Why does Pip "embroider" his account of his visit to Satis House? Charles Dickens's "Great Expectations"

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davmor1973 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

From his very first visit to Satis House, Pip realises that he has entered another world. This is clearly a very special place, a very unusual place, which Pip finds utterly fascinating. Pip feels that this is his own world, a world full of strangeness and secrets. As with many young children, having secrets gives him a sense of his own identity. They are his secrets and no one else's.

Not surprisingly, then, Pip doesn't want to let on to the grown-ups exactly what happened during that fateful first visit. If he reveals all then Satis House will somehow lose the aura of enchantment it exerts over Pip's youthful imagination. Also, Pip has developed a crush on Estella. The feelings he's developed for her are strange and unique and he doesn't quite fully understand them, such is his callowness. He needs to "embroider" the story of his visit to deflect attention from his instant attraction to this insufferable, yet beautiful girl.

Pip's self-image is an important factor in his desire for secrecy. He is acutely aware of his relatively lowly social status as a "common, laboring boy," as Estella callously reminds him. He wants to find a place in life, a place where he can escape himself, well away from the harshness and drudgery of life on the Romney marshes. Satis House is that place. Here, Pip can be someone. Despite Estella's snobbish barbs he can at least construct for himself a fantasy world in which he is of greater worth and significance. He is there to play not just with Estella for the amusement of Miss Havisham but also to play a part that he has written for himself.

Telling the adults what really happened during his first visit would've broken the spell, and Pip would've been unceremoniously deposited back into his workaday world without means of imaginative escape.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Ironically, Pip believes that if he truly relates what occurred at Satis House, he sister will think it too fantastic a tale to be given credibility.  So, he edits the appearance of the inhabitants and the house and the actions that have occurred.  In addition to feeling that no one will understand Miss Havisham, Pip also feels that there is something "coarse and treacherous" about his revealing the truth of her character and appearance.  Interestingly, in this sentiment there is also irony as Pip reveals that he is of a noble character although he perceives Estella and Miss Havisham as superior to him.

Added to the convictions of Pip regarding his report of his visit to Satis House is his repulsion of the preposter, Uncle Pumblechook who hurries to Joe's house to learn the news.

And the mere sight of the torment with his fishy eyes and mouth open, his sandy hair inquisitively on end, and his waistcoast heaving with arithmetic, made me vicious in my reticence.

While Pip fabricates an elaborate story about what he has seen and done, he does tell the truth about the house being lit with only candles, for he realizes that Pumblechook is aware of this fact although he knows nothing of the inside of the house since he must wait outside whenever he does business there.

Later, however, Pip confesses to Joe that he has lied and that he feels very miserable because Estella has made him feel common. In fatherly fashion, Joe instructs Pip that "lies is lies."  But, he tells Pip, lying is no way to get out of being common; besides, Pip is "uncommon in some things," he lovingly comforts Pip.

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Great Expectations

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