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Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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Who is the Avenger in chapters 24-34 of Great Expectations?

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The Avenger in chapters 24-34 of Great Expectations is Pip's servant, whom he hires to maintain his status as a gentleman in London. Ironically named, the Avenger becomes a burden to Pip, symbolizing the consequences of living beyond one's means. Pip struggles to provide tasks and sustenance for his servant, highlighting the impracticalities and expenses associated with his new lifestyle, and underscoring the irony of Pip's situation where the servant, intended to be an asset, becomes an avenger of Pip's misguided aspirations.

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The Avenger is Pip’s servant while he is in London.

Pip decides that as a gentleman he should have a servant.  Unfortunately, having a servant is not a pleasant experience for him—thus the name.

I had got on so fast of late, that I had even started a boy in boots—top boots—in bondage and slavery to whom I might be said to pass my days. (ch 27, p. 149)

This is ironic, of course, because the servant is supposed to be the metaphorical slave to the master, not the other way around.  This is why Pip calls him the Avenger or phantom.  He is revenge for Pip’s living beyond his means and hiring a servant.

Pip finds it difficult to keep a servant because he cannot find anything for the servant to do.

I had to find him a little to do and a great deal to eat; and with both of these horrible requirements he haunted my existence. (ch 27, p. 149)

The Avenger is just another way that Pip finds being a gentleman cumbersome.  He feels that he should have a servant to fulfill his role as a gentleman, but he actually does not have anything for the servant to do.  He also finds the servant more expensive and time consuming than he thought, because he has to dress and feed him.

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We are first introduced to "The Avenger" in Chapter 27 before Joe´s first visit to see Pip in London. Pip talks about how he has changed his quarters and tells us how he has taken on a manservant:

I had got on so fast of late, that I had even started a boy in boots - top boots - in bondage and slavery to whom I might be said to pass my days. For, after I had made this monster (out of the refuse of my washerwoman´s family) and had clothed him with a blue coat, canary waist-coat, white cravat, creamy breaches, and the boots already mentioned, I had to find him a little to do and a great deal to eat, and with both of these horrible requirements he haunted my existence.

This not only paints a humourous picture of how Pip is uncomfortable to adjusting to his "Great Expectations" by his inability to handle servants, it also emphasises his spendthrift ways, an impression that is augmented in Chapter 34, when, in spite of the debt that Pip is getting into, he still maintains "The Avenger". This shows us how Pip has become a prisoner of his own sense of snobbishness - he has "created" the Avenger and it shows how literally Pip is entrapped and constrained by his "Great Expectations", which foreshadows us for his meeting with Joe.

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