In Great Expectations, what is Herbert's father's chief fault?Charles Dickens's Great Expectations
Matthew Pocket, the father of Herbert, has been hired to be the tutor of the aspiring gentleman, Pip. Truly a gentleman himself, Matthew Pocket is a man of integrity who has refused to be a sycophant as have the other Pockets who attend Miss Havisham on her birthday as she walks around the decaying cake.
When Pip comes to the home of the Pockets, however, he encounters an extremely dysfunctional family in which Mr. Pocket is totally ineffective. For, he has no control over his frivolous wife who is oblivious to the actions of her small children as she sits absorbed in a book of English titles. In Chapter XXII, Pip is introduced by Herbert to Mrs. Pocket and he observes,
I found, now I had leisure to count them, that there were no fewer than six little Pockets present, in various stages of tumbling up. I had scarcely arrived at the total when a seventh was heard, as in the region of air, wailing dolefully....
Thus I made the second discovery on that first occasion, that the nurture of the little Pockets consisted of alternately tumbling up and lying down.
Under these circumstances, when Flopson and Millers had got the children into the house, like a little flock of sheep, and Mr. Pocket came out of it to make my acquaintance, I was not much surprised to find that Mr. Pocket was a gentleman with a rather perplexed expression of face, and with his very gray hair disordered on his head, as if he didn't quite see his way to putting anything straight.
Pip soon learns that Mrs. Pocket is the daughter of a man who was a "quite accidental deceased knight," whose father should have received a title; thus, Mrs. Pocket searches through books of titles to find that of her ancestor. On the other hand, Mr. Pocket has no title; he watches helplessly as the children tumble over their mother's leg while she obliviously continues her reading.
Still, Mrs. Pocket was in general the object of a queer sort of respectful pity, because she had not married a title; while Mr. Pocket was the object of a queer sort of forgiving reproach, because he had never got one.
After Pip is introduced to the other students, Bentley Drummle and Startop, he observes Mr. Pocket's household further. He notices that it is the servants who raise the children as neither parent controls them. However, the servants take it upon themselves to physically discipline the children and also to partake of the best food that the Pockets have. When "the page" enters and tells the Pockets that the cook has mislaid the beef, a frustrated Mr. Pocket
... laid down the carving knife and fork—being engaged in carving at the moment—put his two hands into his disturbed hair, and appeared to make an extraordinary effort to lift himself up by it. When he had done this, and had not lifted himself up at all, he quietly went on with what he was about.
Although a man of good heart and manners, Matthew Pocket has no control over his household.