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Great Expectations


The Author
Chapters 1-6
Chapters 7-12
Chapters 13-17
Chapters 18-19
Chapters 20-24
Chapters 25-28
Chapters 29-39
Chapters 40-45
Chapters 46-51
Chapters 52-59



Satis House

(Chapters 7 – 12)


At seven, Pip is not old enough to be apprenticed in Joe’s forge, but Mrs. Joe ensures that he is kept busy with odd jobs around the district, and any money he receives she keeps. He also attends an evening school run by Mr. Wopsle’s great aunt who falls asleep during lessons and they are taken over by Biddy, a fellow orphan, like Pip, and the woman’s granddaughter. Pip learns quickly and when he shows Joe a letter that he has written, he is surprised to find that Joe cannot read or write. Joe explains that he had to work from an early age in order to support his family and had no time for school.

He explains how lonely he was when his parents died and how happy he was to have Pip’s sister join him at the forge.  Pip says that he will help Joe with his letters.  He agrees, providing that Mrs. Joe doesn’t find out because she would feel threatened by his improvement.  Word is received that Pip is to go to Miss Havisham’s to play with her adopted daughter.  Miss Havisham is a wealthy, but reclusive woman and Mrs. Joe hopes there will be financial gain from this arrangement. 

Pip is to be sent into town to spend the night at Pumblechook’s and see Miss Havisham in the morning.  Pip meets Miss Havisham who is dressed in an old wedding gown and says that her heart is broken and that she has not seen the sun since before Pip was born.The house has not been touched since her wedding day; all the clocks are stopped at the time when her wedding was cancelled.  He meets Estella, the proud and haughty adopted daughter of Miss Havisham. She delights in humiliating Pip, calling him a common laboring boy with coarse hands.

Miss Havisham taunts Pip with Estella’s beauty and encourages her to break Pip’s heart.Pip is told to return in six days and then he is taken aside and fed like a dog.  Pip feels very hurt and angry and expels his fury by kicking the wall and pulling at his hair. 

When he returns home, his sister wishes to know everything about the visit, so he makes up a story, as he doesn’t think they will appreciate the truth. However, he tells Joe what really happened and Joe tells Pip that lies don’t work and he should think about what he has done when he says his prayers.  Pip blames Joe for his own commonness and roughness.

One evening in the local inn Pip notices a stranger watching him.  The stranger stirs his drink with a file, the same file Pip stole for the convict on the marshes. Pip knows the man has been sent by Magwitch.   As the man leaves, he gives Pip a shilling wrapped in old paper.  When Pip and Joe go home, they discover that the old paper is 2 x '1 notes. Mrs. Joe sets the money aside and that night, Pip is haunted by dreams of convicts, files etc.

On one of his regular visits to Miss Havisham’s, Pip meets her strange relatives. They pretend to be concerned about Miss Havisham’s welfare, but they are waiting for her death in order that they can inherit her wealth.  Again, Estella taunts Pip and when he responds by saying that she is not as insulting as last time, she slaps him hard, trying to make him cry. He tells her that he will never cry for her.

While there, Pip also meets a large burly man who advised him to behave himself.   Miss Havisham has Pip walk her round the dining room, which contains the wedding feast.  The table is covered by a rotting wedding cake crawling with bugs. Pip is then sent outside to have his food and he meets a pale young gentleman and they proceed to have a fight. Estella is delighted at two males fighting over her and she rewards the winner, Pip, with a kiss.

The visits to Satis House continue every alternate day for around nine months and a regular pattern emerges where they will play cards and Miss Havisham will taunt Pip with Estella’s beauty. Pip is able to tell nobody about these visits except Biddy.

One day Joe is requested to attend with Pip as Miss Havisham wishes to set him up in apprenticeship.  Mrs. Joe is furious that she has not been invited. 


The author takes this opportunity to lambaste the educational system through his description of the night school that Pip attends.

He also criticizes child labor and they way in which families used their children in order to obtain financial gain.

These are subjects that Dickens knows from first-hand experience having received a limited education and having to work to support his own family.

Dickens uses descriptive passages to paint the scene inside Satis House, the home of Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham is described as corpse-like, similar to waxwork and resembling a skeleton.Pip is burdened by guilt, gratitude, commonness and secrecy from the adults he comes into contact with.Mrs. Joe continually reminds him of the burden he is, which makes him grateful that they took him in.

Miss Havisham and Estella continually remind him how common he is. When they play cards they ridicule him for calling knaves ‘jacks’. He is forced to keep secrets from both Joe and Georgiana regarding the events at Satis House and he cannot tell Mrs. Joe that he is helping to educate Joe.

Satis House is a fantasy world with Miss Havisham as the witch and Estella as the beautiful princess. Although Pip did not like the experience of visiting Miss Havisham, he realizes that he cannot escape going there again and, therefore, to make it easier, he creates this fantasy world that is Satis House. The pull that this house will have on Pip will increase as the story develops.  Pip is not very complimentary regarding Biddy, but she is the only adult that can improve Pip’s position, so he selfishly uses this relationship. 

Despite his lack of education Joe is depicted as a genuine, fair man and one of the purest characters in the story. He is mindful that Mrs. Joe will feel undermined if he becomes educated, so any lessons he has with Pip must be kept a secret. Joe has a unique ability to see past people’s faults and see only their good points.  This is another important feature that will have repercussions in the future.  Pip feels anger towards Joe because of his coarseness.  His anger is caused by his visit to Satis House where he was hurt by Estella’s treatment.

The interactions between Pip, Miss Havisham and Estella, are key elements in the story.  Miss Havisham is a hard woman who wears her emotional scars like a badge of honor. Time stopped for her the minute her wedding was cancelled. Her only objective in life is now to wreak revenge on all males.  Pip notices this when Miss Havisham tells Estella to break his heart. Estella is like a bright light and he is like a moth drawn to it.  He wants to please her and feels trapped and drawn to the flame.  He is hooked, admiring the unattainable princess while she rejects him.

Pip is carrying an ever-increasing number of secrets.  The theft of food for the convict, now some years ago, re-emerges when he sees the man in the inn. Pip feels that he is tainted due to his connections with the criminal element.  He is also ashamed of getting into a fight with the young gentleman at Satis House, especially beating him, but at least he got the reward of a kiss from Estella.     Under normal circumstances, Pip would have been grateful to Miss Havisham for sponsoring his apprenticeship, but of course, this is almost imprisonment because he can never hope to attain Estella’s affection by being an apprentice blacksmith.

He is determined, though, to rise above his lowly position and that is why he uses Biddy in order to improve his education. She is below his aspirations and he does not notice her as a person, but merely as a means to gaining an education.

Dickens uses satire in describing Miss Havisham’s parasitic relatives who are Miss Sarah Pocket, Camilla and Mr. Raymond, and Georgiana Pocket.  They are like vultures waiting on the death of Miss Havisham and they cannot stand one another and so they squabble.  He describes Sarah Pocket as ‘a little dry brown corrugated old woman with a face that might have been made of walnut shells and a large mouth like a cat’s without the whiskers’ so the tag for Sarah Pocket’s character is ‘the walnut shell countenance’ and this phrase is repeated throughout the book.

Mrs. Joe is furious at not receiving an invitation to Miss Havisham’s because she does not want to face up to the fact that Joe can handle the visit without her support. Her dominance is, therefore, threatened.

The electricity between Pip and Estella is formed in these chapters. She endeavors to make him cry, but he refuses to show that she has power over him.  It is interesting to see her reaction when Pip beats the pale young gentleman in a fistfight.  She is flushed with excitement and lets Pip kiss her.

Miss Havisham reveals a chink in her hard exterior when she realizes one day that Pip is too old for play.  She genuinely will miss his visits and rewards him by arranging his apprenticeship with Joe.  She may think that she has failed in breaking Pip’s heart and may see this as a reward to Pip, but to him it is like a death sentence.  She does not realize that Pip is obsessed with Estella’s beauty and that she has obtained revenge on Pip by making him coarser.

There are also some other new elements introduced to the plot. Reference is made to a large burly man with soap-scented hands who bites his forefinger.  Again this is another tag for a character ‘the soap scented man’, who will surface again later in the story.   Pumblechook has the habit of rumpling Pip’s hair, the tag for this character being ‘hair rumpling’.   Satis House is depicted as being the center of a web of intrigue and mystery, and Dickens symbolizes this by the description that the house is covered in spiders’ webs.

The purpose of the first twelve chapters of this novel, apart from introducing the reader to the main characters, is to show what a disturbing childhood Pip had, as did most children at that time. It was common practice for adults to live off the labors of children. They were looked on as almost slaves of the family.  Dickens sums this up by the burly man’s comments about boys being ‘that they are bad set of fellows’ which conveys the view that children were not valued or cherished, but for the most part were to be punished and controlled.

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