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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



London life

(Chapters 20 – 24)


Jaggers’ office is situated in a rundown business area of London and Pip arrives to find the lawyer absent. Pip decides to explore the area and ends up at the Smithfield Markets passing through the filth, fat and foam of that area.

He then goes to Bartholomew Close where many people are waiting to see Jaggers, as they hope to hire him, or hear news of relatives’ cases.

Jaggers eventually arrives, but will only deal with those who have paid their bills. Jaggers tells Pip that he has arranged for him to stay at Barnard Inn with Mr. Pocket’s son until Monday, when they will go to Mr. Pocket’s house. Jaggers gives Pip an allowance and tells him that he will keep account of his spending to establish when Pip starts running up debts. He fully expects Pip to do this.

Jaggers’ clerk is a Mr. Wemmick whose fingers are covered in mourning rings, received from dead clients. Wemmick takes Pip to the Barnard Inn where he meets Herbert Pocket. Pip realizes that this is the pale young gentleman from Miss Havisham’s with whom he had a fight.

The two soon become good friends and Herbert gives Pip the nickname ‘Handel’, after the piece of music composed by Handel called ‘The Harmonious Blacksmith’.  During dinner, Herbert takes the opportunity of teaching Pip the correct table manners.  They have a long conversation concerning Jaggers, Miss Havisham, Estella, and the Pocket family.

Jaggers is Miss Havisham’s lawyer and he also knows Herbert’s father, Matthew Pocket, he being Miss Havisham’s cousin. Miss Havisham was to have married a fine gentleman, but he swindled her out of some money and left her at the altar.

Estella’s origins are not known, but she has always been at Miss Havisham’s.  Herbert does not like her because she is hard and proud, and Miss Havisham wants Estella to be a tool of revenge for her against all mankind.

Pip explains the circumstances concerning his good fortune, and both men agree that Miss Havisham is probably the benefactor.

Herbert takes Pip to meet the rest of the Pocket family. There are children everywhere who are looked after by servants, and there is little or no supervision by Matthew and Mrs. Pocket. She seems oblivious to the bedlam and spends most of her time reading a book. Mr. Pocket seems bewildered, clearly a man not in charge of his household or his wife.

Mrs. Pocket is pre-occupied with titles and nobility, being convinced that she is descended from upper class lineage. The servants who keep the best food for them downstairs run the whole household. Mr. Pocket, a tutor and literary editor, had a promising life at Cambridge University, but his early marriage impaired his progress.  He now studies alongside two other men who are Bentley Drummle and Startop.

Pip splits his time between the Pocket’s home and Herbert’s flat.  He decides to take up rowing on the Thames with Drummle and Startop.  Drummle is a rather distasteful individual, rather like a wealthy Orlick, but Startop has a bright personality although he is slightly effeminate.

The other parasitical relatives of Miss Havisham clearly show their dislike of Pip, in particular Camilla, Georgiana and Sarah.

Mr. Pocket advises Pip that the aim is for Pip not to have any formal training in any profession, but just to be generally educated so that he can hold his own in the company of prosperous society.

Pip makes regular visits to Jaggers’ office in order to receive his allowance.

Wemmick shows Pip the rings on his fingers, which were given to him by deceased clients as a means for him to remember them.  He considers the rings to be portable property. Wemmick invites Pip to come to his home and he accepts.  There he meets Wemmick’s father who is called ‘the aged parent’.  Wemmick has undergone a transformation from a law clerk to a generous and caring son to his father.  He has a strange home which he regards as his castle and it includes a moat, bridge and turret, and every night at 9.00 p.m. he fires a canon. He keeps pigs, rabbits and chickens in the garden, which help him to make ends meet.  Pip discovers that Wemmick keeps the two parts of his life very separate. 



Pip’s feelings of excitement and anticipation are soon quashed when he views the filth and gloom of London. He wonders why he has decided to come to this sprawling city that he feels is much over-rated.  There seems to be a lack of communication between the citizens of London illustrated by Wemmick’s surprise when Pip reaches to shake his hand.  It seems that basic rituals of friendship and kindness have been forgotten, or are only used when you are trying to get something out of someone else.

However, some of the colorful characters bring light to the gloomy surroundings.

Herbert Pocket is a very likeable fellow and apologizes to Pip for the sparse quarters that he has, but is proud of the fact that he is supporting himself. He has dreams for the future, but Pip feels that he will never achieve his dreams. 

Jaggers is also shown to be an honorable man, being straightforward in his dealings with his clients. He warns Pip not to get carried away with his money, and to keep debts to a minimum.

The treatment of children at this time is obviously a subject close of Dickens’ heart.  He again gives an illustration of this by his description of the Pocket household.  It is clear that the children are raising themselves and that their parents have abdicated responsibility for their welfare and leave this in the hands of paid nurses and servants. They fall on their heads, swallow pins and endure similar emergencies to which Mrs. Pocket is totally oblivious.

The children of poor people are shown to have been used to support adults and provide money for the household, whilst the children of well-off families are left to their own devices. 

The reader should also take note of the description of the face casts in Jaggers’ office, which were taken from hanged clients of Jaggers.

Another interesting character is Wemmick, and when Pip first met him he considered him to be a dried-up old stick of a man, but on visiting his home, Pip could see his true nature being a caring son to his aged father, working hard to support the household on a low income. He has made a point of collecting portable property (rings), not because he is greedy, but because he is realistic about his finances.  Wemmick is trapped in the drudgery of his soul-destroying work as a law clerk where his sensitivity and creativity is smothered. Another tag put on him is that he has ‘a letterbox mouth’. 

The reader also meets Bentley Drummle who has a similar nature to Orlick, being surly and quick-tempered.

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