How can I describe Jagger's work and home life in Great Expectations?    

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Despite his lucrative profession, Mr. Jaggers lives a rather ascetic life both at work and at home.

When Pip first arrives in London, he reports to Mr. Jaggers's office as instructed. Unlike his imaginings, London is dirty—as are Mr. Jagger's business premises. When Pip enters the "inner chamber," he describes it as a "most dismal place." In fact, it is so dreary that Pip decides to walk around while waiting for Mr. Jaggers to return.

Pip notices Mr. Jaggers making his way to the dark office, lighted only by a window in the roof. Jaggers sees a number of people who rush toward him. With curtness, he addresses them with such orders as this one:

"Now, I have nothing to say to you...I told you from the first it was a tossup. Have you paid Wemmick?" 
"Yes, sir," said both the men together.
"Very well; then you may go. If you say a word to me, I'll throw up the case."

Then, Mr. Jaggers takes Pip into his room, and while he eats lunch, he informs Pip about his accommodations and the living arrangements made for him. In addition, Jaggers informs Pip of his allowance. After advising Pip, Mr. Jaggers pronounces, "Of course you'll go wrong somehow, but that's no fault of mine."

When Pip asks Mr. Jaggers if he may purchase some furniture, Jaggers abruptly asks Pip how much he needs. Then, he barks to Mr. Wemmick, "Take Mr. Pip's written order and pay him twenty pounds."

Further, Pip discovers when he is invited to dinner that Mr. Jaggers is much the same at home as he is at his office. His is a stately house, but "dolefully in want of painting, and with dirty windows." As a housekeeper, Jaggers has a solitary, strange woman who is of a "nimble figure, extremely pale, with large faded eyes and a quantity of streaming hair."  As she serves the guests, Mr. Jaggers grabs her by the arm with "immovable determination." Despite the protests of Molly, Jaggers orders her,

"....I'll show you a wrist....Molly, let them see your wrist....let them see both your wrists. Show them. Come!"

After releasing her, Jaggers comments, "There's power here.... Very few men have the power of wrist that this woman has. It's remarkable what mere force of grip there is in these hands."

One particularly morose man, an "upper class lout" named Bentley Drummle, stands in "sulky triumph" as he regards other guests. Pip notices that "Mr. Jaggers followed him with the same strange interest." At one point Drummle pulls his hands from his pockets, grabs a glass that he would have thrown but for Jaggers's "dexterously seizing it at the instant it was raised."

When the hour strikes, Jaggers announces that the evening is over. He tells his young guests that he is glad to see them. Strangely, he adds, "Mr. Drummle, I drink to you."

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Jaggers, the most powerful criminal lawyer in London, was a man with a caring heart that was buried beneath the rusty pistol on his desk and the sword in a dusty scabbard laying out near it. His emotions were under lock and key and guarded by his heavy watch chain.

At work, he sat in a violently prickly horsehair chair and his clients, it seemed to Pip, were afraid of him (even though they were criminal) as was evidenced by the smudging of many shoulders against the wall. He worked in a gloomy office that was lit only by a skylight.

At home, there was nothing of a purely decorative nature and though Jaggers owned the whole house, he confined himself to three spartan rooms. The other rooms were ignored like the extra rooms of his heart, although Jaggers' natural goodness came to the fore when he arranged for Estelle's adoption. A central object in the main room was a work desk with papers, which was employed at night so that work was Jaggers' home life also. At meals, Jaggers directed the same cold, hard business manner to his food as he applied to his criminal clients, bullying his sandwich the way he would bully his clients to get the truth from them. (This is Dickens's testimony to the adage that you become what you do. Choose wisely.)

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Great Expectations

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