In Great Expectations, what are Pip's thoughts on the Pocket household?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

With Matthew Pocket, Herbert's father, as his tutor, Pip is shocked when he visits the home of the Pockets and meets Mrs. Pocket and the children in Chapter XXIII, and finds it to be in chaos:

Both Mr. and Mrs. Pocket had such a noticeable air of being in someone else's hands that I wondered who really was in possession of the house and let them live there until I found this unknown power to be the servants.

Dickens satirizes the rising English middle class that aspires to the level of the effete upper class as Mrs. Pocket sits studying a book of titles which provides some documentation that she has descended from some "quite accidental deceased knight." Therefore, she has been raised as one who was "to be guarded from the acquisition of plebian domestic knowledge."

Mrs. Pocket's refusal to assume any responsibility for the raising of the children results in the children's unsupervised behavior as they tumble over the stool on which she rests her feet, or they get a hold of sharp objects, or put odd things into their mouths. Mr. Pocket is completely helpless on the domestic scene, merely pulling his hair as though to straighten himself up. After some incident of unruliness, he "quietly went on with what he was about."

In his commentary on Mrs. Pocket, Pip remarks that the best part of the house for one to have boarded would have been the kitchen where the servants congregate.  With comic irony Pip explains just how incompetent and irresponsible Mrs. Pocket really is in the following passage:

...before I had been there a week, a neighbouring lady with whom the family were personally unacquainted, wrote in to say that she had seen Millers slapping the baby.  This greatly distressed Mrs. Pocket, who burst into tears on receiving the note and said that it was an extraordinary thing that the neighbours couldn't mind their own business.

Moreover, despite Mr. Pocket's having been educated at Harrow and Cambridge, he is incapable of making Mrs. Pocket understand her incompetence at mothering. When he tries to suggest this lack of parenting skill to her, she insists that she will not be exposed "to the affront of interference." Therefore, from Pip's visit to the Pocket household, Pip concludes that no one but the servants have any control over the children; Mrs. Pocket is too distracted by the titles she reads about as she is only interested in advancing herself while the erudite Mr. Pocket is tragically inept at communicating with his wife and in parenting.

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Great Expectations

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