Will someone please explain this mini passage to me in Chapter 17 of "Great Expectations"?"Scattered wits take a long time picking up; and often, before I had got them well together,...

Will someone please explain this mini passage to me in Chapter 17 of "Great Expectations"?

"Scattered wits take a long time picking up; and often, before I had got them well together, they would be dispersed in all directions by one stray thought, that perhaps after all Miss Havisham was going to make my fortune when my time runs out."

Asked on by kawaiisaito

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ms-mcgregor | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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Pip is describing the pull he feels for both life at the forge and for life as a gentleman. He has just had a long conversation with Biddy. As he had many times before, he thinks "that Biddy was immeasurably better than Estella". At times like this, Pip thinks that he can be satisfied with life at the forge and should become partners with Joe. He says,"At those times, I would decide conclusively that my disaffection to dear old Joe and the forge, was gone, and that I was growing up in a fair way to be partners with Joe and to keep company with Biddy—"

But then he would remember his time with Estella at Miss Havisham's and he would get confused because he also wanted to become a gentleman to impress Estella. It would take him a long time to shake off those thoughts and return to the idea that he could be happy at the forge. But just when he thought he could be happy at the forge again, his thoughts would be interrupted by by the thought that perhaps Miss Havisham would make him a gentleman once his apprenticeship to Joe was up. So Pip is a torn man. He knows he should be happy with Biddy and life at the forge, but he also longs to be a gentleman and be with Estella and hopes Miss Havisham will make that possible.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

"....when all at once remembrance of the Havisham days would fall upon me like a destructive missile and scatter my wits again" is the line that precedes this quote.  There is an inner conflict in Pip between his emotional side and his rational side.  As mentioned above he realizes that he should be satisfied with the life he has and knows:  "I was obliged to admit that I did know [that Estella would make me miserable]for a certainty and I said to myself--Pip wat a fool you are!

Yet, like Romeo, Pip succumbs to his heart and emotional side and becomes "Fortune's fool."

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