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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Barron's Booknotes
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CHAPTERS 25 & 26

In these two chapters, we get an idea of Pip's widening social
circle.

First, Pip describes his fellow students; Drummle he finds
thoroughly unpleasant, while Startop is weak but inoffensive.
Both have had inadequate parents and neglected educations.
There's an echo of Orlick in the way Drummle slouches and
hides in the shadows. He's the only real aristocrat we meet in
this book; this doesn't make the upper classes come off very
well.

Pip describes these two, and the Pocket cousins, in hard clear-
sighted terms. He's just as hard on himself, admitting he's a
spendthrift, and refusing to take credit for doing well at his
studies (just as he wouldn't take credit for doing well at the
forge). Pip is still dissatisfied, quicker to note his own faults
than anyone else's. Yet he responds to the good in Herbert,
Matthew Pocket, and Wemmick. Pip reminds Wemmick of his
dinner invitation, showing he wants to make friends.

Wemmick at first confirms our view of him, as he hard-
headedly previews the menu. Yet by the time Pip and
Wemmick reach his home, the clerk's values have turned inside
out. His nutty little gothic cottage, with all its daily rituals, is
totally inefficient-and that's the glory of it. The lake is purely
ornamental, the garden paths twist around for no reason, and
Wemmick has spent years creating all this. Wemmick's home
life is so different from his office life, he draws a sharp
division between them. He protects his home by a moat and
battlements from the threatening world outside. He even seems
prepared for a siege, with his own garden and livestock. Some
readers think he's smart to escape from Jaggers' business.
Others, however, think he lacks the integrity to live a consistent
life. As you read, watch how the halves of his life fit together.



Pip enjoys his evening at Wemmick's, and doesn't complain
about the dry-rot taste of the dinner or the cramped bedroom he
sleeps in. Though the cottage is stuffed with curiosities,
everything is neatly in place, including the most important
element-family affection. Wemmick and his "Aged Parent" are
one of the book's few examples of a loving parent and child.

Jaggers' house, which Pip visits next, is quite different. Like
Wemmick, Jaggers tries to get rid of the office's stain; he
furiously washes himself at the end of the day. But Jaggers'
mind doesn't change. His house is full of law books and he
often brings work home. His home, like his personality, is dark,
heavy, repressed, morbid; the wall carvings even look like
nooses. Wemmick pours energy into making his home grow,
but Jaggers uses his energy to keep everything under rigid
control. He won't give out his address, but leads Pip and his
friends there. At dinner he himself serves everyone, afterwards
dropping their dirty dishes fastidiously into a basket.

The atmosphere drifts into melodrama. Jaggers' housekeeper,
with her streaming hair and haunted face, is like a tragic
heroine, Lady Macbeth. When Jaggers shows off her powerful
wrists, it's a display of his own strength, that he can imprison
such a woman. She is the opposite of Wemmick's weak,
helpless, but beloved Aged Parent.

Jaggers casts an antisocial mood around him. Though Pip lists
several delicious dishes, he doesn't really enjoy the meal. All
the guests show off their worst sides, and an ugly argument
arises between Drummle and Pip. At Wemmick's, the gun was
shot at nine o'clock for fun, not to mark time; at Jaggers', the
host's pocketwatch is pulled out strictly at 9:30 and guests are
sent home. After they leave, Jaggers scrubs up again, as though
his guests disgust him as much as his clients do. When Pip
returns, Jaggers warns him to avoid Drummle, though Jaggers
likes him; we sense Jaggers is drawn to the evil side of human
nature.

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