In Great Expectations, what do we learn about Pip's personality from his conversation with Miss Havisham and Estella?

Expert Answers
accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Pip first meets Miss Havisham and Estella in Chapter 8, when Pumblechook, after bullying Pip with mental arithmetic questions, takes him to the door, and Estella takes him into Satis House. From his first entrance to Satis House, Pip is easily cowed and very conscious of his position. When Estella comments to Pip about the beer, he responds "in a shy way", and he is diffident and respectful towards her. Estella´s demeanour and pride makes him accept her calling him "boy":

Though she called me "boy" so often, and with a carelessness that was far from complimentary, she was of about my own age. She seemed much older than I, of course, being a girl, and beautiful and self-possessed; and she was as scornful of me as if she had been one-and-twenty, and a queen.

Pip is already accepting the position that others are putting him into - as being low-bred, ignorant and servile. This is an impression that is strengthened throughout the passage, as Estella continues to delight in mocking him:

"He calls the knaves jacks, this boy!" said Estella, with disdain, before our first game was out. "And what coarse hands he has! And what thick boots!"

I had never thought of being ashamed of my hands before, but I began to consider them a very indifferent pair. Her contempt for me was so strong that it became infectious, and I caught it.

This meeting thus marks the entrance of the themes of social class, ambition, and advancement. Note how Pip has been encouraged by Pumplechook and Mrs. Joe to believe that Miss Havisham intends to raise him into wealth and high society. His attraction towards Estella combined with the mystery of Miss Havisham and Satis House evoke within Pip a class consciousness that dogs him for the rest of the novel, and we also see that Pip, overawed by Estella and the house, is all too ready to believe and accept Estella´s criticism of him.


Read the study guide:
Great Expectations

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question