions of how to run a family.

Pip doesn't have a good perspective on Mrs. Joe, any more than
most children do on the adults closest to them. She's simply a
tyrant to him, but what can we gather from her speeches and
actions? We see her putting on airs for company, playing up to
prosperous Uncle Pumblechook, pushing Pip to make the most
of his connection with rich Miss Havisham. A longing for
something better in life could be stirring in her breast. Consider
how such a woman would feel, married to a simple, contented
workman like Joe Gargery.

She's enormously energetic and strong-"a fine figure of a
woman," Joe calls her. She may have strong emotions, too,
locked up behind that armored apron. (Her brother Pip
certainly locks up his feelings.) After she is attacked, we're
disappointed to see her immobile, silent, cringing. The real
Mrs. Joe is gone long before her funeral. -

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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Barron's Booknotes

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