Poor Pip

By the end of chapter 8, the poor, “low-lived” boy can finally process the strange situation his sister has thrown him into at Miss Havisham’s (65). This passage concludes Pip’s visit to Miss Havisham’s, a strange woman who he had never met, but was demanded to meet by his sister and uncle. The reprimands Pip receives throughout the chapter, from Mr. Pumblechook, Miss Havisham, and Estella are instilled in his mind by the time he leaves the property. The internal monologue of Pip’s thoughts reveals the impressionability of a young mind to constant verbal reprimands and insults. The novel characterizes a realistic representation of the mindset of a kid. 

This passage illuminates the characterization of the novel’s narrator, a young, eight-year-old boy. The chapter to which this passage follows tells of Pip being given vague orders by his sister and uncle to “play” with a woman whom he had never met before. Pip spends the night at his uncle’s, where he is forced to perform math problems on the spot one after the other and reprimanded for his struggle with multiplication. He was given no further instruction other than a single word. He was then brought to the home, where his uncle was turned away from entering, leaving Pip to enter the unknown place alone. The boy was greeted by a rude girl, Estella, who calls him a “common labouring-boy” and begrudgingly brings him to the subject of his visit (60). Miss Havisham is stern with Pip, calling the boy “sullen and obstinate” when he is hesitant to follow her orders out of confusion, but begs her to not complain in fear of getting in trouble with his sister (58-59). Upon his exit from the home, he is once again insulted during his escort out of the courtyard by Estella, who laughs as he begins to tear up on his walk back to his uncle’s. 

The novel is told through the eyes of the young Pip, and this passage exemplifies the thoughts and reactions of a young boy to such an intense and hostile situation. As he walks from the house, he does not dwell on the confusing events that transpired that day. His inner thoughts do not recount the strangeness of his encounters, but rather focus on the hurtful comments the adults and the girl make about his character and appearance. As he walks back home, Pip repeats to himself the insults to his clothes, his intelligence, and even the texture of his hands which take a distinct blow to his confidence, and feels “much more ignorant than [he] had considered [him]self” (65). 

The insulting comments hurled at him by adults and other older characters are met without backtalk from him, but he dwells on them later discontentedly. Pip’s fixation on the comments made to him highlights the abuse inflicted on him throughout the novel that he is desensitized to. This passage is an explicit point of view of the young narrator’s reaction to his surroundings, shaping the events at the beginning of the novel in the eyes of an eight-year-old in a constant environment of abuse.


3 thoughts on “Poor Pip”

  1. I like that you were able to identify how skilled Dickens is at recreating the mind of a child and anticipating how a child would react to certain circumstances. Pip is certainly stuck in a cycle of abuse, perpetrated by his family, and this seems to be a common theme in Victorian literature. This also ties to our conversation in class about how Pip sees himself as insignificant, even calling himself a name that reflects this. I also find it interesting that he doesn’t seem to question this self-view of his, until he meets Estella and she expresses a similar view. Only then is he eager to improve himself, and before meeting someone he admired, he seemed content with himself and his life.

  2. I like how you shows that Pip is written as a very believable child who is stuck in a cycle of abuse and anxiety. Building on DoubleA’s comment, Pip doesn’t question his worldview and status in the society until he meets Miss Havisham and Estella, who are in a higher class than him. Interestingly, when he has decided that he wants to move up in society, the novel paves the way for him: his sister is no longer a problem and he has a benefactor that allows him to study in London. Looking at this novel and the last two that we have read, for Victorians, women can only move up in society through marriage, while men can move up with proper education and acquire money. For men, marriage is the reward rather than a requirement.

  3. I liked this post a lot and I think it’s interesting reading it now, knowing what we know about Pip’s character progression since he’s gotten older. In the beginning of the book, Pip’s innocence is one of his main characteristics, but it quickly changes once he grows older and becomes obsessed with elevating his status. Perhaps we can ask if the abuse he faced during his childhood contributed to his snobbiness and disrespect of characters like Joe. We also continue to see some of Pip’s innocence, sympathy, and good heart that was prominent when he was a child at the end of part 1 when he feels a bit guilty for leaving Joe for London.

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