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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Barron's Booknotes
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CHAPTERS 32 & 33

A cold careless note from Estella, summoning Pip to meet her
in London, throws him into a frenzy. Reaching the coach
station hours early, he meets Wemmick and, to relieve the
agony of waiting, goes with him to look at Newgate Prison.

The description of Wemmick tending the prisoners as a
gardener tends his plants is ironic, for these "shoots" are
destined to die soon. Now that we've seen Wemmick's personal
life, we're taken aback to see him in his professional manner
again. Though he's only an extension of Jaggers, Wemmick
relishes his cruel power, callously using it to get "portable
property" and to taunt these desperate creatures.

Afterwards, Pip feels dirty and unworthy, the criminal taint of
the prison seems to fill his lungs and coat his clothes. For some
reason, he remembers his childhood encounter with the
convict; it too contaminates him. All of this clashes against his
image of Estella, separate, pure, and perfect. But as she pulls
up in the coach, notice that Pip doesn't feel joyful; instead, he's
nagged by that resemblance which he still can't place.

This is the first time we've seen Estella on her own. Her
imperious manner seems like a mechanical performance; she
lets Pip wait on her but makes it clear she takes no
responsibility for it. She ironically refers to their "instructions";
this thrills Pip, assuring him they're bound together, yet also
reminding him that their connection has been forced on her.
Pip, in his usual Estella-state of mingled excitement and
misery, tries to make gallant little speeches to her. This simply
amuses her, but she does come out of her shell briefly to reveal
contempt for Miss Havisham's scheming relatives. For the first
time, we glimpse how wretched her childhood was.

How do you see Estella here? Some readers believe she's a
victim, warped by her upbringing. Others say she knows what
she's like, and she could be different if she weren't so resigned
to it. She certainly could treat Pip better if she wanted to, but
she isn't entirely to blame; he creates a good half of his misery
himself (after all, Herbert wouldn't let this kind of treatment
get to him).

Pip has built Estella up into a goddess. He shudders when they
pass Newgate in their carriage; she, however, is curious about
Newgate and about Jaggers, whom Pip considers beneath her.
Just then, that ominous resemblance springs up again in a glare
of gaslight. The house at Richmond where Estella's staying is
like a moonlit mirage from another era. She's reabsorbed into
that timeless fairy-tale world, so different from the world of
Newgate and Jaggers. Pip returns heartsick to the Pockets'
house, where there's no one sensible and sensitive enough to
confide his troubles to.

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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Barron's Booknotes

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