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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Barron's Booknotes
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CHAPTERS 58 & 59

Returning to Rochester, Pip finds all his old dreams
dismantled. At the hotel, he's treated like a nobody because he
isn't rich anymore. Satis House is all marked up and pulled
apart in preparation for an auction. Pumblechook tracks Pip
down so he can patronize him in his misfortune.

At first, Pip puts up with Pumblechook with the same sort of
quiet resignation he has shown towards the other changes. But
Pumblechook's air of pity and condescension is too much for
Pip. Watch how his irritation grows, until finally he bursts out
rudely. Pumblechook brings up too many sore memories: how
badly Pip treated Joe, how much more loving Pip's real
benefactor Magwitch was. Pip's reaction may show: 1) he's still
not completely reformed; 2) he's reformed, but he's still got
enough spirit to resent a gross hypocrite like Pumblechook; or
3) his scorn and impatience will always be a part of him; he's
learning to control them, but he'll never be perfect.

Pip escapes into the healthier climate of the spring countryside,
which reflects his regenerated spirit. But as Magwitch pointed
out, life's a river that keeps on flowing. Pip presumes he can
pick up with these people where he left them. He's first
disappointed that Biddy's not in her schoolhouse; next he's
surprised to find Joe's forge quiet and empty. Then he sees Joe
and Biddy and learns they've just gotten married. Just as with
Herbert, Pip's been too selfish to notice the hints about their
relationship. Now, in a turnabout of the day Pip learned about
his expectations, Joe and Biddy have good news and Pip has to
pretend to be happy for them. He generously wishes them well,
but he immediately decides to leave the country and take the
job with Herbert. How do you think Pip is feeling? Your
answer will depend in part on whether you think he really loves
Biddy. Some readers think his heart's broken, and he's running
away from it. Others say it's only his pride that has been hurt,
and he's trying to save face. And still others say he goes away
because he still has to suffer more to earn happiness.



Now we leap ahead eleven years. Pip summarizes what's
happened to him: he has learned to work hard and to be content
with a modest but honest living, and he has become partners
with Herbert and Clarriker. Finally returning to England, he
visits Joe and Biddy. He seems resigned, content to treat Biddy
and Joe's son as his "son." The mood is melancholy,
reminiscent of the December evening in the graveyard where
we began. But though Pip tells Biddy that he has accepted his
role as an old bachelor, he's not entirely convincing. He feels
Biddy's wedding-ring when he squeezes her hand. She asks,
about Estella, and he falters when he says he has gotten over
her.

At this point, Dickens originally wrote a different ending. In
this first version, Pip learns that Drummle treated Estella badly,
but he died, and she then married a country doctor who treated
her better. Pip runs into her in London, where he gathers that
she has grown to have a heart and regrets how she treated him.
On the advice of a fellow writer, Dickens changed that ending.

In the final version-the one you have-that night Pip slips away
from Joe and Biddy to go gaze nostalgically at where Satis
House used to stand. He has heard that Estella was unhappy
with Drummle, but that he recently died. By coincidence (or
fate), Estella is walking in the old ruined garden that evening
too.

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