Great Expectations Study Guide

Great Expectations

Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations is a novel about a poor boy named Pip, who lives with his cruel sister and her blacksmith husband. After years of helping a wealthy reclusive woman named Miss Havisham, he receives a small fortune from an anonymous benefactor. After learning to live like a gentleman and many attempts to court Miss Havisham's daughter, Estella, Pip learns that his fortune was not from Miss Havisham, as he had assumed, but a convict he had helped save when he was a child.

Chapter 8 Summary

Brief Summary

Pumblechook grills Pip on his multiplication tables over breakfast, then delivers him to Miss Havisham's ramshackle estate, Satis House. A beautiful young girl, Estella , comes to unlock the gate and leads through the dark House, holding a candle. She stops at a door and tells him to knock. A voice bids him entrance, and there he finds the old spinster, Miss Havisham, in her dressing room. She is garbed in an old bridal gown, now faded, but never worn. Miss Havisham commands Pip to play with Estella, who treats Pip with the utmost disdain. Despite her cruel treatment of him, Pip is enchanted by Estella's beauty, which seems to please Miss Havisham a great deal. Pip leaves in tears, humiliated by Estella's criticisms of his low social class and poor breeding, but is expected to return to Satis House in six days.

Detailed Summary

Pip has spent the night at Pumblechook's house in preparation for his visit to Miss Havisham in the morning. Over breakfast, Pumblechook, who sells seeds for a living and conducts himself with an overbearing, haughty demeanor, assaults Pip with a battery of multiplication problems. Thus, it is a very unpleasant breakfast for young Pip, who despises Pumblechook. Pumblechook's abuse only serves to heighten Pip's already severe anxiety to the mysterious spinster Miss Havisham.

After breakfast, at ten o'clock that morning, Pumblechook takes Pip to see Miss Havisham at her estate, called Satis House. When they arrive at Satis House, Pip finds the estate in disrepair; a number of the windows are boarded up, and those that are not are shrouded by rusty metal bars. The estate itself is gated, and a beautiful young girl approaches, carrying keys in her hand, to unlock it so that Pip may enter. Pumblechook asks the girl if Miss Havisham would care to see him. Rudely, the girl tells him no, Miss Havisham does not care to see him. Pip, however, is expected.

The pretty, proud young girl leads Pip, who she calls boy, through the dark rooms of Satis House, which she explains means Enough House in Latin. The girl leads Pip to a door and tells him to knock. A voice from the other side beckons him to enter. There, he finds Miss Havisham sitting in her dressing room, garbed in a faded bridal gown, with bridal flowers in her white hair. Pip notes that her garments are faded, having lost their luster over many years, though they do not appear to ever have been worn. Miss Havisham declares that her heart is broken, and, without explanation, commands Pip to play.

He and the girl, Estella, play cards until it is time for Pip to depart. Estella condescends to Pip, noting his coarse hands, common boots, and uncouth way of playing cards. Estella so humiliates Pip that she drives him to tears, which further shame him. Miss Havisham requests that Pip return to Satis House in six days, and he leaves feeling dejected, suddenly aware of his inferiority and low social class. Despite Estella's coldness and blatant cruelty toward him, Pip is enchanted by the beautiful young girl, which seems to please the strange Miss Havisham.

Chapter 9 Summary

Brief Summary

Pip lies about his visit to Miss Havisham's when he relates the story to Mrs. Joe , Pumblechook, and Joe . He tells them that she lives in grandeur and luxury, that Estella had fed him cake, and that their dogs had eaten veal from a silver basket. Guilt-ridden, Pip confesses to Joe that evening that he had fabricated this story. Joe is upset, but calm, and urges Pip to adhere to an honest lifestyle, and to associate only with those of his same social class. Pip considers how common Estella would consider Joe, and falls asleep thinking of how memorable his day at Satis House has been.

Detailed Summary

Upon Pip's return home from Miss Havisham's, Mrs. Joe is aching to know of his experiences there at Satis House, and grills Pip with an onslaught of questions. Pip is so overwhelmed, he lies to her, Joe, and Pumblechook about his time at Satis House. He fabricates a grand story one which seems to delight his audience in which he describes Miss Havisham's estate as a place of uncompromised luxury. He tells them that Estella had fed him a rich slice of cake, and that four immense dogs had fought over a piece of veal cutlet, served up in a silver basket.

Once more, Pip is ridden with guilt for lying to Joe. Later that evening, Pip approaches him in his smithy and reveals the truth. Joe is shocked and upset by Pip's deception, but remains calm and understanding. Joe advises Pip not to intermingle with the higher social classes, and assures him that lying is not the way to get out of being common. Joe urges Pip to be honest, for only then may he succeed.

In bed that night, Pip mulls Joe's advice, but thinks of how common Estella would consider Joe, a simple, uneducated blacksmith. Pip falls asleep thinking of his day at Satis House, what a memorable day it has been, and how it has changed him.

Chapter 10 Summary

Brief Summary

Motivated by Estella's criticisms of his commonness, Pip asks Biddy if she will tutor him after school. Following his first lesson with Biddy , Pip goes to the Pub to beckon Joe home for dinner. At the pub, he is approached by a mysterious man. To Pip's horror, the man stirs his drink with the same file he had given the convict. The man gives Pip two pounds, which Pip gives to Mrs. Joe. Upon seeing this mysterious man, Pip is once again terrified that his dealings with the convict will result in destructive consequence.

Detailed Summary

Pip takes Estella's criticisms of his commonness very seriously, and resigns himself to elevating his social status. Although he struggles in school, Pip resolves to educate himself, and solicits help from his friend Biddy, who agrees to tutor him. Following his first lesson with Biddy, Mrs. Joe orders Pip to bring Joe home from the pub. At the pub, Pip sees a mysterious-looking man, who stirs his drink with the very file he had stolen from Joe and presented to the convict, so that he could saw away his leg irons. Once more, Pip is stricken with terror. The mysterious man approaches Pip, Joe, and their group of friends. He gives Pip two pounds, which Pip gives to Mrs. Joe when they return home that evening. The paranoia Pip suffered throughout his dealings with the convict return to him, and he wakes screaming in the night, terrorized by a nightmare about the dreaded file.

Chapters 8-10 Analysis

In these early chapters, Dickens establishes an overwhelming sense of mystery and unexplained strangeness, luring the reader on by piquing curiosity. These mysteries are merely introduced early in the novel, and remain unanswered until later in the novel. Here, Dickens uses them to foreshadow forthcoming events central to the development of the plot and chief characters.

In Chapter 10, Dickens presents one such mystery, with the appearance of the strange man who stirs his drink with the file in the local pub. Pip is convinced that the file is the very one he stole from Joe's smithy years before, the same file he gave to the convict to saw away his leg irons. Characteristically, Pip is stricken by terror, again flooded by the fear of being caught and punished for his dealings with the convict, though it was many years ago. Pip presumes that this strange man who approaches him in the pub must have some connection to the convict he helped in his boyhood, though it is unclear as of yet exactly how the two are related. The only clue that Pip and the reader has to connect the two is the file with which the man stirs his drink. Within the context of this chapter, it is also unclear why the man gives Pip money. This event foreshadows a major revelation in the novel, when Pip discovers that his secret benefactor is not Miss Havisham, but Magwitch , the convict he helped in the marshes. The mysterious man in the pub delivers Pip the two pounds from Magwitch, before Pip receives his great fortune from the dreaded convict.

Chapter 8 also foreshadows important events to come, and raises mysteries yet unsolved. Immediately upon his arrival at Satis House, Miss Havisham's eery, ramshackle manor, Pip senses a strangeness about the place. Miss Havisham herself is equally bizarre. Though she is not as threatening as the convict, she is a frightening character, and young Pip is brave to endure her eccentricities with such adult composure. Pip observes that Miss Havisham seems to take morbid delight in Estella's coolness and cruelty toward him. This observation is complicated by Miss Havisham's unusual wardrobe; she is dressed in a white bridal gown, with matching shoes and flowers for her hair, all of which appear faded, though never used. Given this evidence, it is easy to surmise that Miss Havisham has had her heart broken, a tale which is not revealed until later in the novel. Through Estella, her adopted daughter, she seeks revenge on the hearts of men, beginning with Pip. Pip's future heartbreak at the cold, unfeeling hands of the proud, beautiful Estella is foreshadowed when the girl makes him cry, for he will cry for her many times more in the future.

Central to Pip's visit to Satis House is the theme of social status and social ambition. Estella, aside from treating Pip cruelly, is utterly condescending, calling him a common boy, and mocking him when he uses certain unrefined terminology while playing a game of cards. It is Estella's criticisms of him that propel Pip into a sudden awareness of his low social standing, which develops into one of the novel's major themes. Estella succeeds in mortifying Pip, making him deeply ashamed of his poor breeding and humble means. Yet Pip is enchanted by Estella's cold beauty, and will remain so long into his adulthood.

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