In Chapter 49: What does Pip mean by "the vanity of sorrow...the vanity of penitence...the vanity of unworthiness"?  Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Pip has received a note from Miss Havisham, asking him to visit her regarding a matter about which he has requested to speak to her; namely, Pip needs money from her in order to procure a position at Clarikker's for Herbert Pocket.  In Chapter XLIX of Great Expectations, Pip visits and finds Miss Havisham terribly alone. She tells him to let her know what sum he needs and he replies "Nine hundred pounds." She then writes a note to Mr. Jaggers regarding the release of funds for Pip, adding that there is a second page and he only needs to sign it.

“My name is on the first leaf. If you can ever write under my name, ‘I forgive her,’ though ever so long after my broken heart is dust—pray do it!”

Pip is confused about her grief, but realizes that she relaizes her life is not natural.  He remarks,

I knew not how to answer, or how to comfort her. That she had done a grievous thing in taking an impressionable child to mould into the form that her wild resentment, spurned affection, and wounded pride, found vengeance in, I knew full well.

This is what Pip terms vanity of sorrow

which had become a master mania, like the vanity of penitence, the vanity of remorse, the vanity of unworthiness, and other monstrous vanities that have been curses in this world.

Pip alludes to the tendency of people to magnify the injustices which have been perpetrated against them and, then, to take an almost perverse pride in their wallowing in sorrow. Or, in  the vanity of remorse--grieving for someone or something long past the time which a person has died.

The vanity of unworthiness is an excess humility, one beyond normal control.  For instance, a person belittles him or herself long after the accident or reasons are in the current mind.  It is a perverse pride that one takes in this wallowing in an emotion, in wearing this remorse, or unworthiness, or penitence, or any of the others past the point of normal length that Pip calls a vanity.





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chubbyaquirrell | Student, Grade 9 | eNotes Newbie

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lol im stuck on this too. Do you go to dawson?

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