Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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I need to describe Wemmick's home in Dickens' Great Expectations, and I don't know how to do it.

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To describe a scene is to show it through the five senses: sight, hearing, touch, taste, and smell. 

Pip's visit to Mr. Wemmick's home is perhaps the most whimsical chapter in the novel and Dickens describes his house in some detail. The two men walk together through the streets of London till they arrive at Wemmick's tiny abode on a street of small houses. Here, Dickens pokes gentle fun at the cliche "my home is my castle," for Wemmick's home literally is designed to be a tiny little castle. It has even been topped with a tower, at which a gun is mounted, protected from the weather by an umbrella. One crosses a four foot "moat" to enter the house via a drawbridge that raises and lowers.

In his tiny backyard, Wemmick has a miniature economy, such as what might have existed inside a medieval castle, complete with a bower, a pig, and a garden that grows cucumbers and lettuce. Wemmick has a tiny lake with a tiny island on it, as rich lords do on their estates. He even has tiny fountain.

Dickens relies almost entirely on sight to convey his description of the "castle," though we do learn that during dinner Pip wishes the pig outside were a little farther off, presumably because of the smell. At night, Pip sleeps in an equally whimsical (and tiny) room:

Nor was there any drawback on my little turret bedroom, beyond there being such a very thin ceiling between me and the flagstaff, that when I lay down on my back in bed, it seemed as if I had to balance that pole on my forehead all night.

This is the gentlest of satire of the rising Victorian middle class, but it serves a deeper purpose. Wemmick is very different in the office, all the dedicated employee, not one you would imagine having such a fanciful life. The snobbish Pip needs to learn, as he does here with Wemmick, that people are not necessarily what they seem on the surface, but have hidden depths.


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ajmchugh eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Pip visits Wemmick's house in Chapter 25 of Great Expectations.  The house, which Pip observes as being the smallest house he has ever seen, resembles a tiny castle, complete with a flagstaff, drawbridge and moat, and a gun that fires each night at nine o'clock.  Wemmick explains that he has built his house to his own specifications, and Pip notices the pride with which Wemmick describes the structure.  Further, Wemmick leads Pip around the grounds:

Then, he conducted me to a bower about a dozen yards off, but which was approached by such ingenious twists of path that it took quite a long time to get at; and in this retreat our glasses were already set forth. Our punch was cooling in an ornamental lake, on whose margin the bower was raised. This piece of water (with an island in the middle which might have been the salad for supper) was of a circular form, and he had constructed a fountain in it, which, when you set a little mill going and took a cork out of a pipe, played to that powerful extent that it made the back of your hand quite wet.

Wemmick describes himself as a "Jack of all Trades" and boasts that he is his own carpenter, plumber, and gardener.  He also introduces Pip to his father, the Aged Parent, who also resides in the house.

Ultimately, this visit to Walworth shows Pip a completely different side of Wemmick.  At work, Wemmick is all business; at home, he is a kind, caring man who loves his house, his father, and his life.

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