What does the following sentence from Great Expectations mean and how might a seven-year-old express the same ideas?"What if the young man who was with so much difficulty restrained from imbruing...

What does the following sentence from Great Expectations mean and how might a seven-year-old express the same ideas?

"What if the young man who was with so much difficulty restrained from imbruing his hands in me, should yield to a constitutional impatience, or should mistake the time, and should think himself accredited to my heart and liver tonight, instead of tomorrow!"

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dymatsuoka's profile pic

dymatsuoka | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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The sentence above describes Pip's sense of urgency as he tries to fulfill the duties to which the convict has bound him.  In no uncertain terms, the convict has instructed Pip to bring him a file and some food at the cemetery the next morning.  To frighten Pip into complying, the convict has told him that there is another "young man" with him who has "a secret way...of getting at a boy, and at his heart and at his liver".  The convict adds, "I am a keeping that young man from harming of you at the present moment, with great difficulty"; it is only through his intercession that Pip has so far been spared a gory fate at the hands of the convict's bestial companion (Chapter 1).

As Pip tries to secure a file and some food to take back to the convict as directed, he is worried.  He cannot forget about the young man, who "was with so much difficulty restrained (by the convict) from imbruing his hands in (him)".  Pip wonders what would happen if the young man "should yield to a constitutional impatience, or should mistake the time", thinking that he should have the right to eviscerate Pip "to-night, instead of to-morrow".  The young man has apparently been instructed by the convict not to rip out Pip's heart and liver unless the boy does not come through with a file and "wittles" as ordered.  Pip wonders what would happen if the young man became impatient or misunderstood his instructions, thinking that he is entitled to savage him tonight instead of possibly tomorrow (Chapter 2).

A seven-year-old today might express these same thoughts with words such as these -

"The convict said he that it was very hard for him to keep the scary young man from tearing me apart.  What if the young man doesn't like to wait for things, or gets the convict's instructions wrong about the time?  Then, he might think he can take out my heart and liver tonight instead of tomorrow"!

scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The "young man" in this passage is the mysterious villain referenced by the convict whom Pip helps at the novel's beginning.  The convict warns Pip that if he doesn't bring food and a file to help him in a timely manner, the young man--another escaped convict who is the enemy of Pip's convict--will come after Pip and take his hair and liver.

A seven-year-old from our time period would probably think of a "scary man" coming after him if he didn't do something fast and that the scary man would cut him up.

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