What is the emphasis of chapter 31 in Great Expectations?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

While Chapter XXXI provides some comic relief to the narrative, it exemplifies Dickens's extravagant didacticism. For, in its satiric humor, the chapter not only mocks Mr. Wopsle in his pretentiousness  in changing his name to Waldengarver, and his affected speech--

...there was something decidedly fine in Mr. Wopsle's elocution--not for old association's sake, I am afraid, but because it was very slow, very dreary, very up-hill and down-hill, and very unlike any way in which any man in any natural circumstances of life or death ever expressed himself about anything--

but in Dickens's use of the "double narrative," it also points to the pretentions and delusions of other characters such as Uncle Pumblechook, Mrs. Pocket, and, of course, Pip who enact a real-life pretense at aristocracy.  When, for example, Pip and Herbert go backstage to visit Mr. Wopsle/Waldengarver, he is complacent even though the audience has laughed and scoffed at him throughout the performance. Mr. Wopsle tells Pip and Herbert,

 “My view is a little classic and thoughtful for them here; but they will improve, they will improve.”

Out of kindness, Pip and Herbert invite Mr. Wopsle home with them for supper. But while he is there, Wopsle still considers his performance adequate and not the farce that it has been. The target of Dickens's satiric humor, Mr. Wopsle represents those who seek to raise themselves in society only make themselves targets of ridicule. And, ironically, Pip is one of these people.

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Great Expectations

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