Pip recognizes the folly of his obsession with Estella, but reason fails to vanquish his desire to become a gentleman on her account. Although Biddy is wise beyond her years and seems to posses an uncanny ability to point out the ironies of Pip's troubled state, she bluntly rejects Pip's only open attempt to use reason to replace Estella and the unreachable world she represents with Biddy and the world that Pip has always called home

When Pip and Biddy go for an evening walk, Pip decides to confess his misery to Biddy, hoping that she will use logic to correct the foolish tendencies of his heart.

"If I could only get myself to fall in love with you,--you don't mind my speaking so openly to such an old acquaintance?"

""Oh dear, not at all!" said Biddy. “Don't mind me."

""If I could only get myself to do it, that would be the thing for me."

""But you never will, you see," said Biddy.

"It did not appear quite so unlikely to me that evening, as it would have done if we had discussed it a few hours before. I therefore observed I was not quite sure of that. But Biddy said she was, and she said it decisively. In my heart I believed her to be right; and yet I took it rather ill, too, that she should be so positive on the point.

Biddy's response is honest, but by asserting that Pip's heart will continue to preside over his mind, she effectively encourages him to continue lusting after Estella. At the same time, however, she places herself out of Pip's reach, thus ironically making herself, and the humble world that she represents, desirable.

Questions

1. Pip assumes that if he were to fall in love with Biddy, she would marry him. In the time that this story takes place, were women largely expected to accept marriage proposals originating from worthy suitors, or was Pip just being arrogant in assuming that Biddy would love him simply because she was of lower social status?

2. Does Biddy make herself more desirable to Pip by affirming the fact that he will never love her?

3. In his language, Pip uses lots of personal pronouns, giving him a self- centered quality. How does Biddy's language differ from Pip's? What does this say about the characters' respective personalities?

4. Does Biddy allow her own emotions to color her response to Pip's confession?

5. According to this book, which is more powerful, the heart or the mind? What about a combination of the two?


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens Great Expectations

Last modified 18 February 2008