Great Expectations Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

Great Expectations book cover
Start Your Free Trial

How do Pip's feelings of guilt in chapter 6 of Great Expectations fluctuate?

Expert Answers info

David Morrison eNotes educator | Certified Educator

calendarEducator since 2017

write11,425 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Law and Politics

Pip is totally racked by guilt not so much for his theft of the items from his sister's larder but for failing to confess the whole truth to his trusted friend (and brother-in-law) Joe Gargery. Pip doesn't tell anyone about stealing the items or his reason for doing so. He doesn't mention his encounter at the graveyard with Abel Magwitch or how the escaped convict ordered him to go get him something to eat and drink.

Pip's inability to spill the beans positively tortures him with guilt. Yet he eventually comes to terms with his guilty feelings by telling himself that if he ever did tell Joe the whole story then his good friend might well doubt his integrity, which would destroy Pip.

It's highly unlikely that Joe would do this, of course. He would doubtless recognize that Pip was scared of Magwitch and that Pip did what he was told out of fear at the blood-curdling threats that the convict made. But Pip can't take that chance. And he also can't live with his guilt unless he can somehow rationalize his behavior, which he does by telling himself that he must keep quiet about what really happened. Only in this way will he be able to maintain the integrity of his special friendship with Joe.

check Approved by eNotes Editorial