Several days after Pip recovers from his fever, he sets out for the forge to see Joe and Biddy, with an optimistic ambition to win Biddy's heart and humbly work alongside Joe. Pip wants to let them know how much he has changed. However, he himself observes changes even before arriving at the forge. The town has evidently received word of Pip's loss of status. At the Blue Boar inn, he notes with ironic humor that the townspeople no longer treat him with the respect he had as a wealthy man:

Whereas the Boar had cultivated my good opinion with warm assiduity when I was coming into property, the Boar was exceedingly cool on the subject now that I was going out of property. . . . The Boar could not put me into my usual bedroom, which was engaged (probably by some one who had expectations), and could only assign me a very indifferent chamber among the pigeons and post-chaises up the yard.

During this period in town, Pip sees that Satis Manor, which has also changed, is up for sale. He no longer feels welcome in of a house in which he passed so many hours. In a more somber, reflective tone, Pip explains how that part of his life has closed up like the Manor itself.

Much of it trailed low in the dust and was withered already. Stepping in for a moment at the open gate, and looking around me with the uncomfortable air of a stranger who had no business there, I saw the auctioneer's clerk walking on the casks and telling them off for the information of a catalogue-compiler, pen in hand, who made a temporary desk of the wheeled chair I had so often pushed along to the tune of Old Clem.

Soon afterwards, Pip receives another blow when Pumblechook receives him in a new manner, noting “the wonderful difference between the servile manner in which he had offered his hand in my new prosperity, saying, “May I?" and the ostentatious clemency with which he had just now exhibited the same fat five fingers." Nonetheless, in making his way over to the forge, Pip feels optimistically comforted by the fact that Biddy and Joe will trea him as kindly as ever, and therefore they will only appear lovelier in contrast to the changed mood around him:

I went towards them . . . with a sense of increasing relief as I drew nearer to them, and a sense of leaving arrogance and untruthfulness further and further behind . . . Many pleasant pictures of the life that I would lead there, and of the change for the better that would come over my character when I had a guiding spirit at my side whose simple faith and clear home wisdom I had proved, beguiled my way.

However, an additional jolting change greets Pip at home. It is too late for his plan to be carried out, for he has arrived on their wedding day. Pip's receives such a shock that he must rest his head on a table. Moments later, however, Pip's responds graciously, expressing overwhelming joy and gratitude for the couple:

"Dear Biddy," said I, “you have the best husband in the whole world. . . And, dear Joe, you have the best wife in the whole world, and she will make you as happy as even you deserve to be, you dear, good, noble Joe! . . . And Joe and Biddy both, as you have been to church to-day, and are in charity and love with all mankind, receive my humble thanks for all you have done for me, and all I have so ill repaid! And when I say that I am going away within the hour, for I am soon going abroad, and that I shall never rest until I have worked for the money with which you have kept me out of prison, and have sent it to you, don't think, dear Joe and Biddy, that if I could repay it a thousand times over, I suppose I could cancel a farthing of the debt I owe you, or that I would do so if I could!"

In the course of these passages, Pip gradually comes to understand that a chapter of his life has permanently closed; he will no longer receive the treatment of an affluent gentleman, nor can ghe ever visit the manor and depend on Joe and Biddy at his leisure like he once did. Time and fortune have changed his place. This is a significant moment for Pip; he starts out for the forge with the opinion that he is already a changed man, yet it is not until he reacts to the changes around him that he truly demonstrates his more matured and improved nature. The greatest proof of his growth is his selfless happiness for Joe and Biddy. Before learning of their marriage, Pip had (childishly) planned on living with them to escape the evil “arrogance and untruthfulness" of the outside world. Yet seeing them as a married couple immediately makes him understand that he, too, needs to move on as an independent adult, much like students who realize they must move out of their childhood homes upon graduating. In a moving moment, Pip boldly declares on the spot that he will earn the money to pay Joe back. Genuinely generous in both spirit and material matters, Pip's character has markedly transformed from the self-absorbed child who sought self-improvement at the cost of others.

Questions

1. From a young age, Pip seeks to better himself. Explain the evolution of this goal from superficial betterment (advances in wealth, status, education) to moral betterment (development of character). Do the two ever overlap?

2. How does Pip's moral growth parallel Jane Eyre's? (For example, the similarities or differences of the influences of location and money , and comparisons between each one's climatic “breakthrough" moments). How do their errors on the journey to self-improvement parallel as well?

3. Pip's tale is told in retrospect. How might this skew the accuracy of his tale? Can you identify moments which appear to be implausible exaggerations (perhaps contradicted by later evidence)? What purpose do they serve? In particular, consider Pip's oversimplification of characters and his own emotions.

4. Why might a novel in which wealth in goodness of character is emphasized over wealth in material goods be popular in Victorian times? Consider its appeals for the dominant (lower) classes.


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens Great Expectations

Last modified 18 February 2008