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Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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Near the beginning of the second part of Great Expectations, what reason does Pip have for thinking Jaggers is Miss Havisham's agent in terms of his suddenly receiving "great expectations"?

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It is not only Pip who is misled into believing that Mr. Jaggers is acting as his guardian and providing him with a generous allowance as Miss Havisham's agent. The reader, too, is completely misled by Charles Dickens. After Abel Magwitch is caught and taken back to the prison ship early in the story, the reader is not advised that he was transported to Australia. If the reader wonders about him at all, he probably assumes the unfortunate man is rotting away on one of those horrible British prison ships. How would Magwitch ever be able to earn a fortune and provide for Pip to become an English gentleman? And why would such a brutal man show such a tender interest in a young boy? And who else Miss Havisham would have taken such an interest in a blacksmith's apprentice?

When Pip moves to London he shares rooms with Herbert Pocket, who is a relative of Miss Havisham. Pip first met Herbert at Miss Havisham's home when they were younger boys. Throughout the story Pip has encounters with Estella, and Dickens creates the impression that Miss Havisham is bringing them together because she intends to have them marry each other.

Miss Havisham is always portrayed as an extremely eccentric woman, so nothing she might do needs to be too carefully explained. She adopted Estella because she wanted someone to take care of; why should she not decide to adopt Pip for a similar reason? Miss Havisham allows Pip to assume that she is responsible for his great expectations because it costs her nothing to do so, and because she has a cruel, vindictive streak in her nature which makes her enjoy playing with people's hopes and follies.

Jaggers, too, is secretly amused by Pip's misapprehensions and fantasies. Jaggers has a bad opinion of humanity in general, and it gives him satisfaction to see his bad opinion substantiated by all the various aspects of human error, weakness and misconduct.

Both Pip and the reader are totally astonished when Abel Magwitch reappears in Chapter 36.

"May I make so bold," he said then, with a smile that was like a frown, and with a frown that was like a smile, "as to ask you how you have done well, since you and me was out on them lone shivering marshes?"

This is one of the best chapters in the book. The other good chapter is at the very beginning, in which little Pip encounters the terrifying escaped convict on the marshes as has to promise to help him.

“You bring me, to-morrow morning early, that file and them wittles. You bring the lot to me, at that old Battery over yonder. You do it, and you never dare to say a word or dare to make a sign concerning your having ever seen such a person as me, or any person sumever, and you shall be let to live. You fail, or you go from my words in any particular, no matter how small it is, and your heart and your liver shall be tore out, roasted and ate.”

Both Pip and Joe Gargary felt sorry for the poor convict when he was rowed back to the prison ship, but Pip could never have suspected that that same wretched man would become his benefactor many years later. Dickens does a masterful job of diverting attention to Pip's subsequent experiences in the great city of London, so that the meeting with the convict on the marshes is only as much of a distant memory for the reader as it is for Pip.



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