What roles do Jaggers, Wemmick, and Herbert play in Pip's new life in Great Expectations?  

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

One of Pip's most prominent characteristics is his desire for self-improvement.  The characters Mr. Jaggers, Wemmick, and Herbert Pocket contribute in certain ways to this effort of Pip.

Mr. Jaggers

After Pip arrives in London in the Second Stage of Great Expectations, he is markedly disappointed in the grime of the city and dismal appearance of the office of Mr. Jaggers, which itself resembles the prison near it, the infamous Newgate.  Jaggers, who is modeled by Dickens after a particularly unscrupulous lawyer that he knew, is connected to the motif of criminal injustice which prevails throughout the novel.  He washes his hands with scented soap continually, signifying his desire, like that of Pontius Pilate, to remove the guilt and smell of crimes from himself. Along with the motif of criminality, Jaggers contributes to the guilt that haunts Pip. From the first day that Pip encountered Mr. Jaggers on the stairs at Satis House, and he accused Pip of being one of "a bad set of fellows." Whenever he summons Pip to his office, Mr. Jaggers again ensares Pip and forces him into the role of the delinquent:  "Of course you'll go wrong somehow, but that's no fault of mine."  His tone is always accusatory, "What do you suppose...you are living at the rate of?"  And, his speech is guarded, so he offers Pip no friendship.  At a dinner to which he has invited Pip, Mr. Jaggers admires the brutal Bentley Drummle much more than Pip or Herbert.  For, he believes the Spider to be the type to survive the vicissitudes of life.


With his "post office mouth" that merely sends objective information while he is in London, Wemmick proves to be a true friend to Pip and advises him wisely when Pip is with him at his home in Walworth. A foil to the cold and unscrupulous Mr. Jaggers, Wemmick visits the men in Newgate and knows their names. At Walworth he sets an example of the loving son to his Aged Parent, an example that throws Pip's own behavior toward Joe into relief for him.

Herbert Pocket, Jr.

The pale young gentleman of Pip's first visit to Miss Havisham's, Herbert Pocket is the son of Pip's tutor, Matthew Pocket. Throughout their association, the guilt of Pip tinges the guilt of Herbert. Good-natured and loyal, Herbert is a true friend to Pip.  For instance, when Pip first arrives, he teaches him good table manners, and he relates Miss Havisham's history to Pip. While he does not manage his finances any better than Pip, Herbert does save Pip's life as he finds the letter Orlick has written telling Pip to meet him at the old sluice house.  He and another rush to this place and save Pip from Orlick's murderous intent. Further, Herbert aids Pip in his attempt to help Magwitch escape London.  After Herbert realizes that Pip has aided his advancement in business, he and his wife Clara name their baby "Pip." 

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Great Expectations

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