Pip reaches London in chapter 20 of Great Expectations after much eager anticipation. His departure is a great event—not only for him but also for Joe and Biddy and various members of the community. Mr. Trabb the tailor treats Pip with a new and fulsome deference, while Pip himself announces, "henceforth I was for London and greatness; not for smith’s work."
Pip's first impression of London, therefore, is a bitter disappointment. He immediately remarks that this is not how one would expect the greatest city of a mighty empire to look:
We Britons had at that time particularly settled that it was treasonable to doubt our having and our being the best of everything: otherwise, while I was scared by the immensity of London, I think I might have had some faint doubts whether it was not rather ugly, crooked, narrow, and dirty.
Pip is a country boy. When imagining London, he has always focused on its size and magnificence, expecting to step out of his stagecoach into a gleaming alabaster city, filled with fine ladies and gentlemen. It has not occurred to him that a vast city will inevitably include a great deal of dirt and squalor.
Mr. Jaggers, when he came to visit Pip, was an immensely impressive figure. He remains so, even in London, but his offices are much less impressive, being in a squalid and rather dangerous area. Wemmick also does little to improve matters when he tells Pip, "You may get cheated, robbed, and murdered in London."
Finally, even the more genteel neighborhood of Barnard's Inn is ugly, dingy, and depressing, while Pip's future lodgings are in a state of disrepair. Pip makes his feelings on the subject perfectly clear:
I thought it had the most dismal trees in it, and the most dismal sparrows, and the most dismal cats, and the most dismal houses (in number half a dozen or so), that I had ever seen.
He sums up his first experience of the capital, as he stares dolefully out "through the window’s encrusting dirt" with the observation that "London was decidedly overrated."