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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Barron's Booknotes
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CHAPTERS 36 & 37

Certain birthdays are milestones: we look forward to becoming
old enough to drive, to vote, or to drink. But Pip's twenty-first
birthday holds special importance; he hopes to learn something
definite about his "expectations."

Pip's interview with Jaggers blasts his hopes. Waiting for the
lawyer to speak, Pip for some reason recalls how he felt when
the convict perched him on the tombstone. Jaggers seems
agitated too, staring at his boots, cross-examining Pip, tightly
withholding information, and outlining Pip's finances in strict
legal language. He disclaims any responsibility for these
arrangements, though he slips in that he thinks they're
"injudicious." Some readers think Jaggers is cynically saying
that Pip can't handle a yearly allowance of five hundred
pounds; others think Jaggers disapproves of the whole affair,
and he's wanting Pip not to get hurt by his expectations. Pip
feels that Jaggers is annoyed by the plan for him to marry
Estella. Notice that Pip is still convinced that Miss Havisham is
his patron and that Estella is meant for him; but he hoped
things would become official today.

Jaggers is apparently trying to do well by Pip. Perhaps he acts
cold because he's afraid to show any affection, or because he's
so cynical. He asks to join Pip's birthday dinner, yet he only
ruins the evening for Pip and Herbert. Jaggers symbolizes the
harsh adult world to Pip, so his manner makes Pip regret being
an adult now.

But notice the first thing Pip does as a responsible adult: he
uses his money to help a friend, Herbert. Wemmick, when he's
consulted at the office, says not to do it, but Pip then goes to
Walworth the next Sunday to flush out his personal views. Life
at the Castle is comic, exaggerated, and yet affectionate.
Wemmick reveals another emotional tie-to Miss Skiffins, his
cartoon-like girlfriend. Pip is tempted to poke fun at her garish
clothes and angular figure, but then he realizes that she treats
the Aged Parent well-which is the most important value at
Walworth. (Pip too treats the Aged Parent well.) Miss Skiffins
and Wemmick are comical lovers-note the playful battle of
Wemmick's arm trying time and again to steal around her
waist. Between the wooden plaques tumbling open at every
arrival, and the lubrications of plentiful toast and tea, Pip feels
cozily at home here.

As Pip suspected, Wemmick's "Walworth advice" is the
opposite of his office advice; Wemmick approves totally of
Pip's scheme and throws himself into it with cleverness and
energy, finding the merchant Clarriker who needs a young
partner, getting papers signed secretly. Pip handles the matter
delicately, so Herbert never guesses he has a "patron" and
believes he has succeeded on his own merits. Pip shows a good
heart here. But consider: Wemmick has Miss Skiffins, now
Herbert can have Clara. Where will that leave Pip?

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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Barron's Booknotes

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