What is Pip's first impression of London in Great Expectations?
When Pip first arrives in London in hopes of realizing his "great expectations," he is certainly taken aback by the realities which he encounters.
Having been derogated as being "coarse" and "common" by Estella, Pip expects to find an impressive and sophisticated city. Instead, he feels "some faint doubts whether it was not rather ugly, crooked, narrow, and dirty."
When he steps off the coach onto the "gloomy street" where there are offices, Pip enters that of Mr. Jaggers and is ushered into the chambers of the barrister, which is a "most dismal place" lighted only by skylight. As he is uncomfortable waiting in this dark room, Pip decides to go outside and walk on the streets. He sees the dark dome of St. Paul's cathedral "bulging...from behind a grim stone building," a building which Pip is told is Newgate Prison. The street is covered with straw to soften the cacophony of passing carriages and wagons. Rather sordid and unsightly people who smell strongly of "spirits" are outside the prison, indicating that trials have begun.
Later, when Mr. Jaggers's clerk Wemmick escorts Pip to Barnard's Inn where he will reside, Pip is sadly disappointed. For, he finds in the "melancholy square"
the dingiest collection of shabby buildings ever squeezed together in a rank corner as a club for tomcats.
Pip is so greatly disappointed by this "first realization of my great expectations" that he looks in dismay at Mr. Wemmick. Once alone, Pip decides that London has been "decidedly overrrated."
Pip's first impressions of London are visual. After having never really been in the city itself, he had no idea how dirty and ragged it could be. This is just part of the era, but it is particularly an aspect of London that Dickens wanted readers to notice.
Pip finds the street gloomy, and the description of Jaggers' office is terrible. Many dark overtones are used, and the disjointed joining of buildings made Pip wonder why the city was designed that way. The coach Pip had ridden in to get there was described as weather-stained and the rags therein were described as moth-eaten. Jaggers' office is described as having greasy walls as people intimidated by him backed up. Being so close to the courthouse, the area around Jaggers office was described as pretty dirty as are most inner-city places today.
This description is important because it foreshadows Pip's experience there.