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The Dickens Project - Archives > Dickens, Great Expectations, Chapter 6-10 (VI-X)

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message 1: by Lynnm (last edited Aug 26, 2015 05:54PM) (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Three things stood out to me in these chapters:

1) The introduction of Miss Havisham and Estella. Of all of Dickens' characters, I've always remembered Miss Havisham the most from when I read Great Expectations in high school. Almost everything else about the story is lost, but she remains. She's an unforgettable character, and of course, one of Dickens' most exaggerated characters. Given how she is dressed, it appears that she had been ditched on her wedding day (and quite some time ago given that all the white has yellowed), and - understatement - she's never moved past this point.

I'm looking forward to hearing what everything thinks of Miss Havisham and Estella, particularly how it relates to how Dickens writes women, how women were viewed at the time (and still are), what Miss Havisham and Estella think of males, and what Estella's treatment of Pip means (acting superior to him (i.e., constantly calling him "boy", making him eat outside rather than at a table).

2) Pip's feeling after meeting Estella that he is "common": his hands, his boots, etc. And that he wants to be less "common." I could feel for Pip in this section. It is very difficult for an adult, let alone a child, to meet someone higher up the social/financial ladder, and not feel that everything about you is wrong. How do you think that Pip's feeling of commonness will play into the story?

3) The return of Pip's convict. The reader can immediately guess that the stranger is the convict, but it appears to take Pip awhile longer because of his appearance, and it isn't until he brings out Joe's file that Pip realizes who he is. It also appears that the convict's position has changed: he's free. And he gives Pip a small amount of money, but when Pip gets home, his sister discovers that it is wrapped in two one pound notes. The convict continues to be a mystery, one that should clear up in time.


message 2: by Renee (new)

Renee M | 751 comments When I was reading David Copperfield earlier in this odyssey, I kept thinking about the connections between Betsy Trottwood and Miss Haversham. But they're like opposite sides of a coin. Both have reasons from their youth to be wary of men, but Aunt Betsy tries to put her life experience to good by helping young women become independent. She is also kind and uplifting to those around her. She can be said to have embraced many other kinds of love after her heartbreak.

Miss Haversham however seems bent on wallowing in misery and poisoning Estella into exacting revenge on men by becoming a beautiful breaker of hearts. In some ways Estella seems to be practicing the art of the femme fatale on young Pip. She quite deliberately shames and humiliates him. The question is whether she has any better qualities left within her despite her daily contact with the poison around her.


message 3: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 672 comments Certainly when I was a child reader of GE, Miss Havisham made a deeply ghoulish impression on me. But all I could think of this time was how badly she must have stunk, after sitting around in the same dress for thirty or forty years!


message 4: by Robin P, Moderator (new)

Robin P | 2201 comments Mod
Once again I was just going to start the reading and went through the whole section. I think a couple things make this book so compelling compared to other Dickens we have read:

1. First-person narrative keeps the story moving. In many other Dickens books, he shifts between multiple characters, and will even say things like "let us leave Mr X and go across town to Miss Y". This one is a continuous narrative. Pip's view as a child I think is very well done, as the author can show us things Pip doesn't really understand yet.

2. The variety of tones keeps things from getting predictable. We have humor (Pip's attempts at education), sentiment (the story of Joe's childhood - talk about domestic violence!), and Gothic mystery (the convict and Miss Havisham)

I think the whole concept of Pip suddenly being ashamed of his low status and behavior is very realistic. We never forget the person who called us ugly or stupid when we were young, although we don't remember as well those who said good things about us. Pip never questions Estella's judgments, because she is so confident and so beautiful. Once again as with the convict, he feels compelled to lie to his family, and even when he talks to Joe, he doesn't tell the whole story.


message 5: by Kat (new)

Kat Robin, I agree that the forward movement in this novel is greater than in most works by Dickens. To me it seems as though he simply doesn't digress in GE nearly as much as he usually does. His digressions have their charm and even their relevance, but they do tend to slow the story down.

When you described Pip's shame as realistic I suddenly thought, this is how Dickens gets away with his exaggerated and bizarre characters. As far as their human emotions go, they're realistic. Pip is realistic, yes, but I suppose Miss Havisham is also, in the sense that some people don't recover from a trauma and live forever warped by it. At any rate, that's a "story" that we immediately credit. But yes,Abigail, she would have stunk!

One thing really struck me in this section. In the last section I was trying to get a handle on how abusive Mrs. Joe is, seen through the eyes of the author. In this section it became more apparent, when Pip reflects on the fact that he always understood he was being treated by her with injustice. So in spite of the comedy, I think Dickens is taking Mrs. Joe's mistreatment of Pip quite seriously.


message 6: by [deleted user] (new)

I don't have much to add but I would like to say I have caught up with the reading and I have a big literature exam soon on Great Expectations and The Colour Purple, a comparative essay on growing up, so this discussion has already provided me with so many revelations! The stage in Pip's life where he realizes how little he really knows about life and how unrefined he is, how difficult it is for someone with such a Dickensian station in life shows a real struggle, a big revelation in his life. The commonness of Pip's family, upbringing, education is so restricting to Pip that he is completely overwhelmed. His low social standing becomes central to the story. There is an idespairing desire to improve.



Also, meeting Estella for the first time who is just the type of girl most boys would smitten over who is very... severe on Pip was exciting reading. I would like to see how their relationship grows and could be a very interesting dynamic, and how it changes through the course of the novel. I'm sorry if this is not relevant but everyone in this group is so erudite in their study and you all express yourself with a real appreciation for the book!The idea in the first ten chapters about Pip being a Faustian hero is especially engaging, but i think along with his desire to improve socially he is also trying to improve morally.


message 7: by Renee (new)

Renee M | 751 comments Great comments, Nahyan. I can't imagine having to compare GE and The Color Purple, but I'm sure you'll do a terrific job.


message 8: by Kat (new)

Kat I'm discussing Elena Ferrante's My Brilliant Friend in another GR group, another novel that's about changing social class. Hugely different, of course, but those experiences of the working class character experiencing themselves as outsiders and less-than are brilliant in both novels.


message 9: by Linda2 (last edited Aug 25, 2015 10:46AM) (new)

Linda2 | 3743 comments Nahyan wrote: "I don't have much to add but I would like to say I have caught up with the reading and I have a big literature exam soon on Great Expectations and The Colour Purple, a comparative essay on growing ..."

It's not so much us being erudite. In my case, reading it 3 times and seeing 4 film versions.

"Also, meeting Estella for the first time who is just the type of girl most boys would smitten over who is very... "

Snotty, unattainable, yet alluring. Wraps boys around her finger, and grinds other girls down with catty remarks. So realistic. I was always on the short end of the stick.

You'll see later why he's a Faustian hero.


message 10: by Lynnm (last edited Aug 25, 2015 01:48PM) (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Kat - good point - I more clearly saw the mistreatment of Pip at the hand of Mrs. Joe as well, and gone were Pip's and Joe's reactions to her as comic relief.

Although, I still wonder if Dickens is merely commenting on how children were treated at the time or advocating for better treatment for children.

Something that I'll try to research over the next few days.


message 11: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Nahyan wrote: "I don't have much to add but I would like to say I have caught up with the reading and I have a big literature exam soon on Great Expectations and The Colour Purple, a comparative essay on growing ..."

Nahyan - good luck linking GE and The Color Purple! I also can't imagine the connections, but I'll have to give it a bit more thought. Quite a unique compairson your professor came up with...


message 12: by Robin P, Moderator (new)

Robin P | 2201 comments Mod
Nahyan wrote: "I don't have much to add but I would like to say I have caught up with the reading and I have a big literature exam soon on Great Expectations and The Colour Purple, a comparative essay on growing ..."

Pip's experience at Miss Havisham's strikes me as having a Garden of Eden theme. Not that it is a paradise! But he is innocent, then he meets the temptress (in fact Estella is encouraged to "break his heart"). As a result, he acquires knowledge and is ashamed, and lies about what he has done.


message 13: by Renee (new)

Renee M | 751 comments Oooh! Nice one!


message 14: by [deleted user] (new)

Yes! Great themes, thanks a lot! I will be able to use all this. Pip is definitely a victim of abuse from Mrs. Joe, Estella and perhaps even Mrs. Havisham. I feel like the visits to Mrs. Havisham seems like the only ray of hope in a pretty miserable situation, tough they make him feels unloved, unwanted and an outsider he has a lot to gain from these visits.


message 15: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 672 comments Hi, Nahyan, I can see links between Great Expectations and The Color Purple—both deal with themes of powerlessness and disadvantage, and working to take possession of one’s own life in a context of limitation.


message 16: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Robin - I like that idea! The Garden of Eden, and Estella as temptress.

In grad school, I did a bit of research on how the story of Adam and Eve is interpreted in the conduct manuals of the 17th and 18th centuries, and in novels of the 17th and 18th centuries ... and we can even see it in works today.

There are actually two creation stories in Genesis, but it is the second - the story of Adam and Eve - that gets all the attention (the first is actually much more kind to women). In the traditional interpretation, both Adam and Eve eat the apple, but it is Eve who gets blamed...first, she is seduced by Satan, and then tempts Adam into eating the apple as well.

One of the most famous conduct manuals was written in the early 17th century by Joseph Swetnam who wrote a book called "The Arraignment of Lewd, Idle, Froward and Unconstant Women." And he brings up the idea that women were taken from Adam's rib:

““At the first beginning," saith he, "a woman was made to be a helper unto man." And so they are indeed, for she helpeth to spend and consume that which man painfully getteth. He also saith that they were made of the rib of a man, and that their froward nature showeth; for a rib is a crooked thing good for nothing else, and women are crooked by nature, for small occasion will cause them to be angry.”


message 17: by Robin P, Moderator (last edited Aug 26, 2015 04:52PM) (new)

Robin P | 2201 comments Mod
Great quote! There's a theory that the serpent represented the goddess religions (which sometimes used that symbol) and that early men were so afraid of women's power to give birth that they created all kinds of blaming stories to control women. Unfortunately, we see the same thing in some countries today where the woman can't show any skin as it will be her fault if a man is tempted.

In this case, maybe Miss Havisham is the serpent, manipulating Estella as well as Pip. I don't want to take this analogy too far! What really struck me was that Pip lost his childlike innocence and openness after that first visit. (Although it wasn't his first lie!)


message 18: by Frances, Moderator (last edited Aug 26, 2015 05:39PM) (new)

Frances (francesab) | 1870 comments Mod
Close to the end of chapter 8, Pip/Dickens shows considerable insight into the effect of abuse/neglect on children, and its long-lasting nature:

My sister's bringing up had made me sensitive. In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt as injustice. It may be only small injustice that the child can be exposed to; but the child is small, and its world is small, and its rocking-horse stands as many hands high, according to scale, as a big-boned Irish hunter. Within myself, I had sustained, from my babyhood, a perpetual conflict with injustice. I had known from the time when I could speak, that my sister, in her capricious and violent coercion, was unjust to me. I had cherished a profound conviction that her bringing me up by hand gave her no right to bring me up by jerks. Through all my punishments, disgraces, fasts and vigils, and other penitential performances, I had nursed this assurance; and to my communing so much with it, in a solitary and unprotected way, I in great part refer the fact that I was morally timid and very sensitive.

I agree-it is now very clear how much Dickens was advocating for some sort of rights for children to humane and just treatment. Also interesting that he ascribes a person's nature to how they were treated in childhood-something that I'm not sure had entered onto common thought at this time.


message 19: by Linda2 (last edited Aug 26, 2015 10:59PM) (new)

Linda2 | 3743 comments After experiencing Miss H's dementia and Estella's abuse, I think he should have left, told his surrogate parents about it, and never come back. But of course then there would be no story.


message 20: by Linda2 (last edited Aug 26, 2015 11:50PM) (new)

Linda2 | 3743 comments Did I miss something, or does Pip not tell us his sister's name? He refers to her as "Mrs. Joe." It dehumanizes her.


message 21: by Kat (new)

Kat I ran across a list today of six books "in which the act of writing figures in powerful, surprising ways." Great Expectations is on it. This makes me pay more attention to the literacy aspects of the novel which are gradually being developed.


message 22: by Renee (new)

Renee M | 751 comments That's great, Kat. It gives me something more to think about. I generally get completely caught up with the story, but when I can make my brain pay attention to the craft it can add so much to the experience.


message 23: by Emma (new)

Emma (emmalaybourn) | 298 comments Robin wrote: "Maybe Miss Havisham is the serpent, manipulating Estella as well as Pip. I don't want to take this analogy too far! What really struck me was that Pip lost his childlike innocence and openness after that first visit..."

Certainly Miss Havisham, on this first visit, is sinister in the extreme, like a waxwork or a skeleton - not fully human. Most of her remarks are about herself: she's self-absorbed and more frightening than pitiable. It's after this visit that Pip (as if corrupted by the experience) tells a pack of lies; perhaps, having been made to feel foolish, he is impelled to pass the feeling on to others. And his view of the kindly Joe is spoiled because Estella would think him common. So yes, Miss Havisham as the serpent is quite an apt analogy.


message 24: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 672 comments There’s also a recognizably human (rather than literary) reason for Pip’s silence: kids who experience physical retaliation for perceived faults tend to lie whenever they think the truth is something their elders don’t want to hear. His elders think his going to Miss Havisham’s is a great opportunity for him, and he doesn’t want to tell them it’s horrible. And in this case, the truth is so bizarre that he might be accused of making up fanciful stories.


message 25: by Lynnm (last edited Aug 27, 2015 11:33AM) (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Rochelle wrote: "Did I miss something, or does Pip not tell us his sister's name? He refers to her as "Mrs. Joe." It dehumanizes her."

It does.

And looking at some very light research on her, they are a bit more sympathetic. She was relatively young when she is left to care for Pip. No parents. No siblings. She was fortunate that Joe marries her or both Pip and his sister would have been quite poor and destitute. But even married, she does have to do all the work in the house, and that means cooking, cleaning, managing expenses, at a time when doing all that wasn't very easy.

Not to provide her with excuses for her abusive behavior - I'm not condoning her behavior. But, life isn't all that pleasant for her.


message 26: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Robin wrote: "Great quote! There's a theory that the serpent represented the goddess religions (which sometimes used that symbol) and that early men were so afraid of women's power to give birth that they create..."

I don't think that you are taking the analogy too far at all. It fits perfectly.


message 27: by Kat (new)

Kat I'm appreciating all that's been said about the reasons that Pip lies about Miss Havisham,both literary and psychological. I think the idea of Miss Havisham as a source of corruption is a powerful one.


message 28: by Zulfiya (new)

Zulfiya (ztrotter) | 1596 comments Everyone's comments are very insightful and wonderful, and I do like when the discussion is strengthened with quotes. Quotes have always been the cherries on top of the Dickens Project pie.

I do believe Dickens is creating the deliberate contrast between the real world where Pip lives and the past conserved in the house when Miss Havisham lives. Pip's realism and his realistic outlook clash with the ghoulish and murky interior of the house and the fog and the misty shroud of the cemetery.

Dickens is Dickens, and the social issue is always an issue in his novels; this one also demonstrates his social awareness when Pip meditates about his 'common' shoes, clothes, and manners. And look at arrogant Estrella! What a nice piece of work! She shines like her name does!


message 29: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 | 3743 comments It's never seemed plausible to me that he would fall in love with her.


message 30: by Renee (new)

Renee M | 751 comments Oh, the temptation of pretty, sparkly things!


message 31: by Linda2 (last edited Aug 30, 2015 11:28AM) (new)

Linda2 | 3743 comments I've been going through the introductory thread. Did we do any background of his life and times for the newer Dickensians?


message 32: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Rochelle wrote: "I've been going through the introductory thread. Did we do any background of his life and times for the newer Dickensians?"

The group read a biography on Dickens: Claire Tomalin's book. I missed that discussion, but there is a thread on it - Charles Dickens: A Life.


message 33: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Rochelle wrote: "It's never seemed plausible to me that he would fall in love with her."

Or, is he in "love" with her or in "love" with what she represents (a less common life).


message 34: by Linda2 (new)

Linda2 | 3743 comments What she represents, but he has the two confused.


message 35: by Robin P, Moderator (new)

Robin P | 2201 comments Mod
He has never seen anything like her. She is a figure of fantasy or fairy tale. I think it's the same impulse that leads modern people to fixate on celebrities. It's interesting that he never questions her judgments of him, but immediately takes them on as the truth.


message 36: by Hedi (new)

Hedi | 978 comments I am a little late, but have just caught up to chapter 15.

Here are a few thoughts I had when reading these chapters in addition to what you have already stated:

- in contrast to Pip's common life situation he uses many references to Shakespeare and other culturally important things which means that despite his current situation he must receive some type of higher education at some point.

- Joe is an interesting character. We have discussed a lot about the angelic females in Dickens's works, but here and there we also have rather angelic, innocent men, e.g. Tom in MC. Joe is illiterate, uneducated and comes from an abusive household. He does not see the faults in Mrs. Joe. I think her abuse is less what he was used to, so for him the situation has improved, furthermore, she probably has some basic education, which makes her a "master-mind" to Joe. A lot of experiences and interpretations in life are based on our own experiences and judged differently. I think this becomes apparent here.
This also makes Pip feel all of a sudden so common. If he had not experienced Estella's contempt he would probably not have felt that way.

- you have already discussed Pip's lies. I thought these very realistic.
1. He lies to Ms. Havisham about not being afraid of her. He could not admit that he was a little scared in this ghostly, dismal house with this ghostly person in front of him who wants him to play for her diversion.
2. When coming home, he was afraid of upsetting everyone with the reality of his visit vs. the "great expectations"/ "prospects" everyone, esp. His sister and Mr. Pumblechook, had. They probably would hardly have believed him if he had told the truth and he would have been reproached.

His lies are almost acts of self defense.

- besides the abuse in Pip's home, it is described very well which impact the scornful comments of a young girl can have on another child. This is an example of the effect of bullying, which is being discussed more and more nowadays. Due to his nervousness Pip also makes mistakes, which is a humanly typical consequence. These are additional signs of Pip's realistic character.

- some things in this novel remind me of previous Dickens novels:
- narrator like in DC
- the dismal house similar to the devastation of the Dombey House in D&S
- Pip wanting to become a gentleman as Emily in DC wanted to become a lady. Steerforth is maybe not as scornful as Estella, but he also came from a rather proud and scornful household which even DC had to realize.

- with regards to the stranger in the pub, I am surprised that you stated that it was Pip's convict. Did I miss anything? I thought that it was someone who knew his convict and was asked by him to stop by Pip and give him some money when he is released. I cannot imagine that Pip's convict has already been released. What was the time frame, approx. a year or 2 after their encounter? That seems very short for a sentence of deportation (esp. When thinking of the length the travel to Australia must have been).


message 37: by Robin P, Moderator (new)

Robin P | 2201 comments Mod
Yes, and I think Pip would have recognized the convict even if he was dressed differently, shaved vs unshaven, etc. I didn't think it was him but someone who knew him. (I've read this before but do not remember, which is nice as the mystery isn't ruined!)


message 38: by Nicholas (last edited Sep 06, 2015 11:13AM) (new)

Nicholas McLaughin | 2 comments Frances wrote: "Close to the end of chapter 8, Pip/Dickens shows considerable insight into the effect of abuse/neglect on children, and its long-lasting nature:

My sister's bringing up had made me sensitive. In the little world in which children have their existence, whosoever brings them up, there is nothing so finely perceived and so finely felt as injustice...."



I only jumped on the Dickens Project train a week ago, so i've been blitzing my way through the story. However this quote, (and I'm glad someone else already brought it up), has stuck with me. He is convinced that he knows justice from injustice. But at the same time he is baffled by questions of guilt and innocence. Near the beginning of chapter six Pip contemplates telling Joe the whole truth regarding the convict, but Pip chooses not to. "In a word, I was too cowardly to do what I knew to be right [i.e. tell Joe the truth], just as I had been too cowardly to avoid doing what I knew to be wrong [feed the convict]" Pip is afraid that Joe will look down on him as a thief, and Joe will always think to himself "I wonder if Pip stole anything today?" In his heart, Pip knows that he did the right thing, but he still feels guilty, (or, more precisely, he is afraid of being found guilty).

I think that the difference between Justice/injustice and guilt/guiltless is justice has to do with objective right and wrong, but guilt is all about how society relates to your actions. For example, Estella treats Pip unjustly, but it is Pip who walks out of the situation feeling guilty.

Now, I might be stretching a bit here, but I think that the disagreement between the morally correct and the socially correct continues throughout the story.


message 39: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 672 comments Interesting analysis, Nicholas! Those themes do indeed make a good lens through which to view the story (as much as I have read so far, since I don’t remember more than Miss Havisham from my first reading at twelve). Thanks.


message 40: by Lynnm (new)

Lynnm | 3027 comments Great post, Nicholas! I especially like your ideas on justice/injustice having to do with "objective right and wrong."

In one of my classes, we are looking at injustice. Justice must have two elements:

1) Justice must be blind. In other words, justice shouldn't look at someone's wealth, their ethnic background, their religious choice, their gender, etc.

2) Justice must be proportionate. In other words, the punishment must fit the crime. And connecting to # 1, no matter what a person's background is, everyone must be treated the same when it comes to the punishment. In other words, a wealthy individual's sentence should be the same as a poor individual's sentence for the same crime.

Age would also be something that justice should be blind to, but the young are often treated as if they have no rights. And here, Pip is obvious treated as if he doesn't have any rights merely because he is young, and therefore, someone who isn't to be trusted and/or is foolish.

We can also look at justice vs. revenge (which is what Miss Havisham wants). Justice should be proportionate; revenge is always disproportionate. The response is also upped. And when we look at the Revenge Tragedy dramas written earlier, they all end badly (everyone is dead).


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