What is Pip's Christmas Eve dilemma in Chapter 2 of Great Expectations?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter II of Stage I of Great Expectations, Pip's greatest dilemma is how to steal the food for the convict without Mrs. Joe's knowing about his theft:

I knew Mrs. Joe's housekeeping to be of the strictest kind, and that my larcenous researches might find nothing in the safe.

Because he may not be able to raid the pantry without Mrs. Joe's knowing, Pip resolves to place the bread she has cut for him down his pant leg rather than eating it.  So, when Joe is not looking, he shoves the bed into his pant leg.

On Christmas Eve, Pip ascends the stairs to his little room; he mentions that as he does so, he is "in terror":

I was in mortal terror of my interlocutor(speaker) with the iron leg; I was in mortal terror of myself, from whom an awful promise had been extracted [his guilt]; I had no hope of deliverance from my all-powerful sister....

Pip lies awake at night knowing that he must raid the pantry, a pantry of which Mrs. Joe has an exact inventory. But, his fear of the man who has threatened to cut out his liver is even greater than his fear of Mrs. Joe.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In this chapter, Pip's dilemma really is what to do about the demands that the convict has made of him back in the previous chapter.  He has to decide whether he is going to (he thinks) risk death or if he is going to steal from Mrs. Joe.

In Chapter 1, the convict tells Pip that he will kill Pip if Pip does not bring food or if Pip tells on him.  So Pip is terribly afraid.  He believes that the convict is capable of killing him.  On the other hand, he has a very guilty conscience about stealing from his sister.  When he sneaks down the stairs, for example, he feels like the stairs are going to shout out an alarm.

So Pip is torn -- he is in fear for his life, but he also does not want to steal.  This is his dilemma on Christmas Eve.

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Great Expectations

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