What insight does Pip gain into Wemmicks private life in Charles Dickens's Great Expectations?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his search for a father throughout the narrative of Great Expectations, Pip seeks this parentage with Joe, but because he succumbs to the "rampages" of Mrs. Joe, Joe is unable to fulfill the role, Then in London, Pip finds some paternal warmth in John Wemmick.  But, Mr. Wemmick leads a dual life: the one as a clerk with a "post-office mouth" and the other as the devoted son at Walworth, which is outside London.  Wemmick has chosen to live outside London away from the grime and corruption.  In the district of Walworth he has created "the castle," replete with moat, drawbridge, and cannon, the Stinger, that Wemmick fires for the delight of Aged Parent.  Behind the fortifications, Wemmick has a miniature farm with a pig and some fowl.  Then, as they drink punch in a shaded area, Wemmick tells Pip,

I am my own engineer, and my own carpenter, and my own plumber, and my own gardener, and my own Jack of all Trades."

“Well, it's a good thing, you know. It brushes the Newgate cobwebs away, and pleases the Aged Parent."

When Pip asks if Mr. Jaggers likes his property, Wemmick informs him that Mr. Jaggers has never been to Walworth:

“No: the office is one thing, and private life is another. When I go into the office, I leave the castle behind me, and when I come into the castle, I leave the office behind me.”

Mr. Wemmick separates his private live from his public life. The next morning Pip finds his boots cleaned by the kind Wemmick who is in the garden nodding and smiling at his old father.  However, as they walk to little Britain and Mr. Jaggers's office, Mr. Wemmick transforms again to the dry little man with the mere post-office slot of a mouth:

By degrees, Wemmick got dryer and harder as we went along, and his mouth tightened into a post-office again. At last, when we got to his place of business and he pulled out his key from his coat-collar, he looked as unconscious of his Walworth property as if the Castle and the drawbridge and the arbour and the lake and the fountain and the Aged, had all been blown into space together by the last discharge of the Stinger.

While Pip is amazed at the duality of Wemmick, he is warmed by his charming dinner at Walworth and his comfortable stay, a stay that is certainly in contrast to his stays at Uncle Pumblechook's where he has been treated as much less than a guest.

mahmood786 | Student

Wemmick’s Integrity Wemmick provides a complicated, yet interesting separation of his home life and work life. His home and work lives are as different in physical appearances as they are in personality differences. Many of his home habits allow him to express his care and decency, which contrasts with his mechanical work which lacks good value. Wemmick dedicates himself to separating the two so that he may keep his virtues intact while he works in the filth of Newgate. Wemmick is alone in his success of separation when compared to others such as Jaggers and Pip. Such dedication to keeping good values alive gives Wemmick  much integrity. this is what pip gets from him


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Great Expectations

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