In Chapter 7 of Great Expectations, how do the references to the bramble bush and figures as thieves contribute to the book's imagery?
Pip describes his alphabet learning as a bramble bush and his learning figures as falling among thieves. How do these references contribute to the book's imagery?
The author ties the images of Pip's efforts to become educated with the scenes already established concerning his experiences in the marshes with the convicts. When Pip describes "struggl(ing) through the alphabet as if it had been a bramble-bush", the image connects directly to his earlier recounting of hurrying through the marshes to follow the convict's directive to bring him food and a file. In both cases, Pip feels as if he is running desperately through a morass which is unfriendly, forbidding, and confusing, a landscape which, fraught with "bramble(s)", causes pain. Pip goes on to say that his study of ciphering feels to him like "(falling) among...thieves". He has in fact fallen among thieves when he had encountered the two convicts in the cemetery and on the marshes, so he knows what that experience is like first hand. This time, though, instead of being flesh-and-blood criminals, the "thieves" among which he falls are "the nine figures", the numbers one through nine. Trying to learn these numbers and their functions is as confusing and unpleasant to Pip as it has been to fall into the rough and frightenin hands of the convicts (Chapter 7).
The images of Pip struggling through the alphabet "as if it had been a bramble-bush" and falling "among thieves, the nine figures" carry through thematically later in the book. After Pip comes into his "expectations" and becomes a learned individual, he enters into a state of moral confusion in which he loses his way spiritually, becoming proud and haughty and treating those who love him in a rude and belittling manner. Pip then, having become rich and educated, has metaphoircally mastered the alphabet and numbers, but his accomplishments have thrown his heretofore upright character into a confused state, akin to having tumbled into "a bramble-bush" or having "(fallen) among thieves".