In Great Expectations, why does Dickens include the scene where Pip goes to Mr. Trabb the tailor to buy a new suit before leaving for London? (Chapter 19) What is this supposed to say about Pip?

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William Delaney eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Chapter 19 of Great Expectations, Dickens wishes to show the change that takes place in people when they learn Pip has become affluent. This is Dickens at his best. He shows the hypocrisy in human nature. It is no different today than in Dickens' time.

When Pip enters his shop Trabb greets him informally in a "hail-fellow-well-met kind of way." Pip is enjoying his new status immensely, especially since he lives in such a small town where everybody knows him and will soon be talking about him.

"Mr. Trabb," said I, "it's an unpleasant thing to have to mention, because it looks like boasting, but I have come into a handsome property."

A change comes over Trabb. He exclaims,

"Lord bless my soul!"

"I am going up to my guardian in London," said I, casually drawing some guineas out of my pocket and looking at them, "and I want a fashionable suit of clothes to go in. I wish to pay for them," I added--otherwise I thought he might only pretend to make them, "with ready money."

"My dear sir," said Mr. Trabb, as he respectfully bent his body, opened his arms, and took the liberty of touching me on the outside of each elbow, "don't hurt me by mentioning that. May I venture to congratulate you? Would you do me the favour of stepping into the shop?"

This chapter illustrates the universal power of money. Pip has been nothing but a poor orphan boy, ignored and despised by everyone because he is poor, because he is an orphan, and because he is only a boy. All of a sudden he is being treated like a distinguished gentleman. Naturally he is enjoying it tremendously, and naturally it is making him feel that he has become the person he is taken to be.

The only fly in the ointment is the terrible Trabb's boy, who is introduced here but who will humiliate Pip in the hilarious Chapter 30 when Pip returns to town dressed in all his finery. Most of the local people are amazed at the way he has been transformed in appearance and manners. Pip is pleased with himself, but Trabb's Boy remembers him when he was nothing but an orphan living on the charity of his sister and her husband Joe. Trabb's Boy, in this famous scene from the novel, pretends to be astonished and terrified by Pip's grand manner and extravagant clothing. The hateful boy goes clear around the block several times in order to be able to ecounter Pip over and over again and to put on the same act, making everyone laugh at the humiliated Pip, who can do nothing but pretend not to notice his tormentor. For example:

With a shock he became aware of me, and was severely visited as before; but this time his motion was rotatory, and he staggered round and round me with knees more afflicted, and with uplifted hands as if beseeching for mercy. His sufferings were hailed with the greatest joy by a knot of spectators, and I felt utterly confounded.

The scene in Trabb's shop in Chapter 19 is intended to show the transforming power of money as well as to introduce the demonic Trabb's boy. In this same chapter Pip calls on Mr. Pumblechook, who had treated him so contemptuously in Chapter 4 and subsequent early chapters. Pumblechook already knows of Pip's great expectations, and his transformation is comparable to that of Mr. Trabb.

"My dear friend," said Mr. Pumblechook, taking me by both hands, when he and I . . . were alone. "I give you joy of your good fortune. Well deserved, well deserved."

Previously, Pumblechook had called Pip nothing but "boy" but now he keeps calling him "My dear young friend."

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Great Expectations

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