How is Pip's name involved with the imagery of the vegetation and the prison? In Chapter 8 of Great Expectations, what is the connection between the vegetation and the prison imagery in the...

How is Pip's name involved with the imagery of the vegetation and the prison?

 In Chapter 8 of Great Expectations, what is the connection between the vegetation and the prison imagery in the descriptions of both Pumblechook's shop and Miss Havisham's house; how is Pip's very name involved in this imagery?

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The author of Great Expectations, Charles Dickens, perceived Victorian society as a prison in which people could not escape their social status, a status that determined the direction of their entire lives. And, in several of his novels this motif comes through, as it does in Chapter 8. For, the young seeds of Uncle Pumblechook's shop--and Pip's name, short for pippin, means a small seed,especially of a fleshy fruit--are imprisoned in little drawers.  As Pip peers into these drawers, he remarks,

I wondered...whether the flower seeds and bulbs ever wanted of a fine day to break out of those jails, and bloom.

Much like the seeds and bulbs, Pip is confined to a drawer-like space when he sleeps at Pumblechook's as, immediately upon his arrival, Pip is "sent straight to bed" in an attic whose ceiling is so low that the boy calculates it to be within one foot of his eyebrows. 

That Pumblechook's shop is like a jail cell becomes apparent to Pip as the boy notices that Pumblechook looks out across the street at the saddler, who, in turn, keeps his eye on the coach-maker, who "appeared to get on in life" by watching the baker, who stared at the grocer, who stood at his door and "yawned at the chemist."  The image here is of men confined to small areas from which they observe each other as prisoners do from cells.

Then, when Pumblechook takes Pip to Miss Havisham's mansion, Pip notices that the house is

of old brick, and dismal, and had a great many iron bars to it.  Some of the windows had been walled up, and...all the lower were rustily barred.

The courtyard is also barred, so Pip and Pumblechook must wait until someone comes to the gate and opens it after identifying them, giving much the impression of a guard from a prison.  Then, of course, Miss Havisham has imposed a life-sentence in the prison of her own home as she has stopped the clocks and refused to change anything or ever leave the house.

 

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