Illustration of Pip visiting a graveyard

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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Chapters 20 and 21 Summary

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Chapter 20

Pip moves to London with the intention of becoming educated and cultured. Upon arriving in the capitol, however, Pip is far from impressed. Rather than matching his “great expectations,” every aspect of the city initially seems a let-down. The five-hour distance from the village seems enormous, and he finds London ugly and dirty and the narrow, crooked streets confusing. The street where Jaggers’s office is located is dismal and gloomy. As Jaggers is not in, Pip waits for a while and then takes a walk over to Newgate Prison. He hears people around the jail and gallows speaking well of the lawyer’s skills, which gives him a more positive impression of Jaggers. While hanging around there, he also runs into Jaggers himself, and as they walk to the office, Jaggers talks briefly with a number of the people milling around. He impresses Pip as an unsentimental, detached person, and Pip hopes that his influence will be a positive force in his new life.

Chapter 21

Pip’s new lodgings will be at Barnard’s Inn, where he will say with Herbert, the son of Matthew Pocket, his new tutor. Jaggers gives him cards for the various tradesmen’s establishments where he can get his new clothes made and purchase any other necessary supplies. His companion on the way to Barnard’s Inn is Mr. Wemmick, an employee of Jaggers’s. Pip finds the inn rather shabby, again not meeting his expectations of grandeur. Young Mr. Pocket is not in, so Pip waits alone for him after Wemmick leaves. When Herbert Pocket returns, Pip realizes they have met before: Herbert is the “pale young gentleman” with whom he had fought at Miss Havisham’s house. Knowing of Herbert’s relationship to Miss Havisham helps reinforce Pip’s idea that she is his mysterious benefactor. His hunch is that she is working on improving him so he will be a worthy match for Estella. Herbert’s friendly manner helps put him at ease.

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Chapters 18 and 19


Chapters 22 and 23