What is the significance of this quote from Great Expectations? "There were three ladies in the room and one gentleman. Before I had been standing at the window five minutes, they somehow conveyed to me that they were all toadies and humbugs, but that each of them pretended not to know that the others were toadies and humbugs: because the admission that he or she did know it, would have made him or her out to be a toady and humbug."

This passage in Great Expectations is significant because it provides Pip with a glimpse of the type of society with which he will become familiar when he is a gentleman. Far from being impressively superior to the humble people he knows, these ladies and gentlemen are shallow snobs and hypocrites.

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In chapter 11 of Great Expectations, Pip arrives at Satis House to be greeted coldly by Estella and directed to wait in a room where the occupants all turn to inspect him severely as he enters:

There were three ladies in the room and one gentleman. Before I had been standing at the window five minutes, they somehow conveyed to me that they were all toadies and humbugs, but that each of them pretended not to know that the others were toadies and humbugs: because the admission that he or she did know it, would have made him or her out to be a toady and humbug.

These three ladies and one gentleman are members of Miss Havisham's extended family, and Pip's appraisal of them is accurate. They are snobs and hypocrites, forever fawning on Miss Havisham in the hope of being left money. The primary significance of the passage is to convey to the reader the circumstances in which Miss Havisham lives and in which Pip will soon live. Miss Havisham seems at first to be alone, but in fact, she is surrounded by relatives whom she dislikes and keeps at a distance. These are the type of people with whom Pip will be surrounded when he becomes a gentleman.

Pip is not a gentleman at this stage in the book, but he can see quite clearly that these "gentlefolk" are poor specimens of humanity. Dickens makes it clear that he thinks honest poverty is better for the soul than the type of degrading life lived by hangers-on in rich families. When he becomes a gentleman, Pip will become closely acquainted with the Pocket family, of which he has his first glimpse here. This glimpse provides him with a warning that his rise in society will not by any means guarantee that he is surrounded by better people.

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