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Great Expectations > GE Chapter 11

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message 1: by Peter (last edited Jan 28, 2017 08:09PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Peter In Chapter 11 we return with Pip to Satis House to visit Miss Havisham. Once again, Pip is met at the gate by Estella, who first admits Pip, then locks the gate behind him, and, once again, leads him down a darkened passage with a candle. Pip is taken to a gloomy room and told to stand by a window until he is summoned. In this same room were three ladies and one gentleman who Pip decides are all "toadies and humbugs." Estella returns, leads Pip down yet another dark passage carrying a candle. Estella suddenly stops, asks Pip what he thinks of her and, not getting a suitable answer, slaps Pip's face. Not the best way to begin a visit to someone's home.

The next event occurs when Pip meets a man on the stairs who was "burly" with "an exceedingly dark complexion." This event is discouraging too as the man says " I have a pretty large experience of boys, and you're a bad set of fellows." The man bits "the side of his great forefinger" which Pip notices "smelt of scented soap" and the proceeds down the stairs. If these first events at Satis House are not enough to discourage even the best of people, Pip then meets Miss Havisham who tells Pip to go into an adjoining room.

If the opening events of this chapter have not yet been Kafka-ish enough, Pip finds himself in a spacious room "covered with dust and mould." In the middle of a table sat something that "seeming to grow, like a black fungus." To complete the scene we read of "speckled-legged spiders ... mice ...blackbeetles [and] crawling things." Miss Havisham tells Pip the object is her "bride-cake."

Questions:

Can you recall any Dickens novel that has been so continuously disturbing and bizarre in its opening chapters?

There must be some reason for the extravagant and lush writing of Dickens. What are your speculations?


Miss Havisham orders Pip to "Walk me, walk me!" For a movie/TV producer this must be a delightful scene to create for viewers. Estella is summoned back into this room of merry-go-round Miss Havisham and appears again with "her light" and brings the three woman and the gentleman Pip saw earlier in the discarded garden. Still Pip pushes Miss Havisham around the room. Miss Havisham proceeds to point out where the Pocket family - the three women and one gentleman Pip met earlier - will stand to view her corpse. Who or what is most tattered, degraded and decayed ... the wedding cake or Miss Havisham? I keep thinking Tristram could make this chapter into a grand film noir.

Finally, Pip is taken down to the yard and "fed in the former dog like manner."

Now, where have we seen this description before? Hmmmm...

Pip, now in a blighted and unused garden, comes across "a pale young gentleman" who says to Pip "Come and fight" and then proceeds to pull Pip's hair and butts Pip in the stomach. Pip hits him, and hits him again, and hits the pale young gentleman hard. Pip records " that the more I hit him, the harder I hit him." As Pip leaves Satis House he sees on Estella's face "a bright flush ... as though something had happened to delight her." Estella invites Pip to kiss her.

And so, after what must have been a very bizarre and exhausting day, Pip leaves the field of battle and Satis House with the memory of Estella's cheek on his lips and heads towards home. The chapter ends with the words "where Joe's furnace was flinging a path of fire across the road."

Questions:

Why do you think Estella's cheek had a "bright flush" and she let Pip kiss her?

What do you make of the constant references to ruined gardens, dark passages, and Estella's association with light.

As mentioned earlier in our discussions, there seems to be a disproportionate use of physical pain and violence in this novel. From Mrs. Joe's bringing both Joe and Pip "by hand," to Pip's convict turning Pip upside down and threatening to eat him, to Estella slapping Pip's face, to the Satis House boxing match the novel is a very physical one. Can you recall any other Dickens novel that is so physical?

What might be the reason(s) for such a physical novel?

Once again, Dickens ends the chapter on a very cryptic and perhaps symbolic note. Do you see any suggestive meanings in the last sentence of the chapter?

As always, your own ideas, insights and comments are welcome.


Everyman | 2034 comments Peter -- looks like this got posted twice and made two separate threads -- you might want to delete one before we start getting two competing discussions going.


message 3: by Peter (last edited Jan 28, 2017 09:47PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Peter Ah! Thanks for the notice Everyman. I am not one for all this technology. I am trying to figure out how to delete the other heading now.

Apparently, I now have.


Tristram Shandy Peter, thanks for so carefully summarizing this eventful chapter, which introduces so many new characters! As to film making, it's probably even more difficult than writing novels because a director has to keep so many things in mind: Finding the right locations, keeping the actors in line, making the script into something visual, are just a few of them.

Now, to the Chapter. Estella is becoming more and more mysterious to me. On the one hand, she clearly tries to humiliate and hurt Pip, even going to the length of slapping his face (which is a rather un-subtle way of asserting one's superiority and therefore probably less painful to Pip than her snide remarks about his looks and language), but on the other hand, after the fight with the mysterious boy, her face seems to express signs of delight. Can it be that she is proud of finding Pip able to defend himself so well? Is she proud with regard to Pip or with regard to the fact that Pip's defenselessness with regard to her is not a common trait of his character - so that she may even be more conceited of the pain she if inflicting him? - And for all her apparent viciousness, Pip still seems to regard her as a harbinger of light in the darkened passages of Satis House. Strange, and unsettling in the light of events that may still come.

You mentioned the aspect of violence, Peter, and I am not so sure if this is the most violent Dickens novel I have read so far. I am thinking of Nicholas Nickleby and the terrible Mr. and Mrs. Squeers, Nicholas's rashness, which also lead him to physically abuse people, the duel between Sir Mulberry Hawk and Lord Verisopht ... I also noticed that even though the strange pale young gentleman challenged Pip, he is the first person at Satis House to deal fair with him, e.g. by explaining the rules and providing a sponge and water for both parties. Neither does he appear to bear Pip any malice after being vanquished.

Miss Havisham's desire to be lead around the table with the cake seems to indicate that her whole life is revolving about that single humiliation she has suffered; it is the centre of her existence. I also noticed that strange kind of pride in it when she says,

"This [...] is where I will be laid when I am dead. They shall come and look at me here."


Come and look at her dead body lying on the wedding table? Does she really think that this is some kind of achievement that should be beheld by everyone? Are her relatives supposed to feel sorry for her? To have a bad conscience? - A little bit later, she suggests that her family will "feast upon" her body when she is dead. So she probably suspects that Sarah Pocket and the others will feel relieved when she is dead and they can finally get at the inheritance. - And who is that Matthew, who seems to be the only one that refuses to grovel in line with the other legacy hunters?


Peter Tristram wrote: "Peter, thanks for so carefully summarizing this eventful chapter, which introduces so many new characters! As to film making, it's probably even more difficult than writing novels because a directo..."

Tristram

Yes. So many new questions. Who is the man with the soap-smelling hands? How do we respond to Estella's slap on Pip's face and then what appears to be a blush? The weirdly merry-to-round of Pip pushing Miss Havisham around the room and her bride-cake death bed. You raise a very important point about Matthew. Who wants to fight like that, provide comfort, and be so fair?

You are correct. NN is a novel with much violence. I'm thinking, however, that Dickens might be building towards something very interesting with these incidents of violence. We shall have to wait and see.


message 6: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Thank you Peter, I absolutely love you. My headache thanks you too. :-)


message 7: by Peter (last edited Jan 29, 2017 03:05PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Peter Kim wrote: "Thank you Peter, I absolutely love you. My headache thanks you too. :-)"

As always, my friend, a pleasure. :-)


Everyman | 2034 comments Tristram wrote: "on the other hand, after the fight with the mysterious boy, her face seems to express signs of delight. Can it be that she is proud of finding Pip able to defend himself so well?."

Or is it that she liked to see the pale young gentleman humiliated because she hadn't been able to humiliate him verbally as she had Pip.


Mary Lou | 392 comments Tristram quoted: ""This [...] is where I will be laid when I am dead. They shall come and look at me here.""

This passage made me picture Miss H. as much older and closer to death than I think she really is. But I guess she doesn't feel she has much to live for. Still, her relations seem to be hovering like vultures, don't they?

In all my readings of GE, I'm always taken aback by the scene with the pale young man. Why does this kid want to fight? Why does Pip comply? Is it just a boy thing? The whole situation just seems so bizarre. But after all the abuse Pip's taken from his sister, the convict, and now Estella, it's nice to know he can hold his own if he chooses to.

I always took the kiss as Estella being kind of impressed that Pip could whoop up on the other kid, but she's an enigma and I wouldn't presume to think I know her mind.

Kafkaesque, indeed.


Natalie Tyler (doulton) Some of my thoughts on Chapter 11: The "toadies and humbugs" remind me a little bit of the way that George Eliot so keenly characterizes less wealthy branches of a family sucking up to their more prosperous kinfolk--Miss Havisham, in this case. I am sure that Eliot was influenced by Dickens. These people have evidently come to pay tribute on her birthday.

They will "come to feast upon me" Miss Havisham says, about her death, which is on her mind particularly today--or at least to the point that Pip learns about it. Because it is her birthday, she may be more noxious than usual, if that is possible.

I wondered if Estella gave Pip permission to kiss her because she is "turned on" by violence.

Another very disturbing chapter. I think that depictions of the 19th century child are filled with trauma, violence, and the kinds of things that contemporary parents try to protect their own children from.

Kafkaesque indeed, to echo several others here.


message 11: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim Here are the illustrations.




"It's a great cake. A bride-cake. Mine!"

John McLenan

1860

Harper's Weekly

Text Illustrated:

"I crossed the staircase landing, and entered the room she indicated.
From that room, too, the daylight was completely excluded, and it had an
airless smell that was oppressive. A fire had been lately kindled in
the damp old-fashioned grate, and it was more disposed to go out than
to burn up, and the reluctant smoke which hung in the room seemed colder
than the clearer air,--like our own marsh mist. Certain wintry branches
of candles on the high chimney-piece faintly lighted the chamber; or it
would be more expressive to say, faintly troubled its darkness. It was
spacious, and I dare say had once been handsome, but every discernible
thing in it was covered with dust and mould, and dropping to pieces. The
most prominent object was a long table with a tablecloth spread on it,
as if a feast had been in preparation when the house and the clocks all
stopped together. An epergne or centre-piece of some kind was in the
middle of this cloth; it was so heavily overhung with cobwebs that its
form was quite undistinguishable; and, as I looked along the yellow
expanse out of which I remember its seeming to grow, like a black
fungus, I saw speckle-legged spiders with blotchy bodies running home
to it, and running out from it, as if some circumstances of the greatest
public importance had just transpired in the spider community.

I heard the mice too, rattling behind the panels, as if the same
occurrence were important to their interests. But the black beetles took
no notice of the agitation, and groped about the hearth in a ponderous
elderly way, as if they were short-sighted and hard of hearing, and not
on terms with one another.

These crawling things had fascinated my attention, and I was watching
them from a distance, when Miss Havisham laid a hand upon my shoulder.
In her other hand she had a crutch-headed stick on which she leaned, and
she looked like the Witch of the place.

"This," said she, pointing to the long table with her stick, "is where I
will be laid when I am dead. They shall come and look at me here."

With some vague misgiving that she might get upon the table then and
there and die at once, the complete realization of the ghastly waxwork
at the Fair, I shrank under her touch.

"What do you think that is?" she asked me, again pointing with her
stick; "that, where those cobwebs are?"

"I can't guess what it is, ma'am."

"It's a great cake. A bride-cake. Mine!"



message 12: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim

"He said, 'Aha! would you?' and began dancing backward and forward"

Chapter 11

F. A. Fraser.

1877

Household Edition

Text Illustrated:

"When I had exhausted the garden and a greenhouse with nothing in it but
a fallen-down grape-vine and some bottles, I found myself in the dismal
corner upon which I had looked out of the window. Never questioning for
a moment that the house was now empty, I looked in at another window,
and found myself, to my great surprise, exchanging a broad stare with a
pale young gentleman with red eyelids and light hair.

This pale young gentleman quickly disappeared, and reappeared beside me.
He had been at his books when I had found myself staring at him, and I
now saw that he was inky.

"Halloa!" said he, "young fellow!"

Halloa being a general observation which I had usually observed to
be best answered by itself, I said, "Halloa!" politely omitting young
fellow.

"Who let you in?" said he.

"Miss Estella."

"Who gave you leave to prowl about?"

"Miss Estella."

"Come and fight," said the pale young gentleman.

What could I do but follow him? I have often asked myself the question
since; but what else could I do? His manner was so final, and I was
so astonished, that I followed where he led, as if I had been under a
spell.

"Stop a minute, though," he said, wheeling round before we had gone many
paces. "I ought to give you a reason for fighting, too. There it is!"
In a most irritating manner he instantly slapped his hands against one
another, daintily flung one of his legs up behind him, pulled my hair,
slapped his hands again, dipped his head, and butted it into my stomach.

The bull-like proceeding last mentioned, besides that it was
unquestionably to be regarded in the light of a liberty, was
particularly disagreeable just after bread and meat. I therefore hit out
at him and was going to hit out again, when he said, "Aha! Would you?"
and began dancing backwards and forwards in a manner quite unparalleled
within my limited experience."



message 13: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim

"An Unexpected Pleasure For Pip"

Harry Furniss

1910

Dicken's Library Edition

Text Illustrated:

"When I got into the courtyard, I found Estella waiting with the keys.
But she neither asked me where I had been, nor why I had kept her
waiting; and there was a bright flush upon her face, as though something
had happened to delight her. Instead of going straight to the gate, too,
she stepped back into the passage, and beckoned me.

"Come here! You may kiss me, if you like."

I kissed her cheek as she turned it to me. I think I would have gone
through a great deal to kiss her cheek. But I felt that the kiss was
given to the coarse common boy as a piece of money might have been, and
that it was worth nothing.

What with the birthday visitors, and what with the cards, and what with
the fight, my stay had lasted so long, that when I neared home the light
on the spit of sand off the point on the marshes was gleaming against
a black night-sky, and Joe's furnace was flinging a path of fire across
the road."



message 14: by Kim (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kim

Pip and Miss Havisham

Chapter 11

Charles Green

Gadshill Edition

The Annotated Dickens provides the following caption, which is not in the original Gadshill Edition:

Miss Havisham laid a hand upon my shoulder. In her other hand she had a crutch-headed stick on which she leaned, and she looked like the Witch of the place.

"This," said she pointing to the long table with her stick, "is where I shall be laid when I am dead. They shall come and look at me here." [Chapter 11]


Text Illustrated:

"She held the head of her stick against her heart as she stood looking
at the table; she in her once white dress, all yellow and withered; the
once white cloth all yellow and withered; everything around in a state
to crumble under a touch.

"When the ruin is complete," said she, with a ghastly look, "and when
they lay me dead, in my bride's dress on the bride's table,--which shall
be done, and which will be the finished curse upon him,--so much the
better if it is done on this day!"

She stood looking at the table as if she stood looking at her own figure
lying there. I remained quiet. Estella returned, and she too remained
quiet. It seemed to me that we continued thus for a long time. In
the heavy air of the room, and the heavy darkness that brooded in its
remoter corners, I even had an alarming fancy that Estella and I might
presently begin to decay."



message 15: by Peter (last edited Jan 30, 2017 01:27PM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Peter As always, thank you Kim for the illustrations.

I am impressed with the John McLenan "It's a great cake. A bride-cake. Mine!" I found the illustration captured the image of Miss Havisham I have in my mind very well. We have been discussing the age of Miss Havisham and in this illustration I feel there is an answer. The answer is indeterminate. How gaunt she looks, how tall and whispy. Her whitish dress is a perfect counterpoint to the dark clothes of Pip. She seems aged, perhaps ageless?

There is a faint spider's nest to the top left of the cake which further enhances the illustration. I also like the way McLenan has Miss Havisham slightly leaning over Pip. She is a Spector.

The Harry Furniss "An Unexpected Pleasure For Pip" has a very effective, and could it be, suggestive composition? Estella is standing in an open doorway that frames her body and reveals the detritus of the brewery, and, by extension, the ruin of the entire Satis House. Pip is on the outside of the door, to the right, and thus his background is of an outside stone wall of Satis House. Is this binary "ruin-substance" image one of foreshadowing? Does it suggest Pip is an outsider and will never be allowed into the heart of Estella?

We shall see ...


message 16: by Jonathan (last edited Jan 31, 2017 03:42AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
Natalie wrote: "They will "come to feast upon me" Miss Havisham says, about her death, which is on her mind particularly today--"

This is a leitmotif of Dickens if you look at his works as a whole. The sniveling could-be heirs reared their ugly head at the beginning of Martin Chuzzlewit. This turned into a major theme in that work. I am trying to recall if this theme shows up in any other works.


Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
Natalie wrote: "I wondered if Estella gave Pip permission to kiss her because she is "turned on" by violence."

That's an interesting idea. I am not convinced that she was genuine about this. If she indeed did this of her own volition, I wonder if this "turn on" is what prompted her. She certainly seems like a dark character, a foil of sorts of the older Miss Havisham.


message 18: by Jonathan (last edited Jan 31, 2017 03:50AM) (new) - rated it 5 stars

Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
Kim wrote: "An Unexpected Pleasure For Pip"

Harry Furniss, 1910"


Pip looks taller and somewhat older in this pic. Did we ever find out how old he is? When he first leaves for Miss Havisham's, he recalls that it must have been exactly one year after he met his convict, but I do not recall any details more specific than that.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) The descriptions of Miss Havisham in this chapter -- like her withered hand -- makes me think she's a bit beyond her 40s. I still don't see an unreliable narrator here.


Jenine (_jenine) I believe she was in her seventies... but it doesn't really matter.


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) Perhaps I should rethink my thoughts on the unreliable narrator. The fight. Pip's opponent is taller, yet Pip floors him twice, three times (with counter punches?). Now where did Pip learn that? Rather out of character. Interesting.


Jenine (_jenine) Why, it IS interesting... It looks as if Pip had got a flash of sudden strength! I mean, he never had a fight before, had he? No, unless it wasn't written in the book!


Jenine (_jenine) Another thing... Estella had asked Pip to kiss her, I don't quite understand; She saw the fight and so...


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) Right. I take it as encouragement, her thinking he's fighting over her. On the other hand, she might just be lifting his hopes to crush him later. She doesn't sound like she likes him. Or maybe that's a form of 1st crush.


Jenine (_jenine) That's what I thought the first time I read the book years ago!


Xan Shadowflutter (shadowflutter) Yup! But maybe its a little of both. So long since I read it, I don't trust my memory.


Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "The descriptions of Miss Havisham in this chapter -- like her withered hand -- makes me think she's a bit beyond her 40s. I still don't see an unreliable narrator here."

I've never considered Pip an unreliable narrator. If he is, I don't think it is on purpose. It is that our childhood memories are unreliable. I believe we will find out she is even younger than her forties. But, as Pip saw her, she seemed much older, probably in her seventies, like Jenine suggested.


Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
Xan Shadowflutter wrote: "Perhaps I should rethink my thoughts on the unreliable narrator. The fight. Pip's opponent is taller, yet Pip floors him twice, three times (with counter punches?). Now where did Pip learn that? Ra..."

This is not beyond the realm of possibility. When I was in grade school, I was challenged to three fights. I was not a fighter at all. The three kids who wanted to fight me, not all at once, this was spread over several years, were expert fighters. I was 3-0. I am tiny. No one thought I would win. Somehow, I beat those bigger kids up. Plus, Pip has worked hard with his hands and endured some beatings by his sister's hand. This tends to toughen a kid up a bit.


Jonathan Moran | 666 comments Mod
Jenine wrote: "Another thing... Estella had asked Pip to kiss her, I don't quite understand; She saw the fight and so..."

We know how she treats Pip. Then, all of a sudden, she asks for a kiss. Serious questions here. Time will tell. As a young man, I would say, "Yes!" Now that I am older, I would say, "Pip, be careful!"


Jenine (_jenine) Hh, I quite agree with you. :)


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