Not long after his encounter with the mysterious man in the pub, Pip is taken back to Miss Havisham’s, where he is paraded in front of a group of fawning, insincere relatives visiting the dowager on her birthday. He encounters a large, dark man on the stairs, who criticizes him. He again plays cards with Estella, then goes to the garden, where he is asked to fight by a pale young gentleman. Pip knocks the young gentleman down, and Estella allows him to give her a kiss on the cheek. He returns home, ashamed that Estella looks down on him.
Pip worries that he will be punished for fighting, but the incident goes unmentioned during his next visit to Miss Havisham’s. He continues to visit regularly for the next several months, pushing Miss Havisham around in her wheelchair, relishing his time with Estella, and becoming increasingly hopeful that Miss Havisham means to raise him from his low social standing and give him a gentleman’s fortune. Because he is preoccupied with his hopes, he fails to notice that Miss Havisham encourages Estella to torment him, whispering “Break their hearts!” in her ear. Partially because of his elevated hopes for his own social standing, Pip begins to grow apart from his family, confiding in Biddy instead of Joe and often feeling ashamed that Joe is “common.” One day at Satis House, Miss Havisham offers to help with the papers that would officially make Pip Joe’s apprentice, and Pip is devastated to realize that she never meant to make him a gentleman.
Joe visits Satis House to complete Pip’s apprenticeship papers; with his rough speech and crude appearance, he seems horribly out of place in the Gothic mansion. Estella laughs at him and at Pip. Miss Havisham gives Pip a gift of twenty-five pounds, and Pip and Joe go to Town Hall to confirm the apprenticeship. Joe and Mrs. Joe take Pip out to celebrate with Pumblechook and Mr. Wopsle, but Pip is surly and angry, keenly disappointed by this turn in his life.
Where the earlier sections of the novel focused very closely on short spans of time, this section covers several months and is mostly concerned with Pip’s general development from an innocent boy to an ambitious young man. The themes of ambition and social advancement are central to this development, as Pip increasingly uses his ambiguous relationship with Miss Havisham as a pretext for believing that the old woman intends him to marry Estella. The consequence of Pip’s intensifying social ambition is that he loses some of his innocence and becomes detached from his natural, sympathetic kindness. In the early chapters of the novel, Pip sympathized with the convict, despite the threat the man posed to his safety. Now, Pip is unable to sympathize even with Joe, the most caring figure in his life. Because he loves Estella, Pip has come to value what Estella seems to value, and when Joe visits Satis House in Chapter 13, Pip is mortified by his rough manners and poor clothes. They now seem out of place even to Pip, a measure of the extent to which he has adapted to life at Miss Havisham’s house during his months of regular visits.
Miss Havisham herself, with her maniacal energy and her inscrutable motives, is a frightening creature to Pip. Despite her wedding dress (an outfit that symbolizes hope, regeneration, and renewal), he constantly thinks of her as a symbol of death, describing her as a “skeleton” and picturing her hanging from a gallows. Her insane behavior—traipsing around her house in a wedding dress, with a wedding feast on her table and all the clocks stopped—will soon be explained, but for now it simply adds to her mysterious and powerful dramatic presence. Surely a woman this eccentric wouldn’t be above transforming an orphan boy into a gentleman, he thinks. With this line of thinking, the first of Pip’s “great expectations” creeps into his life.
The title of the novel, of course, refers to Pip’s hopes for social advancement and romantic success with Estella. The sight of something finer than what he himself has makes him intensely desire it, and he fiercely clings to his hopes of being elevated and married to Estella. He even ignores more realistic hopes, using his relationship with Biddy only to improve his education and his chances with Estella. He has little reaction to realistic dangers, as we saw earlier, when he was nonplussed by his encounter with the mysterious stranger in Chapter 10. His thoughts are for Estella alone.