Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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Chapters 2 and 3 Summary

Chapter 2

Chapter 2 opens with Pip describing his sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery, and her husband, Joe Gargery. Mrs. Joe, as Pip calls her, is more than twenty years older than Pip and has a reputation for bringing him up "by hand," meaning that she frequently beats him. She uses the same "hand" on her husband. In contrast, Joe is described as "a fair man, with curls of flaxen hair on each side of his smooth face . . . mild, good-natured, sweet-tempered, easy-going." Pip describes Mrs. Joe as Joe's opposite: "My sister, Mrs. Joe, with black hair and eyes, had such a prevailing redness of skin . . . She was tall and bony, and almost always wore a coarse apron."

Following the description of Joe and Mrs. Joe, the action continues with Pip arriving home from the confrontation he had in the cemetery in chapter 1. Joe tells Pip that Mrs. Joe is out looking for him for the thirteenth time and that she has "Tickler" with her. Tickler is a tool she uses to whip Pip. As Joe is explaining this, Mrs. Joe comes through the door and, finding Pip hiding behind it, grabs him and throws him into Joe. Pip explains that he was in the churchyard. Mrs. Joe rages at Pip that she brought him up by hand and wouldn't do it again if she had the choice. As she yells, Pip's mind drifts to the conversation he had with the convict and how he is going to deliver the food and file.

Mrs. Joe prepares tea after suggesting that Pip and Joe are going to send her to an early grave. She cuts the bread in a “trenchant way,” and though Pip is hungry, he does not eat his bread, as he plans to save it for the man in the churchyard. Pip has difficulty because Joe is watching him closely and trying to engage him in their “usual friendly competition” in how they eat their bread. Pip waits for a moment when Joe is looking at his bread, and then he slides his own bread down his pant leg.

When Joe notices Pip’s bread gone, he assumes Pip swallowed it whole and is concerned about his health. Mrs. Joe notices something is wrong and hits Joe’s head against the wall a few times until he agrees to share what he and Pip are talking about. Joe talks to Pip as if it’s just the two of them and says that he’s concerned about how fast he “bolted” his food. Mrs. Joe grabs him by the hair and tells him to “come along and be dosed.”

Both Pip and Joe are dosed with “tar-water.” Pip gets a full pint, while Joe gets a half a pint. In addition to this punishment, Pip is feeling tremendous guilt about the bread in his pants leg. He feels guilty about robbing Mrs. Joe, though he doesn’t feel like he’s robbing Joe, because Pip doesn’t consider anything related to cooking or housekeeping as belonging to Joe. His feelings of guilt are interrupted by a wind coming through the marsh that, at times, sounds like the voice of the man from the churchyard. He worries that the young man the convict told him about might come after his life.

It is Christmas Eve, and Pip is assigned to stir the pudding for Christmas day; he finds this task impossible with the bread down his pants leg, so he escapes to his room to remove it.

Just before bed, Pip hears the sound of “great guns,” and Joe says that the sound of the guns means that a convict has escaped. Pip and Joe engage in a silent conversation, moving their lips but making no noise. Pip asks Joe to explain what a convict is, and Joe offers an answer too complicated for Pip to understand anything but the word “Pip.” Out loud, Joe clarifies that this is actually the second convict to escape; another escaped the night before. Pip wants to know who is firing the guns, and Mrs. Joe tells him to stop asking so many questions. Joe mouths a word that looks like “sulks,” and Pip thinks he’s talking about Mrs. Joe. Pip finally asks Mrs. Joe directly who is firing the guns, and Mrs. Joe clarifies that the sound is coming from the “hulks.” Pip continues to ask questions about what the hulks are and who gets put into prison ships...

(The entire section is 1,594 words.)