In Chapter 8 of Great Expectations what other type of building does the derelict mansion seem to resemble?

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accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is well worth paying attention to how Dickens describes Satis House and the associations, mood and atmosphere that he creates through his description. The first description comes as Estella leads Pip into the house:

My young conductress locked the gate, and we went across the court-yard. It was paved and clean, but grass was growing in every crevice. The brewery buildings had a little lane of communication with it; and the wooden gates of that lane stood open, and all the brewery beyond stood open, away to the high enclosing wall; and all was empty an disused. The cold wind seemed to blow colder there than outside the gate; and it made a shrill noise in howling in and out at the open sides of the brewery, like the noise of wind in the rigging of a ship at sea.

Note the descriptions of inner decay and neglect - grass is growing in "every crevice" of the court-yard, and the wind seems to blow "colder" inside the enclosure than outside, making a noise that reminds Pip of a "ship at sea" - isolated and separate from the rest of the world.

Consider the description at the end of the Chapter:

To be sure, it was a deserted place, down to the pigeon-house in the brewery-yard, which had been blown crooked on its pole by some high wind, and would have made the pigeons think themselves at sea, if there had been any pigeons there to be rocked by it. But there were no pigeons in the dove-cot, no horses in the stable, no pigs in the sty, no malt in the storehouse, no smells of grains an beer in the copper or the vat. All the uses and scents of the brewery might have evaporated with its last reek of smoke. In a by-yard, there was a wilderness of empty casks, which had a certain sour remembrance of better days lingering about them; but it was too sour to be accepted as a sample of beer that was gone - and in this respect I remember those recluses as being like most others.

Key to this description is that it comes immediately before Pip imagines seeing Miss Havisham dead, hanging by a beam. Note how it foreshadows this vision - the repetition of "no" with the long list of things that are not there, combined with the "wilderness of empty casks" that add to the impression of Satis House being described as an empty wilderness, separated and isolated from the rest of humanity.

The fact that the entrance to the house had "two chains across it outside" and "all the passages were dark" seem to add to this impression by comparing the house to a prison - which is certainly metaphorically true, as Miss Havisham has chosen to lock herself and her house away from the rest of the world out of her grief and anger.

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The dismal atmosphere of the isolated Satis House with its dark passageways and locked gates and later its guard at the gate, Orlick, who screens anyone who comes by and, certainly, the beam by which the adult Pip, who returns, imagines Miss Havisham hanging are all evocative of a prison.  This symbolic and most ironic meaning to Satis (Satisfied) House illustrates Charles Dickens's interpretation of society as a prison in which a person is cast into his/her class and cannot escape it.

As an aristocrat, Miss Havisham has been greatly humiliated by her jilting at the altar.  In this humiliation, she locks herself away, and in gothic style turns her disgrace to hatred against men.  To effect her revenge, she transports a young girl into the dark, sinister realms of her house and teaches her to be cold and heartless just like the virtual prison in which they live.

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