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

CHAPTERS 15 - 16

Summary

Against Joe's better wishes, Pip takes half a day off from work to visit Miss Havisham. Orlick, Joe's employee, is jealous and requests half a day off as well. When Joe grants it, Mrs. Joe interrupts and this leads to a quarrel between her and Orlick, and subsequently between Orlick and Mrs. Joe. Pip goes to Miss Havisham's only to discover Estella is away in France, being educated as a lady.

Upon arrival at his home, Pip discovers that someone has broken in and injured Mrs. Joe. A leg-iron that was long ago filed away lies on the ground next to her, and she is permanently brain-damaged. She is bedridden, hearing-impaired, and unable to speak. Biddy moves in to be her nurse and look after Joe and Pip.

Notes

The story takes an unprecedented turn with the near-fatal wounding of Mrs. Joe. Her incapacity to do work and impaired senses create a lot of stress in the household until Biddy comes to stay. Then she becomes an invaluable member of the family. Joe finds a consoler in her and Pip finds a close entrusted friend. Biddy also takes up the responsibility of taking care of Mrs. Joe. One good thing about the accident is that it makes Mrs. Joe a much nicer person. She is suddenly patient and bearable. She even apologizes to Orlick and becomes kind and gentle at heart.


The perpetrator of the evil deed is not found, but to his own horror, Pip suspects the convict he long ago freed. He is glad that Biddy has joined them and he admires the way she conducts herself about the house and helps in his learning.

CHAPTER 17

Summary

Pip visits Miss. Havisham on his birthday, having been encouraged by the reception he received last time. The old lady gives him a guinea, which he invests in buying books. These visits to Miss Havisham's house only serve to make Pip more aware of his discontentment with his present life; he becomes increasingly frustrated. One day Pip confesses to Biddy that he wants to become a gentleman in order to win Estella's love. Biddy wisely replies that if it is necessary to change in order to win a woman's love, then the woman is not worth it. Pip says things would be so much simpler if he were in love with Biddy instead of Estella.

Notes

This chapter is solely dedicated to Pip's struggle for contentment. He finds himself longing for things he cannot or does not have. Biddy is a faithful friend, pragmatic and honest with Pip. She reminds him that one should not have to change to be loved. Even Pip, in his lovesick discontent, realizes that things could be so perfect if he could love Biddy and enjoy working with Joe. Instead, he is consumed by thoughts of Estella and by the knowledge of his own inability to please her, since he is not her kind of person.

CHAPTER 18

Summary

In the fourth year of his apprenticeship to Joe, the lawyer, Mr. Jaggers, presents himself and tells Joe and Pip that an anonymous patron wants to bestow his huge property on Pip; as a result, Pip will be trained to become a gentleman. At present, the patron of this phenomenal gift wishes to remain anonymous. Jaggers goes on to say that Pip will live in London and receive his education under the tutelage of Mr. Matthew Pocket. The news is shocking, and Pip is overwhelmed. At first, he is torn between leaving Joe and Biddy; but his "great expectations" overwhelm him and he decides to go.

Notes

Although Pip's ambition of becoming a gentleman is about to be fulfilled, he feels guilty about leaving Joe and Biddy. This guilt leads to a struggle in Pip's mind. He realizes that Mr. Jaggers, the lawyer, is the same man whom he had seen in Miss Havisham's house and he had heard about Matthew Pocket from a relative of Miss Havisham. He deduces that his patron is none other than the old lady and is honored by the thought. As well, he thinks it is a sign that his dreams of being with Estella will be fulfilled. Joe and Biddy despair that they are losing Pip; but they are kind-hearted and generous to a fault and would never deny Pip the opportunity to become uncommon.

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