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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Barron's Booknotes
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Pip's new life gets off the ground now, as he and Herbert enjoy
a huge, sloppy feast, on their own in the big city. Herbert
Pocket's healthy ego contrasts to Pip's insecurity. Herbert
believes he won their long-ago fight; he isn't bothered by his
failure to become Miss Havisham's heir; he isn't interested in
Estella's cruel games. In comparison, Pip holds back, reluctant
to correct Herbert or to confide his own feelings, even though
he likes Herbert a lot. (Pip admires Herbert's "frank and easy
way," something he himself lacks.) Pip briefly tells his story to
Herbert; he adds, in painfully polite tones, that he'd like
Herbert's help in learning to be a gentleman. Some readers feel
Pip is a snob, trying too hard to impress Herbert. Others see
that he's shy, and has a hard time opening up to anybody,
especially someone he looks up to like Herbert.

Herbert gives Pip a new nickname-Handel. As they talk,
Herbert tactfully corrects Pip's table manners. This is the first
time we've seen Pip's lower-class manners; Pip's either too
aware of himself still-or too embarrassed-to tell us about them

Herbert tells Pip Miss Havisham's weird history-of her
worthless half-brother, the scheming suitor, Matthew Pocket's
argument with her, the aborted wedding, and her violent
reaction. This is the first time Pip has heard her story
explained; perhaps he was too fascinated by her bizarre
lifestyle to question it before, or perhaps his shyness kept him
from prying. Even Herbert doesn't know all the details, whether
the brother and suitor were in cahoots or what happened to
them after; he doesn't know any more about Estella, either.
Elements of mystery persist.

The mystery of Pip's benefactor is skirted, but Herbert seems to
understand, without saying so aloud, that it's Miss Havisham.
Herbert's agreement on this-and his sense that marrying Estella
is part of the deal-adds more weight to Pip's belief. In contrast
to Pip's mysterious but grand expectations, we hear Herbert's
own dreams for his future as a shipping merchant. These seem
like normal fantasies, and he's cheerful and optimistic about
them; he's also working hard towards them. He's on a logical
career track, whereas Pip's jump up in class has been

Pip feels as though years lie between him and the old village.
Looking back, he feels guilty about how he treated Joe and
Biddy. The next morning, he visits the Royal Exchange
("'Change"), headquarters of the shipping insurance companies.
Dickens gives us here another of his capsule satires of London
(Dickens didn't have much sympathy for commercial types.)
We have a sense that Pip hasn't moved up into a better world,
only into a different one. This feeling grows as we visit the
chaotic Pocket household that afternoon. Compare careless
Mrs. Pocket to tyrannical Mrs. Joe. The Pocket children's
"tumbling up" childhood seems just as inadequate as Pip's
upbringing "by hand."

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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Barron's Booknotes

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