How would you describe the Pocket's household? How is Mrs. Pocket characterized?Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter XXIII of Great Expectations, Pip describes the household of the Pockets:

Both Mr. and Mrs. Pocket had such a noticeable air of being in someone else's hands that I wondered who really was in possession of the house and let them live there until I found this unknown power to be the servants.

With characteristic comic-irony,Dickens employs a double narrative to describe the Pocket household. For instance, upon arriving at the Pockets' home, Pip notices that the children "were not growing up or being brought up, but were tumbling up."  For, whenever the seven children come near Mrs. Pocket who merely sits with the appearance of reading, they tumble over her skirts because she rests her feet on a footstool.  When the servant, Flopson, finally trips, Mrs. Pocket orders the children to take a nap, so Pip decides the children are not only "tumbling up," but "lying down."

After the servants Miller and Flopson take charge of the children, Mr. Pocket appears with a perplexed expression and hair in disarray.  At times he becomes so frustrated that he seems to "lift himself up" by his own hair.  This frustration comes from Mrs. Pocket's refusal to assume any responsibility for the raising of the children.  For, she has descended from some "quite accidental deceased knight," and she has been brought up as

one who was to be guarded from the acquisition of plebian domestic knowledge.

Here, again, is Dickens mockery of the frivolous aristocrats who are unable to perform natural duties as Pip, in his comic disparagement of Mrs. Pocket, remarks that the best part of the house for one to have boarded would have been the kitchen where the servants congregate.  In an imaginative passage, Pip illustrates just how incompetent Mrs. Pocket really is.

...before I had been there a week, a neighbouring lady with whom the family were personally unacquainted, wrote in to say that she had seen Millers slapping the baby.  This greatly distressed Mrs. Pocket, who burst into tears on receiving the note and said that it was an extraordinary thing that the neighbours couldn't mind their own business.

And, even though Mr. Pocket has been educated at Harrow and Cambridge, he is incapable of making Mrs. Pocket understand her incompetence at mothering.  For, when he chastises her for paying no attention to the baby's choking on nuts, telling her that the daughter Jane only interfered for the sake of the child, Mrs. Pocket insists that she will not be exposed "to the affront of interference."  Then, when she exclaims, "I hope I know my poor grandpapa's position.  Jane, indeed!"  Mr. Pocket gives up, and in "desolate desperation" lifts his hair again and "exclaims helplessly to the elements."

From Pip's visit to the Pocket household it is evident that no one but the servants have any control over the children; Mrs. Pocket who reads about titles is only interested in advancing herself while the erudite Mr. Pocket is inept at communicating with his wife and in raising his children.

lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The Pocket household is total chaos. They have tons of children and the older ones are forced to take care of the younger ones because Mrs. Pocket is incompetent. She fancies herself an aristocrat so she spends all day doing frivolous things, like reading books about the nobility and their titles. She has not been trained to be a wife and mother, so she is no good at this either.

She does not notice when her baby gets hold of dangerous items and the children are running amok while she sits there. She does not realize what is going on and when the cook gets drunk, instead of getting angry at the cook, she gets angry at the maid who brings her the message that the cook is drunk. She is in denial about her real station in life and in this sense, is a foil to Pip's character, who is also in somewhat of a denial at this point in the story.

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Great Expectations

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