Illustration of Pip visiting a graveyard

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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Chapters 6 and 7 Summary

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Last Updated on August 14, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 612

Chapter 6

Chapter 6 is brief and mainly focuses on Pip's lingering guilt. There is little action beyond Joe taking Pip home on his shoulders from the place of the convict's arrest and then relating the story of the convict's confession to breaking into the house and taking the file and food (which Pip knows is a lie for his benefit). The other guests at the house make guesses as to how the convict got into the house, Mr. Pumblechook suggesting the intruder got inside by going down the chimney.

Pip feels a great deal of guilt about helping the convict and stealing from the house throughout the chapter. He does not tell Mrs. Joe, because he fears she will beat him for the offenses. He also does not tell Joe, because he feels Joe will view him in a lesser light. As a child, Pip craves Joe's affection and respect more than anyone else simply because Joe is a good man. This is an important detail, since once Pip meets Miss Havisham and Estella, he will start to care more about class than character when admiring other people.

Chapter 7

In the narration, Pip recalls that he was just starting to learn how to read around the time the incident with the escaped convict occurred. Even though the plan is that he will be apprenticed to Joe when he is old enough, Mrs. Joe keeps Pip busy by letting him do small errands and odd jobs for the neighbors. Pip keeps none of his earnings, as his sister insists he give them all to her.

Pip receives his schooling at Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt's house, even though she is incompetent and often asleep. Her kind granddaughter, Biddy, helps Pip learn to read.

About a year after the incident on the marshes, Pip writes Joe a letter. Joe is impressed and asks Pip if he wants to be a scholar. Pip says he does, but both know he must keep it a secret from Mrs. Joe, since she has no use for scholars.

Joe reveals that he would love to be able to read. As a boy, his mother tried to get him some schooling every time she ran away from Joe's drunk, abusive father. Unfortunately, his father prevented him from learning whenever he tracked the two of them down. Joe eventually had to go to work and ended up taking care of both his parents until they died, never getting the chance to gain literacy.

Joe also reveals why he married Mrs. Joe in the first place. He says he was impressed by her strength of character in caring for the infant Pip when her parents died. He married her out of compassion for her and Pip and as a way of alleviating his own loneliness after the loss of his mother and father.

Pip wants to teach Joe how to read. Joe accepts but says they will have to keep the lessons a secret from Mrs. Joe, who demands complete control over both Joe and Pip and would not appreciate them becoming literate and therefore a little more out of her control, or her "government," as Joe puts it.

Returning from a shopping trip with Mr. Pumblechook, Mrs. Joe is excited to reveal that a wealthy spinster, Miss Havisham, is willing to pay to have Pip come play at her home. This was arranged through Mr. Pumblechook, who is a tenant of Miss Havisham's. He told the old woman about Pip when she said she was specifically searching for a young working-class boy.

Pip's sister washes him and dresses him in good clothes before sending him to spend the night at Mr. Pumblechook's house.

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Chapters 4 and 5


Chapters 8 and 9