Pip is orphaned early in his childhood, and his older sister is forced to take him into her home. Resenting his presence, she becomes abusive both physically and mentally, and her mistreatment of Pip affects him emotionally, causing him to become fearful and insecure.
When Pip encounters the convict in the graveyard where the melancholy child looks at his parents' graves, he is terrified. Out of this trepidation, he agrees to bring the convict food, but he is equally fearful of Mrs. Joe's discovering that he has stolen from her cupboard. As he sneaks downstairs, Pip imagines that the cracks in the boards of the stairs call out, "Stop thief!...Get up, Mrs. Joe!" Then, when the convict meets him and takes the food and drink Pip has brought, Pip is yet afraid.
As he returns home from the marshes where the convict was, Pip "fully expected to find a constable in the kitchen, waiting to take [him] up." But when the family has Christmas dinner and Mrs. Joe offers Uncle Pumblechook brandy, Pip's fears return because he has filled the bottle with tar water to replace the brandy which he has given to the convict. "I was in an agony of apprehension." But, he is saved by the appearance of the soldiers who are looking for two escaped men off the prison ship. Because they need a blacksmith to repair the chains on the two fugitives, Joe goes with the soldiers and Pip rides along on Joe's shoulders. Again, he is afraid that the convict will show his recognition of Pip and Mrs. Joe will interrogate him and then take Tickler to him.
In another part of the narrative, Uncle Pumblechook rushes over in his cart to inform Mrs. Joe that the wealthy Miss Havisham wants a boy to come and play with her ward. So, Pip is subjected to rough scrubbing and admonitions; finally, he is sent with Pumblechook, who takes him to Satis House the next day. When the supercilious Estella is told that she can play with Pip, she replies with disdain that he is but a "common laboring boy," and she also makes fun of Pip's coarse boots. After her abuse, Pip cries because his self-esteem is so low already. Later, when he returns home Pip feels ashamed of himself and Joe both for being "common." Certainly, Pip's humiliation at the hands of his sister and then by Estella provides much of his motivation to wish to become a gentleman.