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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Barron's Booknotes
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CHAPTER 18

Pip seems contented, spending a cheery evening at the pub,
part of the crowd listening to Wopsle read a report of a murder
trial. Wopsle now seems a friend, not an annoying adult; the
description of his reading is not satirical but entertaining
(Dickens appreciated actors). The warm comic scene, however,
is chilled when a stranger speaks up. He punctures Wopsle's
effect by grilling the audience on legal interpretations of the
case. This is the second stranger who has asked for Pip at the
Three Jolly Bargemen, the first brought him a file from the
convict. But this one is different; Pip recognizes him from Miss
Havisham's house (chapter 11).

The stranger impresses everyone with his air of authority; Joe
even opens the parlor when they go home to talk in private.
The lawyer, Jaggers, explains his business precisely, almost too
methodically. In spite of his dry legal language, the facts that
emerge are fantastic. Pip is going to get a fortune someday; his
education for this will begin now. Pip wants social status more
than wealth and, magically, becoming a gentleman is an
essential part of his "great expectations." Not only has Pip's
dream come true, it has come true on strange terms, as in a
fairy-tale: Pip must not ask who his benefactor is.

NOTE: PIP'S RESPONSE TO HIS GOOD FORTUNE
Why doesn't Pip object to this secret? Maybe he doesn't want
to look a gift horse in the mouth; it's also his nature not to pry
into mysteries. But basically he has already guessed that his
patron is Miss Havisham. Look at the evidence. He met
Jaggers first at Satis House; his tutor is going to be Miss
Havisham's cousin; Mrs. Joe and Pumblechook always said
she'd make him rich.



Pip is so stunned and overjoyed that he can't hear himself
speaking, and so we don't get an exact quote of what he says.
He says little, in his shy, tightly-controlled way. Joe's reaction
is different. He realizes that he's losing his closest friend, and
he's insulted, almost belligerent, when businesslike Jaggers
keeps offering him money. Joe accepted the apprentice
premium from Miss Havisham-Pip earned that-but this money
is more like a bribe, and Joe won't touch it. Crazy Miss
Havisham saw the good in Joe, but worldly Jaggers just thinks
he's a sentimental idiot. This may be more of a comment on the
world's values than on Joe.

Already, Pip's fortune is making him unhappy. He resents
Biddy and Joe's sadness, because, selfishly, he needs them to
join in his joy. He gets defensive at their amazement, because
he secretly feels unworthy inside. He can't share his news with
other village people, fearing that their "coarse and common"
reaction would degrade him. His shame of his surroundings
intensifies, as his room, even the stars, seem humble and poor.
Biddy challenges him on this bad attitude, but Pip ignores her
warning and takes it as an insult, for which he must "forgive"
her.

Pip thinks he's glad to be escaping his common life, until a
wordless, homely scene makes him feel lost and lonely.
Dickens handles it simply, as Pip, looking down from his
window, spies Joe and Biddy comforting each other. Pip says
he never again slept easy in his bed; but he forgets that he had
been miserable there before. Money has changed his future, but
Pip's restlessness came long before any fortune.

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