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Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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What is significant about Biddy's response to Pip's request for her to prepare Joe to be elevated to a "higher sphere"? Chapter 19

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In Chapter 19 of "Great Expectatations," Biddy, unlike Pip, better understands Joe. When Pip speaks with Joe after awaking from a nap at the Old Battery where Joe has followed him, Pip says it is too bad that Joe "did not get on a little more...with our lessons."  To this Joe replies that he is dull, but only "master at my own trade."  Furthermore, Joe tells Pip that it is no more unfortunate now that he does not "get on" than it was a year ago.

Beacause Joe is "ignorant of my [Pip's] meaning, Pip speaks to  Biddy on the subject.  She asks Pip "Have you never considered that he might be proud?"  Pip becomes disdainful, reiterating the word scornfully.  Now, ironically, it is he who does not understand.  Biddy continues,

He may be too proud to let anyone take him out of a place that he is competent to fill and fills well with respect.

Pip misinterprets the words of Biddy, accusing her of being "envious and grudgining"

You are dissastified on account of my rise in fortune, and you can't help showing it.

Biddy understands what Pip does not--that money and social standing do not make the person.  She demonstrates that she is not envious by telling Pip that whatever he says to her will not change her remembrance of him.  Interestingly, Pip later proposes to Biddy, but she chooses to marry Joe.  And, her words to Pip are true, for when Joe comes to visit in London, he is awkward and foolish-seeming to Pip.  Joe tells Pip that he will return to the forge, for the forge is where he belongs. 

 At this point, Pip experiences some inner conflicts as he wants to be a gentleman with the wealth and social standing that accompany the position, yet he does not want to leave Joe and Biddy and is guilt-ridden as a result.


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