In Great Expectations, what is Wemmick referring to when he mentions "portable property"?  

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William Delaney | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Wemmick is a great believer in collecting small items of value which can be converted to cash if necessary. For years he has made a practice of obtaining such small items from prisoners who were condemned to death by doing them small favors while they were awaiting execution. He is a very materialistic man and he tries to influence Pip to follow his example. The types of portable property Wemmick collects include rings and other such jewelry made from precious metals, also watches, snuff boxes, and anything else that can be carried around and is easily convertible to money. It was usually easy for him to obtain portable property from condemned prisoners because they would have no further use for it. Dickens uses this portable property to characterize Wemmick, who has a very practical nature as well as a fanciful and romantic nature, both of which are mixed together in one eccentric individual. When Magwitch reappears in London, Wemmick strongly urges Pip to obtain whatever "portable property" he can get from his benefactor. In this case the portable property would be Magwitch's big wallet stuffed with money. Evidently Wemmick values property which is portable because he foresees the possibilities of emergencies in which the other kinds of property, such as real estate and furniture, would be less useful. His advice to Pip is wise, but Pip fails to heed it and ends up penniless.


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