Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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What is the quote where Pip realizes he would have been happier if he never came into money, never met Miss Havisham, and was still at the forge in Great Expectations?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In Chapter 34, Pip starts to realize the difference between the reality of having wealth versus the "great expectations" of those who assume that having wealth means living lavishly and beyond their means.

So now, as an infallible way of making little ease great ease, I began to contract a quantity of debt. I could hardly begin but Herbert must begin too, so he soon followed.

By now, in trying to keep up with his peers, impress others, and act as a benefactor, Pip has started to waste money away and fall into debts. Herbert does the same, and now that debts are creeping in, Pip realizes that, as far as expectations go, there will never be enough money to abide by the habits of the very rich.

My lavish habits led [Herbert's] easy nature into expenses that he could not afford, corrupted the simplicity of his life, and disturbed his peace with anxieties and regrets.

Still immature to his reality, Pip tries other ways to remain in the social hodgepodge that he is expected to be a part of, and this leads to his living the life of an idle dandy.

we put ourselves down for election into a club called The Finches of the Grove: [...] if it were not that the members should dine expensively once a fortnight, to quarrel among themselves as much as possible after dinner, and to cause six waiters to get drunk on the stairs.

That, however, was indeed the mindset of the time of the dandies--the young bachelors who idled away at their respective clubs during the afternoons and then partied away the night. These men inevitably hovered around one another. Now, keep in mind, the behavior that Pip and his cronies display is not unique to this novel. Plenty of Regency and Victorian novels, and the likes of Oscar Wilde, H.H. Munro (Saki), P.G. Wodehouse, G.B. Shaw and a plethora of other authors of the period, would describe the behaviors of the rich London bachelors exactly as Dickens does in Great Expectations.

All this being said, it is evident that Chapter 34 discloses a lot of information about Pip and his new lifestyle, which is why he says the quote in question:

I used to think, with a weariness on my spirits, that I should have been happier and better if I had never seen Miss Havisham's face, and had risen to manhood content to be partners with Joe in the honest old forge.

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I used to think, with a weariness on my spirits, that I should have been happier and better if I had never seen Miss Havisham's face, and had risen to manhood content to be partners with Joe in the honest old forge.

This is the relevant quotation from chapter 34. What it shows, among other things, is great maturity and wisdom on Pip's part. He always thought that what he really wanted in life was to become a wealthy gentleman, a man of substance. But now, after all he's been through, he's finally come to the realization that he never really wanted any of that after all. He'd have been much happier had he stayed where he was, in the humble cottage of Joe Gargery the blacksmith.

Pip has learned a very valuable lesson: that all the wealth and social status in the world ultimately mean nothing. What really matters in life is happiness. And happiness can be found in kinds of strange places, including the honest old forge of a humble country blacksmith.

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litteacher8 eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The quote you are looking for is in Chapter 34, in the first paragraph.

I used to think, with a weariness on my spirits, that I should have been happier and better if I had never seen Miss Havisham's face, and had risen to manhood content to be partners with Joe in the honest old forge. (ch 34, p. 186)

At this point, Pip has “grown accustomed” to his expectations, but he is still not happy.  He realizes that he has not really become a better person.  He might have been a better person if he had stayed at the forge with Joe and never known the life of a gentleman, which for him is a false life—a cursed life.  He has become ungrateful, selfish, and completely isolated from the people who really love him.

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