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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Barron's Booknotes
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CHAPTER 11

On his second visit to Miss Havisham, Pip has a series of
illogical encounters; but, almost in a trance, he accepts
everything quietly. Estella off-handedly leads him first into a
back room with a small group of other people. Pip's moral
sense at once picks up that these people are toadies and
humbugs (a type we've met in Pumblechook). Their
conversation baffles Pip, the outsider, as they discuss people he
doesn't know and pick apart social customs unfamiliar to a
working-class boy. Nothing explains why Pip is taken there,
then led away by Estella while they continue to wait.

On the unlit stairs, Pip next meets a large dark man who
examines him sharply, passes pessimistic judgment on him,
and pushes past. Note his characteristics; he'll reappear.

Upstairs, Pip is given a new job-to walk Miss Havisham
slowly around the weird dining room, where a bridal feast rots
on the table. Again, Miss Havisham has an ulterior motive; she
knows his presence will gall her relatives (the toadies) when
they're brought upstairs. The "nervous invalid" Camilla pours
out lavish, false protests of love for Miss Havisham, and
walnut-faced Sarah throws in her back-stabbing comments.
What an unpleasant crew! But Miss Havisham sees through
them; she flies into a passion, denounces them as parasites, and
sends them away. Afterwards, she seems human for a moment,
sadly telling Pip that it's her birthday. She quickly turns this,
however, into a melodramatic speech, in which she fervidly
pictures herself rotting towards death. Pip is wordless, so
caught by her spell that he feels as though he's beginning to
decay, too.



After another insult session over cards with Estella, Pip goes
out to the garden, where still another stranger pops out of
nowhere-the pale young gentleman. His immediate invitation
to come and fight astonishes Pip, but, without a question, Pip
obeys. The pale young gentleman has a definite set of boxing
conventions; Pip follows his lead dimly. Like Estella, this boy
has a confident way of carrying himself that intimidates-and
impresses-insecure Pip. Though the other boy's covered with
ink blots (he's struggling with education, just as Pip is) and he's
at a gawky age, he is a "gentleman" to Pip, a superior being.
Pip is therefore astounded when his clumsy blows knock the
boy flat. Yet Pip doesn't enjoy this victory; instead, he's awed
by the other boy's game spirit. Pip is detached from his
fighting, embarrassed by it as proof of his animal nature
(overlooking the fact that the other boy started the fight). We
really see Pip's inferiority complex here.

One more unaccountable event: Estella, flushed and eager, lets
Pip kiss her cheek as he's going out the door. Presumably, she
watched the fight from a hiding place, and felt the winner
deserved a prize. But the fight wasn't anything to do with her-
or was it? At any rate, it has excited her. Pip takes the kiss,
gratefully; but he at once ruins his own pleasure by dwelling on
the condescending spirit in which it was offered. Pip returns,
dazed by all these odd events, through a black night to the light
of Joe's forge.

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