Great Expectations

by: Charles Dickens

Pip

It was much upon my mind (particularly when I first saw him looking about for his file) that I ought to tell Joe the whole truth. Yet I did not, and for the reason that I mistrusted that if I did, he would think me worse than I was. The fear of losing Joe’s confidence … tied up my tongue.

Throughout his life, Pip is very concerned both with doing the right thing and with being believed to do the right thing. Unfortunately, his sister and many of her friends are constantly accusing Pip of being a bad child. The one person who believes in Pip’s basic goodness is Joe. Pip reveals he won’t risk losing Joe’s good opinion by telling him the truth.

What I wanted, who can say? How can I say, when I never knew? What I dreaded was, that in some unlucky hour, I, being at my grimiest and commonest, should lift up my eyes and see Estella looking in at one of the wooden windows of the forge. I was haunted by the fear that she would … exult over me and despise me.

Here, Pip reveals his fear that Estella should see him as base and low class. After being exposed to life in Miss Havisham’s mansion, and more importantly, to Estella’s mockery and disdain, Pip starts his apprenticeship to Joe. Pip had been looking forward to becoming a blacksmith, but now wants to be something more “genteel.”

I asked myself the question whether I did not surely know that if Estella were beside me at that moment instead of Biddy, she would make me miserable? I was obliged to admit that I did know it for a certainty, and I said to myself, “Pip, what a fool you are!”

Throughout his long years of love for Estella, Pip has the self-awareness to realize that loving her is a thankless task. Still, he does so anyway. This devotion to Estella means he misses out on the possibility of love with Biddy, a girl of his own class who is kind, understanding, and smart. However, his selflessness in loving without hope ends up, many years later, making a strong impression on both Miss Havisham and Estella.

I had neither the good sense nor the good feeling to know that this was all my fault, and that if I had been easier with Joe, Joe would have been easier with me. I felt impatient of him and out of temper with him; in which condition he heaped coals of fire on my head.

Joe has come to visit Pip in London. He is keen not to embarrass Pip, but his discomfort at being out of his element results in awkward and backwards behavior that annoys Pip. Here, Pip realizes that he himself was at fault for Joe’s discomfort. As an adult, Pip has many regrets about how he looked down on and neglected Joe during those first years after Pip’s class status changed.

“Biddy,” said I, “I made a remark respecting my coming down here often, to see Joe, which you received with a marked silence. Have the goodness, Biddy, to tell me why.”

After Mrs. Joe’s funeral, Pip declares that he will of course look after Joe, and Biddy seems to disbelieve him. Pip is highly offended that she would doubt his sincerity. However, as the adult Pip narrating the story makes clear, Pip did neglect Joe in favor of his “gentlemanly” pursuits in the first few years after Mrs. Joe’s death. This reality reveals young Pip to be a hypocrite who makes some bad choices.

Day by day as his hopes grew stronger and his face brighter, he must have thought me a more and more affectionate friend, for I had the greatest difficulty in restraining my tears of triumph when I saw him so happy. At length the thing being done, … I did really cry in good earnest when I went to bed, to think that my expectations had done some good to somebody.

Pip concocted a plan to secretly assist his friend Herbert in getting a job. Reflecting on his plan’s success, Pip’s goodness shines through. Pip later recalls this project, “The only good thing I had done, …since I was first apprised of my great expectations.” Pip enjoys the fact that he helped his friend but also the fact that Herbert believes he got the job on his own merits.

The abhorrence in which I held the man, the dread I had of him, the repugnance with which I shrank from him, could not have been exceeded if he had been some terrible beast.

Pip learns that Magwitch is the source of Pip’s “great expectations.” Pip’s horror at this news springs from first revulsion and then dismay. He knows Magwitch as a frightening, coarse criminal. The idea that Pip now needs to feel grateful to him is difficult to grasp. If Magwitch is his patron then Miss Havisham is not, and all Pip’s ideas about her plans for himself and Estella are nothing more than wishful thinking.

I would not have gone back to Joe now, I would not have gone back to Biddy now, for any consideration: simply, I suppose, because my sense of my own worthless conduct to them was greater than every consideration. No wisdom on earth could have given me the comfort that I should have derived from their simplicity and fidelity; but I could never, never, never, undo what I had done.

Pip considers his options now that he believes he cannot continue taking money from Magwitch. He is mortified that such a person was his secret patron. Discovering that the money came from Magwitch rather than Miss Havisham causes Pip to see being “made” a gentleman as meaningless and perhaps worthless. However, he feels that returning home is not an option either. He suddenly sees that he has treated Joe and Biddy badly by abandoning them.

I had quite determined that it would be a heartless fraud to take more money from my patron in the existing state of my uncertain thoughts and plans. Therefore, I had sent him the unopened pocket-book by Herbert, to hold in his own keeping, and I felt a kind of satisfaction—whether it was a false kind or a true, I hardly know—in not having profited by his generosity since his revelation of himself.

Pip explains his discomfort with the fact that Magwitch has been his secret patron and his intention to break off that relationship once Magwitch gets safely out of England. By sending back the pocket-book to Magwitch, Pip is depriving himself of the money he could access with it. He’s unsure whether he is truly happy to deprive himself, or just proud of his own self-denial.

I imparted to Mr. Jaggers my design of keeping him in ignorance of the fate of his wealth. Mr. Jaggers was querulous and angry with me for having “let it slip through my fingers,” and said we must memorialise by-and-by, and try at all events for some of it…. I had no claim, and I finally resolved, and ever afterwards abided by the resolution, that my heart should never be sickened with the hopeless task of attempting to establish one.

When Magwitch is convicted of returning to England after being barred for life, his fortune is forfeit to the government. Here, Pip explains why he declines the lawyer Jaggers’s attempt to make a claim for it on Pip’s behalf. At this point, Pip’s lack of interest in the money is less because of his disgust at its originating from Magwitch, and more a sense that he never deserved the unexpected rise in fortune.