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Free Study Guide-Great Expectations by Charles Dickens-Free BookNotes
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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES

CHAPTER 8

Summary

That night Pip stays with Mr. Pumblechook. The next morning he is taken to Miss Havisham's grand mansion, The Satis House. The house, with its rusty doors and windows, is a dismal sight. The courtyard is barred from inside. A useless brewery stands off to the side of the dilapidated monument that is the old lady's home.

The sour young lady who greets them at the gate admits only Pip, whom she leads to the parlor. It is a dark room lighted with candles. There, Miss Havisham is dressed in rich garments that must have once been bridal finery. Now they are old and faded, and hang loosely on her body. To Pip, the old lady seems like "a ghastly wax work" and "a skeleton in the ashes." She tells Pip she is old and heart-broken, that she never goes outside, and that she has called him here to play with her adopted daughter Estella (the girl who answered the door).

She calls for Estella and commands the two to play cards. Estella, who is both beautiful and proud, plays with Pip scornfully, noting his impoverished appearance. She defeats him at cards and continually insults him by pointing out his "common-ness." When they are finished, Estella gives him bread, meat, and beer, and Miss Havisham instructs him to return in six days. Pip returns home to Joe and Mrs. Joe, embarrassed and confused.


Notes

This chapter is of extreme importance in the development of Pip's character. Pip is overwhelmed by the gloom of Satis House, but Estella shines like a beacon. She is young and beautiful, and Pip is inexplicably drawn to her. So when she reacts to him so negatively, full of insults and disdain, Pip is crushed. To Estella, he is beneath respect. She makes fun of everything about him, even his boots, and takes delight in attacking his pride. Pip is left feeling embarrassed and helpless, ashamed of his own existence. It is such a strong, helpless feeling Pip can only kick the wall in frustration. This vented anger is over the injustice of being treated like a dog simply because he is common. It is because of Estella's cruel snubs that young Pip becomes ashamed of his own common-ness. The desire to be "uncommon" is born and follows him most of his life.

Pip contemplates the injustice of life, since he has no choice in his upbringing. First Mrs. Joe and now Estella seem to blame him for his lowly position. The injustice overwhelms him at first, then simply makes him angry. The chapter ends with his determination to make of himself something strong enough to combat the injustice.

CHAPTER 9

Summary

Pip returns home to face the curious questions of Mrs. Joe and Mr. Pumblechook. Pip is reluctant to share his day with them, and invents a fantastic story about gold and silver, about majestic dogs fighting over fine food on silver plates, and a game with flags. His listeners are rapt with attention and fascination. Later, Pip confesses to Joe that all that he said was a lie. He tells Joe what really happened and asks why he must be so "common." Joe is saddened by the story and by his young friend's experience. He asks Pip not to lie again.

Notes

Pip's fantastic tale is in part to thwart the intrusive inquiries of his sister and Mr. Pumblechook, since he finds both of them bothersome and noisy. But it is also in part derived from his own feeling of shame -- a feeling Estella provoked in him that he cannot shake. It is obvious how deeply the disappointing feeling of unimportance has taken root in Pip's young heart. He seems determined to overcome his social commonness. He voices his grief to Joe, who simply consoles him by explaining that his goodness makes him uncommon. In response to Pip's lie (to Mrs. Joe and Pumblechook) Joe tells him it is more important to be uncommon in honest ways than in crooked ones.

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