Who are the "toadies and humbugs" in Chapter 11 of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

 Like so many relatives of wealthy people, Camilla, Cousin Raymond, and Sarah Pocket appear on Miss Havisham's birthday under the guise of wishing her well.  Miss Havisham has Pip support her as she walks with her cane around a great table with a decaying wedding cake upon it.  The "toadies" and "humbugs" tell Miss Havisham that she "looks well."  After Miss Pocket is rebuffed by Miss Havisham's "I do not," Camilla complacently smiles, indicating her enjoyment of Miss Havisham's negative treatment of Sarah.  For, this may mean that Camilla might stand in better stead and inherit more when Miss Havisham dies.

That they are flatterers because they hope that Miss Havisham will bequeath money and property to them is the reason these "toadies" even come each year.  To Miss Havisham their words ring as insincere.  When Camilla says that Matthew is remiss for never coming, her desired reaction from Miss Havisham is thrawted:

Matthew will come and see me at last," said Miss Havisham sternly, "when I am laid on that table.  That will be his place--there,"...at my head!  And yours will be there!  And your husband's there!  And Sarah Pocket's there!  And Georgiana's there!

 Once they all know where they will stand and sit, Miss Havisham tells them to go.  Then, she reveals that not only is this day her birthday, but it was also her wedding day.  Matthew Pocket, father of Herbert, the pale young gentleman, does not come because he is the only one who is not hypocritical. In fact, he has accused the others of "feasting on their relations."  He disapproved of her marrying Arthur, who jilted her, telling her he was a swindler, but Miss Havisham rejected the honest Matthew.

lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

These people are relatives of the Pocket family, with whom Pip will soon become acquainted. They are distant relatives of Miss Havisham – Camilla, Raymond and Sarah. Matthew Pocket, who is NOT in this group (he is an honorable man, not a toadie) will soon become Pip’s tutor and Herbert Pocket will become Pip’s roommate and friend. At this point in the story, though, these three Pockets are having around Miss Havisham’s house, sucking up to her and being insincere. That is what “toadies” and “humbugs” are – flatterers and insincere people.

They are all pretending they are NOT toadies and humbugs , as Pip remarks, but each of them is, because each is trying to flatter Miss Havisham. She, however, is not fooled by them. She later tells Pip that they visit her once a year, on her birthday. On his way out, Pip encounters a “pale young gentlemen” with whom he fights. Later, Pip will will encounter him again. This gentlemen is Herbert Pocket, who will appear in the second part of the novel.

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Great Expectations

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