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In Chapter 20-21 of Great Expectations, what does Jaggers' office reveal about him?

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viajudytran | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 16, 2010 at 12:00 AM via web

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In Chapter 20-21 of Great Expectations, what does Jaggers' office reveal about him?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 16, 2010 at 1:05 AM (Answer #1)

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Mr. Jaggers of Great Expectations is modeled after a notoriously unscrupulous lawyer who was also rude and abrupt for whom Charles Dickens worked.  In Dickens's novel, Jaggers has his office in the dismal area near Newgate prison, and it reflects the passage of his criminal clientele. For, much like a prison cell, the room is dark, lit only by a patched skylight; a chair of "deadly black" made of stiff horse-hair with nails all around it "like a coffin."  The walls are greasy from the many prisoner/clients who have stood against it as the are faced by Jaggers. When they are sent out abruptly, they must sidle along the wall to reach the doorway as the office is so narrow.  On the shelves are various weapons such as swords and files; two death masks sit along with these items.

Having worked so long with the low, criminal element of London, Jaggers himself is much like an emotionally detached jailer who abruptly disposes of people, saying "there's an end of it" and waves them away after assuring himself that they have paid Wemmick.  Pip narrates that he even "seemed to bully his very sandwich as he ate it." Indeed, his office reflects his personality: There is no warmth, no atachment to humanity, no sunshine or sentimentality to Mr. Jaggers, who merely goes efficiently about his dark business of defending London's worst.

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dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 16, 2010 at 1:05 AM (Answer #2)

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Mr. Jaggers' office is an exceedingly dismal and uninviting place. The first thing that Pip notices about the room itself is the skylight, which provides the only illumination. The skylight is "eccentrically patched like a broken head," and through it, the scene is almost macabre, with "the distorted adjoining houses looking as if they had twisted themselves to peep down...through it."

In the room itself, there are not so many papers as might be expected in a lawyer's abode. Instead, there are "odd objects about," which include,

"an old rusty pistol, a sword in a scabbard, several strange-looking boxes and packages, and two dreadful casts on a shelf, of faces peculiarly swollen, and twitchy about the nose."

Mr. Jaggers' own chair conforms to the atmosphere of forbidding dreariness in the room, being "of deadly black horse-hair, with rows of brass nails round it like a coffin." The room as a whole is very small, and the walls are "greasy with shoulders," which hints that those who enter there instinctively shrink from the lawyer's presence in the room, huddling against the walls.

The impression of Mr. Jaggers that is created by all this is of a disagreeable, forbidding personage. His tastes appear to be nonconventional and eclectic, as the items that adorn the room are random, and not what would be expected. There is no air of professionalism, but rather, the atmosphere is intimidating and unpleasant. It would appear that Mr. Jaggers might be a character who would relate to his clients through fear rather than through welcoming, reassuring counsel (Chapter 20). 

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