In Great Expectations, what does Pip think about on his way to meet the convict, and what does this say about his integrity?

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ajmchugh's profile pic

ajmchugh | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Associate Educator

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Charles Dickens begins Chapter 3 of Great Expectations with a very vivid description of the misty morning and the damp marshes through which Pip must venture to meet the convict.  In much of Dickens's writing, details of the setting (the description of the morning, in this case) give readers insight into characters' emotnions.  In this case, a very guilty and very scared Pip experiences fear and paranioa that make the task he is about to undertake even more frightening.  Of particular importance is Pip's narration, in which he describes the heavy dew that has covered everything in his path.  He notes that he is unable to see objects until he is practically on top of them, and the disorientation this creates mirrors the confusion he feels over the situation.  He feels that the directional post is directing him to the Hulks for what he has done, and he even imagines that inanimate objects and cattle are all accusing him of being a thief. 

Even at such a young age, Pip is aware of the "crime" he has committed; he feels guilty for stealing from his sister and Joe (his sister because of the punishment she would implement if she found out, and Joe because Pip doesn't want to lose Joe's respect), yet he is too afraid for this life to not do as the convict has instructed. 

This vividly descriptive scene gives readers insight into Pip's character, and will help readers understand many of the internal conflicts Pip will deal with later in the novel. 

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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While Pip has been dishonest in stealing the "wittles" for the convict, as  well as taking the file from Joe's blacksmith shop, his actions still demonstrate a certain integrity of character.  For, Pip keeps his promise of not telling anyone as well as the holding to his word to bring the convict food.  From these actions, the reader ascertains that Pip has a warm, caring nature, yet he is an honorable child who, once committed, does not falter in his purpose.

This insight into the youthful character of Pip brings the reader much surprise at the character change of Pip in the Second Stage of Great Expectations.

bmadnick's profile pic

bmadnick | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Pip's guilt eats him up as he goes to meet the convict. He knows it's wrong to steal, and in the heavy mist of the marshes, he even imagines that things in the marshes are calling him thief. Pip's sense of morality is innocent and naive at his tender, young age, but he still makes good on his promise to the convict. He could have told Joe about him, but he decides to give the convict what he's asked for even though Pip is deathly afraid of him. In these first few chapters, the theme of right and wrong is introduced and foreshadows Pip's struggle to decide what is moral and immoral throughout the book.

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