What does Pip jokingly say about Pumblechook at the end of chapter 28 of Great Expectations?

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Lori Steinbach eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Philip Pirrip, better known as "Pip," has a lot of people who are connected to him in various ways throughout the novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens. One of those is a character who is referred to by Pip as "Uncle Pumblechook"--and he is what I would colloquially call a piece of work.

Pumblechook is, in actuality, Pip's uncle-in-law, but Pip and his sister both refer to him as their uncle. The man is consumed by money: making it and taking credit for making it. He is a seed salesman, but he is also an arrogant man, full of pomposity and braggadocio. 

It is true that Pumblechook is the person physically responsible for Pip's meeting with Miss Havisham, but all he really does is act as Pip's escort. Although his role in the entire proceeding is nominal, at best, Pumblechook boldly (and wrongly) takes credit for the resultant improvements in Pip's social class. In truth, of course, he did nothing specific to promote that relationship or connection; and even if he had, it is not Miss Havisham who is Pip's secret benefactor but Magwitch.

The man is greedy, conniving, and penny-pinching in addition to being pompous about things he can take no credit for. At the end of chapter 28, Pip makes the following comment:

I entertain a conviction, based upon large experience, that if in the days of my prosperity I had gone to the North Pole, I should have met somebody there, wandering Esquimaux or civilized man, who would have told me that Pumblechook was my earliest patron and the founder of my fortunes. 

Of course this is a joking reference to Uncle Pumblechook's outrageous and wrong-headed claims that he alone was responsible for Pip's successes. The man, according to Pip's comment, is so arrogant and persistent in taking credit for things (which he in fact had no part of) that even the Eskimos wandering in the uncivilized wilderness would have heard about Pumblechook's amazing accomplishments. 

It is an exaggeration worthy of Pumblechook himself.

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Great Expectations

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