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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Barron's Booknotes
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CHAPTER 57

Pip is truly on his own-not just solitary but abandoned, facing
life's struggles alone. Like many people after a period of great
stress, he physically collapses. On top of this, he's arrested for
debt (he only escapes jail because he's so sick). Pip may have
changed, but he still has to pay for the past.

Dickens, as we've seen before, loves to describe disordered
states of mind. He shows us how Pip, in his brain fever,
jumbles together real and imaginary, past and present. Whereas
at the Hummums Pip imagined objects coming alive, now he
imagines that he's turning into an object, imprisoned in the
shape of a brick or a steel beam. Dickens is a shrewd
psychologist (even before psychology became a science!), and
he makes Pip's ravings all symbolize some anxiety. He relives
terrors linked with Miss Havisham and Orlick, and he imagines
struggling with murderers, figures resembling Magwitch, who
always turn out to be good. When Pip sees Joe's face over and
over, it's like another hallucination, rising out of guilt.

It isn't: it really is Joe. Notice that Joe was gone from the book
the whole time Magwitch was with Pip; as Joe returns, he
seems for a moment like a version of Magwitch, sitting in the
window, smoking a pipe. Both were like fathers to Pip, and he
treated both unfairly. But Magwitch was an intense figure,
either evil or noble, speaking with his own eloquence: Joe is
simpler, and speaks in his old inarticulate, muddled way. Like
Pip, we feel delighted to hear him again; it feels like coming
home.



Though Joe is his old self, life hasn't stood still waiting for Pip.
Biddy has taught Joe to write (doing for love what Pip couldn't
do for mere ambition). More strands of the plot are tied up, as
Joe tells Pip of Miss Havisham's death, and the "coddleshells"
(codicils) of her will. Our final view of her shows power and
willful intelligence, as she doles out fitting legacies to all the
Pockets (Matthew has been rewarded because of Pip-another
good deed done). Joe also brings news of Pumblechook and
Orlick: Orlick broke into Pumblechook's house, robbed him,
and humiliated him. Orlick has since been caught and put in
jail. Two very different "villains" are both punished here, in
one stroke.

Joe and Pip enjoy another Sunday outing, though Pip, still
weak, seems a child again; Joe has to carry him. The mood is
one of peace and renewal. But you can never undo the past.
When Pip tries to explain to Joe about Magwitch, Joe doesn't
want to hear it; it involves too many complicated memories-of
Pip stealing from the pantry, of Mrs. Joe beating the boy and
Joe unable to protect him. Joe shows a complex understanding
here, but it isn't all his own wisdom; Biddy helped him see it.
Pip isn't jealous of her and Joe, but we should begin to suspect
something.

This peace can't last forever; Joe becomes more and more
uncomfortable, until one morning he's gone, having paid off
Pip's debts. Pip looks a little bit like a silly snob again for his
complicated pride about this money. Pip isn't fully reformed
yet; he's still blind to certain human truths. With all good
intentions, he heads for the old village, determined to make up
with Biddy, marry her, and live near Joe. He feels pleased with
himself for doing this. Pip still has a lesson or two to learn.

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