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Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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What is remarkable about Mr. Jagger's housekeeper, Molly, in Great Expectations?

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Molly, Mr. Jaggers's housekeeper, is a minor character with a big secret: she is Magwitch's wife and Estella's mother. Molly had been accused of murder, but Jaggers was able to get her acquitted, and Molly became his housekeeper. Her daughter, Estella, rumored to have been also murdered by Molly as an act of revenge, actually is placed by Jaggers in the care of Miss Haversham.

Molly is an interesting character in that so much of the mystery surrounding Pip and Estella lies in her backstory. But more to the point, her "taming" by Jaggers (Wimmick calls her "a wild beast tamed") is an example of the power the lawyer has over the lives of the characters in this story. Molly is a passionate, virile woman who nevertheless is made subservient to Jaggers's calculations. It's an open question how much of Estella's character can be traced to Molly, or to Mr. Jaggers's management.

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I think Jaggers makes an effort to point out (when introducing Molly in a rather strange way) that Molly's wrists show formidable strength. I think this is to be a reflection of her character. It may not matter what her strength lies in, nonetheless, it is a strength.

What I find remarkable is that her daugther we later find is also a woman of great strength. The difference may be what each of them chooses to use their strength for.

It seems that Jaggers made an effort to point out this strength to Pip for a reason. It is as if he was giving him a clue.

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I would say that the most remarkable thing about Molly is that she turns out to be Estella's mother.  She does not know what has happened to her daughter other than the fact that the daughter was taken and brought up by a rich person.  Pip finds this out because he notices many similarities between the two of them.

I suppose it is also remarkable that Molly has been a convict.  Pip notices this because Molly's wrists have scars on them as if she has had manacles on her wrists for a long time.

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More on the wrists of Molly: When Drummle shows how muscular his arm is and the other young men "fell to baring and spanning our arms in a ridiculous manner," Mr. Jaggers suddenly claps "his large hand on the housekeeper's like a trap" as she reaches across the table.  "If you talk of strength," said Mr. Jaggers, "I'll show you a wrist...."

Jaggers shows the young men a wrist deeply scarred, telling them "There's power here."  He explains that she has a wrist stronger than most men; the hands have a great "force of grip," as well.

Later in the novel, Pip learns what these remarkable wrists have done.

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