1. Write a close analysis of chapter 28 and briefly relate it to the rest of the novel.


2. When the facts about Magwitch's role in his life come out, what else does Pip learn about his situation, his expectations, his life, other people, and himself? What has he yet to learn?








Liz Atmore


1. Chapter 28 of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations is a pivotal chapter in the book. It serves as a ‘bridging’ chapter in the novel, and the events in the chapter serve as a foreshadowing of what is to come in later chapters. Through issues and events such as Pip not staying with Joe, the convicts traveling with Pip on the train, Pip’s ‘renaming’ by Herbert, and the unknown fear that Pip feels upon arrival in his home town, this essay discusses the themes of morality, and the outcast and society that are central to chapter 28, as well as their relation to the rest of the novel.


To set the scene for the issues that the essay discusses, a basic plot summary is necessary. Chapter 28 begins with seeing Pip embarking on a journey to “our town” (Dickens, 1860: 225), or his hometown. He originally intends to stay with Joe, but soon convinces himself that this would be inappropriate, and troublesome for Joe, and decides to rather stay at the Blue Boar. “I should be an inconvenience at Joe’s; I was not expected and my bed would not be ready…” (Dickens, 1860: 225). At the start of his journey home, he encounters two criminals who he learns are to be traveling on the same train as him. Pip recognises one of the criminals as the man who, many years ago, gave him the two, one pound notes. The criminal does not, however, seem to recognize Pip, and this is aided by the fact that Herbert, when wishing Pip well, does not call Pip by his real name, but rather calls him Handel, as he has become accustomed to calling him. This relieves Pip greatly as he has no desire top be recognized by the criminal. Pip is later, on his way to the Blue Boar, overcome by a sense of dread and fear, the origin of which he does not know. The chapter ends with Pip sitting at the Blue Boar, reading an article in which Mr Pumblechook takes the credit for Pip’s ‘rise to gentleman hood.’


Pip’s reluctance to stay with Joe, and the way in which he attempts to convince himself that he is doing the best thing by staying at the Blue Boar, raises the theme of morality in Chapter 28. The fact that Pip feels the need to convince himself, rather than just decide and accept, that it is alright for him not to stay with Joe indicates that Pip realizes that there is indeed something wrong with him going to stay at the Blue Boar. As the reader sees in Chapter 27, Pip now feels uncomfortable around Joe, who is the man that Pip once felt understood him best. This uneasiness around Joe continues in chapter 28, and reveals that Pip feels that in his new ‘position’ he cannot continue to act as he used to around Joe. Pip has placed himself on a new level, one which he sees as superior to that of Joe’s. The question of morality is raised as Joe, who treated Pip as his own son and was intent on giving Pip the best that was to be had, is now being discarded when it seems that Pip indeed has the best in life.


This incident also illustrates Pip’s desire to hold on to his expectations, and onto the lifestyle which he feels is most likely to help him do this. By staying with Joe, Pip sees himself as reverting back to the little boy who was humiliated by Estella, and who Estella never saw as good enough for her. Pip refuses to revert back to this, and in effect chooses his ‘expectation’ of ‘getting’ Estella over his moral bind to Joe. By not staying with Joe, Pip is cementing his attempts to be rid of his past, and all its connotations.


Further on in chapter 28, Pip is reminded that, despite all his attempts, he will never be able to put himself beyond the reaches of his past, when he finds himself on the train as two convicts. Although Pip his not recognised by the one convict whom he ‘knew’, the incident takes him straight back to his childhood, before he had any expectations. This encounter, however, does more than remind Pip of the fact that his past will always cling to him. It raises the issue of the outcast and society, a theme which is alluded to throughout Great Expectations. In this chapter, Dickens makes no attempt to disguise the fact that the two convicts are seen as the outcasts of society. The manner in which they are portrayed, as dirty and common, and the reaction of others to them, as “villainous company” (Dickens, 1860: 227), highlights this fact. What is interesting, however, is that an outcast, Magwitch, produces a member of the ‘high society’, Pip, indicating that the lines between the outcast and society are less obvious than thought.  Pip, who tries desperately not to be recognized by the convict, and therefore not be linked to the convict, cannot be any closer to a convict than he already is. He, as ‘society’ is inextricably linked to ‘the outcast’.


This incident with the convict is evidence of the foreshadowing in chapter 28 of what is later to come.  It gives the reader, and perhaps Pip, a clue that Magwitch will indeed resurface in Pip’s life.


The main reason as to why Pip is not remembered by, and linked to, the convicts, is due to the issue of the name. When wishing Pip well at the train station, Herbert calls out “Good-by, Handel!” (Dickens, 1860: 228), causing Pip to think, “what a blessed fortune it was, that he had found another name for me than Pip.” (Dickens, 1860: 228) As the reader sees Pip transform from a timid and meek apprentice into a self-assured and wealthy gentleman, one sees his change in name. Although only Herbert calls him Handel, it is Herbert who is around the ‘new’ Pip the most, and therefore is most accustomed to the character that Pip has become. The issue of ones name is discussed often in Great Expectations.  The book begins with Pip discussing his name, and the fact that he named himself Pip. “I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.” (Dickens, 1860: 3) In both the incident at the station, and the Pip’s naming of himself at the beginning of the book, it is a positive thing that Pip’s name has been changed. However, it is, in the case of his change to the name Handel, the concurrent change in moral values and priorities that is worrying. As seen earlier, Pip no longer feels morally bound to Pip, the man who brought him up, and is more focused on his expectations, and especially Estella.


As Pip leaves the train and walks to the Blue Boar, he is filled with a sense dread and prevailing fear.  “My fear was altogether undefined and vague, but there was a great fear upon me… I felt that a dread… made me tremble” (Dickens, 1860: 230) This fear can be seen on a literal level as Pip’s fear of the unknown, and what will happen back in his hometown, or on a deeper level as predicting what is going to happen in later chapters. It could be that deep down Pip realizes that his relationship with Estella, for whom he has at present dropped everything because of a command of hers, will only lead to heartbreak, and the ultimate destroying of his expectations. This fear, reiterates the foreshadowing that occurs in this chapter, both in terms of Pip’s meeting with the convicts, and in terms of his relationship with Estella.


Chapter 28 is a chapter that ultimately represents a change in Pip, and cements the knowledge that the reader has of the effect that previous changes have had on him. It raises the themes of the outcast and society, and of morality, and through the series of events that occur in the chapter, places these themes in respect to the book as a whole.






Julia Penn


1. Chapter 28 deals with several recurring themes and motifs such as inner conflict, social class and prejudices, movement and travel, moral self improvement and crime, guilt and justice within a person (Philips; 2003). The chapter also questions concepts of class and the true characteristics of a gentleman. It also sets up the idea that Miss Havisham might not be Pip’s patron. There is also the use of irony in Pip’s meeting with the convicts.


The chapter opens with Pip’s journey home to visit Miss Havisham who Pip currently believes to be his patroness. This is in itself ironic as his journey in the coach with the convicts takes him much closer to the identity of his true patron than ever before. The continual motif of travel and movement is emphasised in this chapter. Movement is important in the novel and especially here as it portrays Pip’s metaphorical journey back in time to his past. The motif of movement both physical and metaphorical in the novel, enables Pip to look back on his past and study both himself and the class that he came from. This journey back to his roots as it were, takes Pip back to his original lower class status and forces him to a certain extent to come to grips with his past and his identity.


This journey is particularly significant as Pip is confronted by the fact that he will be travelling with convicts. This worries Pip as he recognises one convict in particular from his past, as the man who gave him ‘two one pound notes’[1]. This is an example of how physical travel turns into metaphorical travel as Pip remembers back to that event. Even before actually joining the convicts, Pip is put into a position of inner conflict as on one hand as Pip, he feels compassion for the convicts whilst on the other as ‘Handel’, the London gentleman, he feels disgust for them, following in Herbert’s view of them as a ‘degraded and vile sight’. At this stage, Pip is struggling to commit to being either the London gentleman ‘Handel’, or the blacksmith apprentice Pip. He cannot find a balance, at this point, between the two.


He is however, glad to be called Handel by Herbert as he recognises one of the convicts from his past and does not want to be recognised again. For Pip, the name ‘Handel’ represents everything that he is in London and everything he has become while living there. Such a change in name has given him the opportunity to recreate himself and separate himself from what he sees as his shameful past. His co-inciding with the convict reiterates this ‘I thought what a blessed fortune it was, that he had found another name for me’. Pip struggles with being with the convicts as they haunt his past as he attempts to ‘fend him off’ and everything that they represent for him: his lower class background and his helping of the convict. Both would have been seen by friends in London as very ‘low’.


The convicts set the scene for the later arrival of Magwitch by heightening Pip’s discomfort of convicts as a whole  and setting Pip and the reader up for an even greater shock at the later truth of Pip’s patron, a convict. Dickens, in this chapter, starts tying together ideas of convicts and money so that on theival of Magwitch in London, the idea is not so inconceivable, yet more upsetting because of Pip’s mention of convicts in this chapter as ‘coarse mangy ungainly’ ‘lower animals’. The convicts worry Pip, and he secretly gives the main convict back ‘two one pound notes’ in order to maintain the fact that he, Pip, then owes the convict nothing and thus divorces himself from them entirely. This idea is later echoed in Pip’s desperation to repay Magwitch in some way in order that he may not be indebted to such a ‘degraded’ being.


The matter of the gentleman who refuses to sit near the convicts cannot be overlooked, as it questions what a gentleman should supposedly tolerate from those beneath him. This puts the theme of social prejudices into play. The refusal of the gentleman and the detestation of Herbert towards the convicts forces Pip to also go against the convicts as this is supposedly how a gentleman should behave. Yet he can at the same time relate to them as he notes ‘As I really think I should have like to do myself, if I had been in their place and so despised’ when thinking about the convicts’ conduct (or lack thereof).


Communication in the chapter is also noteworthy as occurs on several different levels and all are equally important. There is that of the dialogue between the convicts who ‘execrated the place in very strong language’ compared to that of the civilised gentleman who refuses to sit next to the convicts. This comparison is important because it shows the difference in social classes and emphasises the immensity of the gap between the two, which Pip must overcome. The convicts also discuss the time when the main convict gave Pip ‘two one pound notes’ from Magwitch. This enforces the ideas of convicts and patronage and increases Pip’s discomfort so much that he feels he ‘should assuredly have got down and been left in the solitude and darkness of the highway’. Other forms of communication include that of the newspaper and the thoughts of Pip himself.


Indeed, at this point he is still greatly ashamed of his past, and decides not to go and stay with Joe. Even at the time he knows it is wrong not to do so and recognises that he, ‘did… cheat (him)self’. The fact that he does not now go to Joe also sets the scene for later in the novel when he returns to the blacksmith and is fully healed of his inner conflict of identity. Thus in his acceptance of who he is, is fully healed. However, at this stage in the novel he ‘cuts himself off from the past’ (Martin; 1967) and stays the Blue Boar to maintain what he supposes to be some form of dignity and pride at being a ‘young London gentleman’.


It is at the Blue Boar that Dickens again brings up the concept of Pip’s patronage. This time it is in the form of Mr Pumblechook, who, in the local newspaper, showered with unnecessary formalities described as patron to an ungrateful Pip. This displays how uncouth and uncivilised the community and especially Pumblechook are. They have an over exaggerated idea of what a gentleman should be, and this adds to the concept of questioning  of what constitutes a gentleman.


This is an issue that Pip struggles with throughout the novel, and is highlighted by this chapter. On the one hand, Pip is a snobbish young Londoner who wouldn’t dare to tell his friends and upper class society that he was once a blacksmith’s apprentice, nor would he dare to tell anyone about his saving a convict from further capture. This is why he does not bring ‘The Avenger’, his servant boy, along with him on his journey, for fear that he might find out truths about his former, lower class life. Pip defines his identity by excluding his past and ensuring a wide gap remains between his past and his present, commercial London life (Flint; 1994).

This is turn ensures Pip’s continual inner conflict of who he really is and what constitutes being a real gentleman. This is solved when he later meets Magwitch and returns to Joe.


The chapter as a whole deals with Pip’s past; the convicts, Pumblechook and Joe. It also deals with Pip’s future; Dickens brings in ideas of patronage in the form of Pumblechook and the chapter ends on Pip’s complete denial that his patron could even be Pumblechook. This shows the reader that Pip would never assume anyone possibly being his patron besides that of Miss Havisham. And it is ironic, that in his complete conviction of who his patron is, it turns out that his patron is actually part of the group of the ‘lower animals’ with whom he had earlier shared a coach, a convict. It is also worth mentioning at this point that it is also ironic that Pip mentions at the start of the chapter that it is ‘reasonable’ ‘to take a bad-half crown of somebody else’s manufacture’ as this is what he has been doing all along yet has not realised it. When he does he is shocked and does not find it ‘reasonable’ at all.


Thus it can be seen that whilst chapter 28 has many of the novel’s themes in it, the chapter is also instrumental in putting forward ideas of Pip’s true patron and increasing Pip’s fear of convicts which adds further drama to Pip’s meeting of Magwitch. The chapter is adds to Pip’s solving of his inner conflict as on his next return he does stay with Joe and resolves his inner discord.



Dickens, Charles. 1861. Great Expectations. Oxford University Press. Oxford (first printed by Oxford University Press 1993)

Flint, Kate. 1994. Introduction to Great Expectations. Oxford University Press. Oxford.

Price, Martin. 1967. Dickens: a collection of critical essays. Englewood Cliffs: Prentice Hall.

Phillips, Brian. Sparknotes on Great Expectations. 2 May 2003.






Miko Schneider


Chapter 28 of Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations is a pivotal point of the protagonist Pip’s life-journey of self-discovery and self-development. The novel itself details Pip’s life experiences as he matures, the lessons he learns, and the mistakes he makes, in his quest to find the meaning of his existence and the nature of the world. His journey is set within the context of 19th century Victorian society and its class structures, and it is the judgments and values of this unbending social order that form the impetus for Pip’s journey.  Through the creation of Pip, Dickens has produced a vehicle through which to satirize the class system of his time (Phillips, 1999) and to comment on its fickle nature and superficial values. These are the values that cloud immature Pip’s sense of self-perspective, and cause him to maltreat his friends and loved ones – those with less wealth and status than he, yet those possessing kindness and inner worth. Instead of acknowledging them with affection, dignity, pride and love, Pip treats them with snobbery and pretentiousness.

 The chapter opens as Pip initiates his journey back to his village, in answer to the request of his love, Estella, who wishes him to visit her. In Pip’s words, he intends to ‘repair to town’ (p. 207). Indeed, it is a time of reparation for Pip’s maltreatment of Joe since Pip’s inheritance of his ‘great expectations’ – that of Pip’s neglect, embarrassment and scorn for Joe’s simple country ways. Pip’s ‘flow of… repentance’ (p 207), this repentant state of mind, follows Joe’s visit to Pip’s home, and his recognition of Joe’s ‘simple dignity’ (p 207). As the reader I hoped that Pip, in a moment of insight, had seen the error of his old ways - in deeming Joe as inferior due to lack of education, wealth or social status. But unfortunately, after he reserves a ticket on the luxury coach, and visits the gentlemanly Pocket family Pip’s shame and fear of his former status at the village resurfaces, clouding his realization that Joe’s humanity has  greater value than any gentleman’s money can denote.  Thus Pip’s initial intention to stay with Joe while he is in town is replaced with the decision to stay at the local hotel. Not only is Pip ashamed of his past maltreatment of Joe, but I believe he feels that returning to his home – filled with the memories of hard labour, physical beating, and a sense of frustration – would be a setback to his self-advancement, an objective foremost on Pip’s agenda throughout the novel.


Pip’s older self, in the form of the narrator, acknowledges his own foolishness by choosing not to stay with Joe. (the elder) Pip says, ‘ All other swindlers upon earth are nothing to the self-swindlers, and with such pretences did I cheat myself.’ (p. 207) He realizes that the younger Pip, through his own foolish logic and false sense of gentility and wealth, is depriving himself of the love and simple goodness of his friend.  Dickens’ use of the older Pip narrating the events of the younger Pip is a highly effective device, often yielding moments of great comedic reflection, and at other instances like this one, providing an insightful judgment on his earlier self. This comment is the impression of a wiser and more mature person, and conveys in the reader a sense of Pip’s absolute honesty with himself and the reader. At the end of the novel the more mature Pip has completed his ‘Bildungsroman’ and in this way is able to examine his younger self with a critical eye.


Pip’s concern with the approval of others is evident in his indecision as to whether or not to take the Avenger along with him to the village. Pip vacillates between the titillating thought of showing off his new sign of wealth to all those who know him, and the fear that bringing the Avenger into his old life, and into the company of those who knew him as a lowly boy, would tarnish his new world.

It was tempting to think of that expensive mercenary publicly airing his boots in the archway of the Blue Boar’s posting yard…On the other hand… my patroness, too, might hear of him and not approve. (p. 208)


As Pip arrives at the station, he is confronted with the realization that two convicts will be on his coach, one being the one-eyed messenger sent to Pip’s village pub, the Three Jolly Bargemen, by Magwitch. (Pip realizes he must have been sent by Magwitch once the one-eyed convict stirred his drink with “Magwitch’s” file.) As common a sight as it was to see convicts traveling by coach, Pip could not help ‘constitutionally faltering’ (p. 208) at the word ‘convict’. The threat that Magwitch had put on Pips life in a desperate act of intimidation in order to get Pip to follow his instructions, lingers with Pip for a long time afterwards. Additionally, Pip is ashamed of his association with Magwitch, at this point in the novel, but he is unaware that Magwitch is the agent of his transformation. Both Pip and Herbert claim not to like the convicts, but Herbert has no notion of Pip’s reasons why. Ironically, Herbert who proclaims the sight of the convicts as ‘vile ‘ and ‘degraded’ (p.208) is instrumental in helping Magwitch escape from London later in the novel, and  is absolutely compassionate to Magwitch after learning that he is Pip’s benefactor.


Indeed, the reception of the convicts by the upper class coach passengers displayed the sub-human view of convicts in Victorian society. The passenger booked to sit next to the convicts called it, ‘a breach of contract to mix him up with such villainous society.’ (p. 209) In keeping with this perception of themselves as vulgar lower-class citizens, the one-eyed convict proceeds to crack nuts, spitting out the shells. Pip seems to empathize with this maltreatment of the convicts, and reflects that it is something ‘I really think I should have liked to do myself, if I had been in their place and so despised.’ (p. 210) One is not sure here if this is the younger Pip’s opinion, or that of the mature Pip.


Herbert bids Pip farewell, using his affectionate nickname ‘Handel’. (p. 210) Pip reflects it as ‘a blessed fortune’ (p.210) that Herbert uses this name at that precise moment. This has particular resonance, not only due to Pip’s fear of being recognized by the convict, but also due to the fact that Pip’s name is symbolic of his life as ‘a boy that came from the moors into the high society’ (Massey, 1996). Pip’s new name Handel HanHandekl allows him to separate himself from the past, from his ‘inferior’ existence, and to redefine a new identity befitting his new station. This separation is indeed of great importance to Pip at a time when his past, in the form of the convicts in the coach as well as his inner conflict about Joe, is so immediate and pressing.


Most pressing is Pip’s impression of the convicts breathing on his neck. One is not able to determine from the text whether this intense breathing, interpreted by Pip as a purposeful act of intimidation by the convict, is real or imagined by Pip. His guilt and fear is the more likely explanation for this impression as Pip points out earlier in the text,  ‘he knew me no more than if he had never seen me in his life.’ (p. 209) Pip battles with the idea of returning the £2  to the convict, in line with this ‘journey of repentance’ to the village. Pip really wants to pay off all his debts, put the past behind him, and proceed with clean slate for his new life. His essentially good conscience is highlighted here and it is noticeable that even though Pip’s world view may have been warped due to the false power of wealth and its connotative value, he is, at the core, a good person, whose guilt for any wrongdoing (that of stealing the food and file for Magwitch, neglecting his friendship with Joe and Biddy, taking the money from a man who could not afford to lose it) would pervade a great deal of his thoughts throughout the novel.


The conversation of the two convicts pervades Pip’s thoughts as he wakes from his slumber in the carriage. Pip overhears one of the convicts sarcastically referring to the favour of Magwitch as an ‘honour’. This is highly ironic when reading further into the play, as we learn that Magwitch accumulates great wealth from sheep farming in Australia. Had the convicts encountered Magwitch later on, they would probably have deemed it an honour to be associated with a man of money, and instead of insulting him in such a degrading manner, would probably have appealed to their past association as a basis for obtaining some of this money, and would have spoken to Magwitch in a more obsequious and reverent manner than is displayed in this conversation.


Through the course of the story Pip, and the reader, learn more about the fate of Magwitch: ‘He was tried again for prison breaking and got made a Lifer’ (p.211). Pip also learns that it is indeed Magwitch who dispatched this convict to repay Pip at the pub. Instead of the realization that Magwitch’s act was one of generosity, consideration, selflessness and chivalry, it merely serves to remind Pip of his past association with the lower class criminal. In chapter 10, after his meeting with the convict at the pub, Pip speaks of the:

guilty, coarse and common thing it was, to be on secret terms of conspiracy with convicts – a feature in my low career that I had previously forgotten. (p. 74)

Ironically, as Magwitch’s action stemmed from a need of reparation and a sense of duty- just like Pips journey to the village – Pip fails to see this, and fails to show Magwitch inner nobility the deep respect it deserves. Pip reflects that he has indeed changed since the time of his ‘low career’ believing it to be a change for the better. On page 211, Pip deems himself  ‘so changed in the course of nature’. Here he is obviously referring to the natural aging from a boy to a young man, but his mature self is implying that Pip has changed in nature – in his essential character and his ideological beliefs of value.


In keeping with his urgent need to be ride of contact with these ‘coarse and common’ people, Pip alights the coach, and steps out into the cold, misty wind – a perpetual feature of the little marsh country in Kent. (Dickens’ place of birth where he lived until the age of 9) This setting echoes the mists in the opening scene at the churchyard where Pip first encounters Magwitch, and become to Pip a symbol of danger and uncertainty (Phillips, 1999), as even later in the novel Pip is attacked by Orlick in the mist. Dickens use of ‘pathetic fallacy’ (Lee, 1997) – the weather mirroring the characters emotions – is evident as Pip relates,  ‘Although I could recognize nothing in the darkness … I traced marsh country in the cold damp wind that blew at us.’ (p. 210)

Dickens employs the mists as a reflection of Pip’s inner reflections so that when Pips prospects brighten the mists rise and when Pip’s future is uncertain, like a clouded mind, the mists remain thick.’ (Lee, 1997)

 The harshness and oppressiveness of the weather refers to the oppressive and fearful psychological state of the protagonist. Pip describes his feelings after disembarking the coach as,

‘fear…altogether undefined and vague… a dread, much exceeding  the mere    apprehension of a painful or disagreeable recognition … the revival for a few minutes of the terror of childhood.’ (p. 212)

The misty landscape, reminiscent of the churchyard, is a vehicle that puts Pip in the frame of mind of a terrified boy at the mercy of a convicted criminal, and fittingly the mood conveyed is desolate, melancholy and eerie. Not only is Pip’s fear that of the danger of associations with a criminal, but that of receding to the old life he so desperately wants to forget.


Pip is dropped off ‘at the first lamp at the first stones of the town pavement’. (p. 212) This echoes the scene in chapter 19, p.149, as Pip leaves the village traveling to London for the first time. He recalls,

It was by the finger-post at the end of the village, and I laid my hand upon it and said, “Goodbye, O my dear, dear friend!”

At this point in the novel Pip thinks of Joe as an equal and a friend. Paradoxically, as Pip re-enters the village passing the very same spot, his relationship with Joe has become so distant, and he sees his previous home as substandard place filled with fear, not as a place of dignity and the location of good friends. His experiences have served to alienate Pip from his origins (Allingham, Date unknown)


The memory of Pip’s meeting with Magwitch and Compeyson, and the sight of the river with its boat full of convicts, in Pips mind symbolic of danger. Pip recalls this day, imagining the two convicts on the coach as awaiting the same fate. Pip echoes the Victorian society’s view of convicts as sub-human, in comparing them to dogs:

…again I heard the gruff “Give way you!” like an order to dogs – again I saw the wicked Noah’s Ark lying out on the black water. (p.212)

His interesting use of the metaphor of the convict ship as “Noah’s Ark” is consonant with Pip’s comparison of the convicts to animals. It may also be Dickens’ comment on the institution of the criminal justice system as dehumanising certain people. Yet one can see “Noah’s Ark” also as a term representing salvation – Noah saved the last of the animals from the great flood that killed the rest of their species. The fact that Noah’s Ark is juxtaposed with the word ‘wicked’ might emphasise Pip’s notion of the boat as a place of captivity rather than salvation or liberation.  The boat is described as ‘lying out on the black water’ – again a sense that something natural and beautiful like the river is tarnished by the presence of the convicts.


Pip’s presence in the village is heralded by his arrival at the Blue Boar. Sitting down to dinner, Pip is given a newspaper article by the waiter. The article speaks of the ‘romantic rise in fortune of a young artificer’(p 212). His name is unmentioned and the article almost makes a riddle of the identity of its subject. It also gives the reader a clue as to Pip’s ‘former identity’ by making a reference to the ‘BLACKSMITH of Antwerp’. However, the main focus of the article is of Pumblechook, Pips uncle and the former conspirator of his sister Mrs. Joe in their torture of young Pip. The newspaper describes Pumblechook as ‘the youth’s earliest patron, companion, friend’. It is evident here that Pumblechook, formerly one of Pip’s most outspoken critics, has chosen to be seen in this light – associated to a man of such prestige – because now it is convenient for him to be seen this way. This bombastic and pompous man uses Pip’s reputation and their past (mutually disapproving) association for commercial gain – Pumblechook even advertises the location of his business in the article:

…whose eminently convenient and commodious business premises are situate within a hundred miles of the High Street.   (p. 212)

Indeed the local paper, representing the view of the townspeople, exalts Pip’s reputation whereas before it would never even have given Pip a glance let alone mention his name in any article. Pip disapproves of this selfish exploitation of his good fortune, but ironically does not realize he is showing the same selfishness to those around him – the most prominent example, would be Pip’ taking Joe’s love and friendship for granted.



This is where we leave Pip at the end of the chapter. At this point he is still to learn important lessons of his life’s journey. He is still to learn that social status does not pre-empt a person’s real character, intelligence or moral worth. Just as characters like the aristocratic Bentley Drummle is a cruel and abusive person, the lowly uneducated and simple Joe possesses genuine dignity, and an unwavering love and dedication to Pip. The process of learning that his happiness is not connected to his social position is to follow as his physical traveling reflects his mental and emotional journeys. I think this chapter is a poignant example of how Pip’s movement reflects this particular stage of his personal journey (Roux, 2003). Here the merging of his past life and his new life of wealth and status, becomes a symbol of Pip’s inner struggle to reconcile his superficial measure of value and worth, with what is genuinely important and valuable.




§         Allingham, P.V. Date unknown. “The Biographical Context of Great Expectations (1861): Positioning the Novel (2)” in Great Expectations on the Victorian Web. Available online: <>. Date accessed: 5 May 2003

§         Dickens, C.1861. Great Expectations. London: Penguin Publishers.    

§         Lee, E.1997. “Pathetic Fallacy and Magic -Tennyson and Dickens” in  Great Expectations on the Victorian Web. Available online: Date accessed: 5 May 2003.

§         Massey, B.1996. “Student Commentary” in Charles Dickens Great Expectations Index. Available online: Date accessed: 5 May 2003.

§         Phillips, B.1999. “Themes Motifs and Symbols” in SparkNotes on Great Expectations. Available online: Date accessed: 5 May 2003.

§         Roux, D. 2003. Class Notes. Cape Town: University of Cape Town.

[1] All non referenced quotes are from Great Expectations, Chapter 28.