Great Expectations Questions and Answers
by Charles Dickens

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What is the significance of the setting of the inns (Three Jolly Bargmen, Blue Boar, and Barnard's Inn) in Great Expectations?

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Pip spends a great deal of time in inns and pubs.  This is because most of the time he is trying to avoid his family.  He really is disconnected.  The inns are symbolic of this.  Each represents a stage in his expectations.

The Three Jolly Bargeman is a pub in Pip’s village on the marshes.  This is the lower-class bar.

Of course there was a public-house in the village, and of course Joe liked sometimes to smoke his pipe there. (ch 10, p. 51)

At the bar, people seem to always keep tabs but never pay them.  It has a common room where “there was a bright large kitchen fire” and men gather.  Here is where Pip meets the “stranger” that gives him a fright by acting strangely and showing the file.  When he stirs his rum-and-water with a file, Pip gets very nervous because he connects him to the convict.  This foreshadows that Pip will be influenced by the convict to come.

The Three Jolly Bargeman is a common place.  Pip feels uncomfortable there.  The Blue Boar is classier than the Three Jolly Bargeman.  It is symbol of opulence and high class.

And there my sister became so excited by the twenty-five guineas, that nothing would serve her but we must have a dinner out of that windfall, at the Blue Boar, and that Mr. Pumblechook must go over in his chaise-cart, and bring the Hubbles and Mr. Wopsle. (ch 13, p. 74)

When Pip returns home, he goes to the Blue Boar instead of staying at Joe’s.  He “began to invent reasons and make excuses for putting up at the Blue Boar” (ch 28, p. 154).  When he loses his fortune, the Blue Boar no longer welcomes him.  Thus, the Blue Boar represents the promise of being a gentleman that Pip never fully realizes.

Barnard’s Inn is not the best kept place to stay.  Pip immediately compares it to the Blue Boar.

Whereas I now found Barnard to be a disembodied spirit, or fiction, and his inn the dingiest collection of shabby buildings ever squeezed together in a rank corner as a club for Tom-cats. (ch 21, p. 119)

Everything here is dismal.  Pip expects luxury and happiness, and this is what he gets.  Like his relationship with Estella and his idea that Miss Havisham is his benefactor, Barnard’s inn is an illusion.

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