Attachments and Expectations

From the very beginning, Pip has always been a traveler and visitor, and never a resident. His association with structures and architecture thus differs from all other characters. When Pip is introduced, he is playing in the cemetery where the rest of his family is buried. In a way, graveyards can be thought of as residences, but they are meant for the dead. Perhaps because of this, Pip is destined to never find somewhere truly his own.

Pip has places he lives in- the forge, Barnard Inn, the Pocket residence, the Temple- but he never forms an attachment to any one in particular. He often ends up living with people who are his close friends- mainly Herbert Pocket, but never anyone close enough to call family. Throughout his life, he is constantly moving from residence to residence, none of which he ever owns.

Similarly, as Pip moves, he carries with him his expectations, yet the places he stays hardly reflect them. Barnard Inn is a good example of this, as it ends up being a dreary disappointment that dispels some of the grand notions Pip has about living in London. As soon as he arrives, he finds the place to be old, dusty, and on the verge of collapse; on top of that it is an inn, not even a proper apartment or house, which implies that it is but temporary living quarters.

I think Pip’s lack of attachment to places means he places greater significance in his relationships to other people- going as far as projecting his expectations on them. He latches onto Estella, or the idea of her, as soon as he meets her. He comes up with various theories about his benefactor, including believing it is Miss Havisham, and ends up greatly disappointed when he learns it is Magwitch. The same can be said of Herbert, as Pip first thinks Herbert will never amount to much compared to himself.

Sailing in Irons: A Tragedy

In sailing jargon, the phrase “in irons” means the bow of the boat is pointed into the wind and is unable to move- in a sense, the boat is fettered and shackled. The boat may drift with the tides, but no wind will push it.

Magwitch seems to have a habit of landing himself in both boats and irons, and boats in irons. When we first encounter him, he has escaped a prison ship and is fleeing across the moors, hauling his chains with him. Prison ships at the time were often hulked ships; vessels that were decommissioned from formal use, but still in decent enough shape they would be moored offshore and used as storage, sometimes for goods, and sometimes, as in the case of Great Expectations, people. Relatedly, as we briefly discussed in class, these specific prison ships were likely once slave ships.

To turn a ship out of irons, the crew must turn the sail so it catches the wind again. A person in irons must wait until someone else frees them- Magwitch relies on Pip to bring him a file from the forge. He ends up being caught soon after, and we later learn Magwitch has been carted off to Australia. Later, during the plot to escape to Hamburg, Magwitch ends up on another boat:

“If all goes well,” said I, “you will be perfectly free and safe again, within a few hours.”

“Well,” he returned, drawing a long breath, ” I hope so.”

“And think so?”

He dipped his hand in the water over the boat’s gunwale, and said, smiling with that softened air upon him which was not new to me: “Ay, I s’pose I think so, dear boy.”

The irony of it all is that despite literally and figuratively being in irons, Magwitch has made progress- or so he thinks, because for all his efforts, he never truly escapes for long. We know how the plot ends, with Compeyson dead and Magwitch once again caught, and once he passes away in prison, even the fortune he saved for Pip vanishes. A Sisyphean tragedy with a gothic façade- even a ship that has been hulked will one day end up in the scrapyard.

This House is Haunted: Enough

Miss Havisham certainly strikes a figure- an eerie spectre of what once could have been (and in her mind, what should have been). But as she molders, so too does the house around her. The name of the house is mentioned by Estella- it has two. One, the name the people of town know it by, simply “Manor House”, and an older, forgotten name “Satis”, Latin for ‘Enough’. As Estella mentions, “It meant, when it was given, that whoever had this house, could want nothing else.” (vol. 1, ch. 8, pg. 56)

But now it seems to be the opposite: Miss Havisham certainly has everything she could ever need, but not the thing she wants- her marriage, successful. The name ‘Enough’ is now inverted, as if enough has become too much and begun to rot. The house has even become a prison- a decaying garden of Eden turned cage. The gate and outer wall keep the place separated from the rest of the world: “There was a courtyard in front, and that was barred”. Through Pip’s description, we also learn that the inside is just as locked away. “Some of the windows had been walled up; of those that remained, all the lower were rustily barred. . . (vol. 1, ch. 8, pg. 55). The entire complex is severed from reality to the point that Estella uses a side door to get in and out of the house, since “the great front entrance had two chains across it outside.” As a cage, the house serves to keep people out, but also keep Miss Havisham within.

The interior of the house is far worse for wear, with rooms and passages and stairs all dark but for carried candlelight. The grounds of the estate seem to at least contain a brewery and a garden, both places meant to be used for leisure and celebration now fallen far into disrepair. The grounds too, grow little- life in Enough House always seems to be one cobweb away from suffocating completely.

Self-inflicted Violence in Wuthering Heights

“However, Catherine would not be persuaded into tranquility. She kept wandering to and fro, from the gate to the door, in a state of agitation which permitted no response, and at length took up a permanent situation on one side of the wall, near the road; where, heedless of my expostulations, and the growling thunder, and the great drops that began to plash around her, she remained, calling at intervals, and then listening, and then crying outright. She beat Hareton, or any child, at a good, passionate fit of crying.”

-Wuthering Heights, page 85


One thing I continually notice as I read is that yes, Wuthering Heights is violent, but that violence is just as often self-inflicted as it is directed at others. Not only this, but the said self-inflicted violence is often done for the sake of another. Upon learning Heathcliff has run away after overhearing her, Catherine subjects herself to the storm brewing outside. Nothing forces her to do this besides her own frustration at herself. She may think Heathcliff will return if he sees her shivering in the rain, and if this is the case, she is certainly not taking “a permanent situation on one side of the wall” for her own sake. Whether she recognizes that is another matter. She appears so wrapped up in her own misery and concern that she forgoes her own health and safety. This goes beyond physical torment and also includes mental anguish too- Catherine is willing to marry Will for Heathcliff’s sake more so than her own.

Words such as ‘agitation’, ‘growling’, ‘crying’ and ‘wandering’ stand out, likening Catherine’s actions to those of a petulant child. The oncoming storm acts as the sublime- nature being something terrifying- a parallel display of power that outshines the power Catherine has when she uses her anger or despair against others. Catherine is strong, or perhaps forceful, because of her habit of lashing out and acting without care or thought for others, but the storm whittles her character down to its bare essentials- an emotionally charged child with little direction and no safe outlet. The point is driven home by the final sentence of the paragraph, where it is noted she throws tantrums better than any other actual child. She is a young woman who seems to have too much emotion, and that is all that drives her as she oscillates between emotional extremes.

Stress and Despair in Mary Barton

“It was scarcely ten minutes since he had entered the house, and found Mary at comparative peace, and now she lay half across the dresser, head hidden in her hands, and every part of her body shaking with the violence of her sobs. She could not have told at first (if you had asked her, and she had commanded voice enough to answer) why she was in such agonised grief. It was too sudden for her to analyse, or think upon it. She only felt, that by her own doing her life would be hereafter blank and dreary. By-and-by her sorrow exhausted her body by its own power, and she seemed to have no strength left for crying.”

Mary Barton, page 131

This moment occurs just after Mary has turned Jem’s offer of marriage down, and he has left the house in a rush. Mary is left to her own devices as she realizes the weight of her words and has a breakdown. The scene is incredibly tense. The tone created by Jem’s anger shifts to Mary’s despair, leaving a hollow feeling. There are few directly duplicate words in this section- most of them are similar to each other, and they deal with the strain of emotion on the physical body. “Shaking”, “agonized”, “blank”, “grief”, and “crying”, all point towards the aftermath of an emotionally fraught situation. There’s this sense of weariness, of heaviness, that has been weighing on Mary since she started seeing Henry, and now it finally drags her down, both physically and emotionally.

There’s only one mention of a word that stands in stark contrast to Mary’s despair, and that is “peace”. But even then, it is written as “comparative peace”, which is fair. The emotional burdens Mary has been carrying for some time- her father’s luckless attempts for political change, her own wish to avoid Jem while secretly courting Henry, and even stress from events that have long since passed such as deaths of family friends- have finally spilled over, much in the same manner as she lies across the dresser.

There becomes a split between what Mary wants now and what she thought she wanted. On one hand, it is about her heart and her emotions, who she really loves, and on the other, it is about her hope and her logic- she hopes she can marry Henry Carson for a chance at a better life for herself, even if it means tricking herself about what she really feels. It also points to class struggle of the era- the chances of Mary genuinely being able to climb the social ladder were slim in the first place, but now they are gone completely. Not only that, but Mary has made the decision for herself- it was not entirely an outside force that caused this. Perhaps it is more about her dream, the possibility that came with it and the loss of opportunity.