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.

Victorian Novels as People Museums

The Victorians have a history of loving different things from different cultures. Often these are things that they label as oddities and keep in places for the public or the wealthy to ogle at like the crystal palace. I propose that the Victorians were not just collecting items from other cultures but also people. More specifically, that the Victorians collected different people in their writing similarly to how they would collect different objects in their lives. I believe that two good examples of this are the books A Study in Scarlet and Daisy Miller. I believe that both of these book display odd aspects of, primarily, the American people to present to the reader to be fascinated over. In A Study in Scarlet the primary culprate explains to the reader that he had been enacting his revenge on the devout Mormon men that led to his lover’s death and that of her father. The novel focuses a great deal on the background of the victims and how the Mormon church functions in the way of their faith. While there are Mormons in England and there were Mormons in England then, based on their depiction and demonetization in A Study in Scarlet I would argue that they were treated as odd and strange. A similar treatment occurs in Daisy Miller. Throughout the novel Daisy Miller and her family are treated as odd and semi-wild. There are often commented on in ways that leave even the narrator perplexed and fascinated by them. Often characters find themselves confused with what class the Miller family belongs to, this being strange to most of Europe, and utterly fascinated with how oddly they all behave in comparison with how well they dress. As a matter of fact, the book is dedicated to focusing on how peculiar Daisy alone is. Daisy not only acts with a complete disregard of social expectations and manners, but also pursues what she desires in the way of her own sexuality and interests. These aspects of Daisy and the American Mormons are treated as so odd yet fascinating the writers of these books have dedicated a good portion of the book to explaining how odd these people are. In this sense, I believe that this was the writer’s way of presenting people as oddities to ogle over in writing. This, I believe, is not only done to fascinate the Victorian reader, but also to hold their attention and draw them into the story in a way that only an oddity could. 

Daisy Miller and her symbolism

Daisy Miller is written from the perspective of a young man named Winterborne and his experiences with a young girl named Daisy Miller while on a European excursion. Winterborne spends most of his depictions of Daisy discussing with himself and the reader the morality and social expectations or assumptions made about Daisy’s actions. Throughout the sort novel it is left up to the reader to debate whether or not Daisy herself was acting without regard for manners or social expectations intentionally or not. Regardless of whether or not she was acting intentionally or not the actions of Daisy Miller did make enough of an impact on Winterborne and the narrator that the novel is named after her. Within Victorian society, much like our own, there is an expected code of conduct that women and men are expected to live by in polite society. Women then were not to go out alone at night or be alone with a man they were not married to or related to while today it is socially acceptable for a woman to be alone with a man they are not married or related to. Daisy, throughout the novel, regularly makes choices and decisions that are directly against what is expected of a woman like herself, choosing to pursue her own whims and desires first as seen in her insistence on seeing the colosseum and the castle on the island at the beginning of the novel. Regardless of whether or not Daisy acted this way intentionally or not, Daisy’s actions and attitude had a lasting impression on the other people in her life. In having a character within the story that contradicts and ignores what is socially accepted of her while still maintaining her good name and money, shows to the readers that it is possible to maintain ones good name and still pursue sexual and social freedom. In representing the untamable woman within the novel, Daisy shows that women do not have to follow everything that is expected of them. Not only does Daisy show this, but her mother does as well. Mrs. Miller also shows and encourages women to pursue their interests and that they don’t have to do soley what they’re told in not trying to control or stop Daisy. By allowing Daisy to do what she wants without reprimand, Mrs. Miller condones Daisy’s actions and pursuits. Winterborne also plays a role in this but not in the same way that Mrs. Miller does. In not being able to convince Daisy to do what is expected of her and simply being the person who watches Daisy rather than someone who controls or marries her, Winterborne acts as a device that proves how little control men need to have over a woman’s life.  

Great Expectation’s Happy Ending

For my Final Essay I am examining the portrayal of Wemmick as an inspiration to Pip, or as just another poor soul suffering under capitalism. One of the central subjects in this debate revolves around the novel’s ending. If it is a happy one and Pip reaches it by acting like Wemmick then Wemmick is good, If either of these things are not true then Wemmick’s position is much murkier.

Although I believe Wemmick is a good character, this argument gives me pause because I do not see Wemmick’s actions echoed by Pip. Pip does not engage in any division of self and his acceptance of Estella at the end of the Novel, even if it may lead to good things, is a clear demosntration that his self control has not improved. Meanwhile Wemmick is the master of Self Control. Furthermore, Although Pip’s relationship with his Joe improves, It is extremely different from Wemmick’s relationship with his father. Not only does Pip live far away from his father, he never returns to do any work at the forge and as such does not engage in the same type of labor and physical object oriented bonding that Wemmick and the Aged engage in (raising the drawbridge, or firing the cannon for example.)

Another Issue with scholars who connect Pip’s ending with Wemmick, is that they ignore the influence of Joe throughout the novel, from the moment Pip leaves town, as well as Pip’s transformative experience with Magwich. One scholar suggests the Pip’s treatment of Magwich is misdirected but I would instead characterize it as a learning experience. Through Magwich Pip learns again what it is like to be loyal, to be a son, and gains a new understanding of money, lessening its appeal. Without Magwitch’s arrival Pip may never have gone back to Joe, no matter how many times he visited Walworth.

As I go into my essay I still intend to Argue that Wemmick is a positive response to capitalism, but I think I will have to do so without the same narrative arguments that other scholars have, since the case does not seem to be very clear on that front.



Sherlock Holmes and the Mormon Church

Victorian novels are no stranger to the concept of oddities. In fact, as we discussed in class, it is widely known that the Victorians had an intense fascination with the strange and unusual. The writings of Conan Doyle, more specifically A Study in Scarlet, is no exception to this. A good portion of the story is devoted to explaining the background of the killer. While Holmes and Watson are not explicitly told this part of the story, we can assume that Watson does hear about it from somewhere based off the line “As to what occurred there, we cannot do better than quote the old hunter’s own account, as duly recorded in Dr Watson’s Journal, to which we are already under such obligations.” (110 Doyle). This shows that Watson, in the very least is aware of the situation and reasoning behind the killer’s vengeance. Doyel’s usage of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints (also called the Church of Latter-day Saints or the Mormon Church) is similar to that of the way that the Victorians would treat objects from other cultures and areas of the world. Doyel’s portrayal of Mormons in A Study in Scarlet presents those of the Mormon faith as an oddity in comparison with the orthodoxy that the English Victorian society would be used to in their lives. The lifestyle of Mormons, while accurate to our modern-day depictions of cults and other strange faiths in America, is exaggerated and treated as something to both fear and be ogled over while still informing the consumer of the media of the lifestyle and concerns of those living in the faith. While the accuracy of this depiction is up for debate, it is a dramatic depiction none the less. The concept of the Mormon church as a faith that encourages polygamy and lives in Utah is a concept so polar to that of the Church of England and the Catholic faith in London that the mention of Mormons would both fascinate and shock the reader. Between the shock factor and the easy demonizable implementation of polygamy in their faith makes the Church of Latter-day Saints not only the perfect villain to spur on a dramatic and heart-renching plot, but also perfect to add just enough shock to keep the Victorian reader tied into the story. 

From Cuff to Holmes: Developments in Mystery

Nearly twenty years separate Wilkie Collins’ The Moonstone from Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Study in Scarlet. Similarly, the texts exemplify nearly twenty years of literary development. Here, I wish to bring attention to the ways in which the detective figure is constructed between these novels in order to explore the fluctuating views of crime and justice in Victorian society. Specifically, I wish to highlight the connection between the emerging field of forensics as a possible explanation for shift from a character like Sergeant Cuff to Sherlock Holmes.

While there are many aspects which separate Cuff from Holmes, I would argue that the most genre defining differences spawn from their relationship with mystery and how the detectives contribute to narrative pacing. For example, Cuff’s first introduction is met with Betteredge’s disappointment that, “this celebrated policeman proved to be quite a mine of learning on the trumpery subject of rosegardens [sic]” (Collins 107). Gardening, as an activity, relies heavily on a strong sense of patience and faith in the process, and these traits carry into Cuff’s relation with mystery. A brisk 342 pages later, Cuff relays his account: “I have waited to make it a complete Report; and I have been met, here and there, by obstacles which it was only possible to remove by some little expenditure of patience and time.” (Collins 449). For Cuff, mystery necessitates precision and patience in order to deliver a “complete” report. In this case, his methods do not delay the narrative so much as they lack in offering progression. Sherlock could not be more different.

Contrary to Cuff, Stamford introduced Sherlock with excitement. Stamford outlines a problem in which a, “man is suspected of a crime months perhaps after it has been committed,” (Doyle 12) because there was no reliable way to test blood. Miraculously “[n]ow we have the Sherlock Holmes test, and there will no longer be any difficulty.” (Doyle 12). Even the way in which he uses Sherlock’s name, Stamford equates Sherlock to a mystery already solved. In many cases such as this, Sherlock’s relation to mystery resembles action rather than inquisition. The tension with Sherlock stories is rarely “What happened?” but rather “How does Sherlock know what happened?” This shift in knowledge appears through a narratively, in which Sherlock’s actions set the pace rather than a Cuff-like need for precision. For the Victorian reader, these stories may represent a reaction to new and emerging epistemologies, such as forensics. After all, the idea that actions leave definitive signs leaves little room in the mystery genre for the supernatural and slow-moving elements in The Moonstone.


Works Cited

Collins, Wilkie. The Moonstone. Edited by Sandra Kempt, Penguin Classics, 1998, pp. 1-472.

Doyle, Arthur Conan. A Study in Scarlet. Penguin Classics, 2001, pp. 1-128.


A Study in Eating Sand

“They’re like the weird kids at the playground, who rather than running and going down the slide are like eating sand together, okay?”—Levy Rozman

Above, Rozman describes how chess grandmasters look to an average person. Their actions look erratic and their moves make little intuitive sense. And yet, this ‘sand eating’ is of the highest performance.

Rozman leans on a modern trope in which especially skilled individuals must also lack in other key components, usually social abilities. This individual’s prowess would be so great that they surmount most, if not all, shortcomings. I wish to propose that this phenomena in a Victorian literature both reveals and critiques the capitalist call for specialization. In the case of Sherlock, for instance, he prides that his mind “will have nothing but tools which may help him in doing his work, but of these he has a large assortment, and all in the most perfect order.” (Doyle 17). So, while Rozman’s comment may come from the past couple of years, Sherlock Holmes most certainly consumes a similarly large volume of sand.

Holmes, however, may not possess that same iron stomach as modern chess players. At the cost of his specialty and skill, “now and again a reaction would seize him, and for days on end he would lie upon the sofa in the sitting-room, hardly uttering a word or moving a muscle from morning to night.” (Doyle 15). Sherlock’s character achieves balance through this suffering, and yet his focal point remains on his work. Holmes even encourages a blind eye towards this occasional catatonia. He instructs Watson that he, “must not think [he is] sulky when [he does] that. Just let [him] alone, and [he]’ll soon be right.” (Doyle 13). None of Sherlock belongs to himself. Everything from his pursuit of knowledge to his retention of information to his caring for his general well-being centers around his profession. When we love Sherlock as Watson does, do we also overshadow the pain and deliberate neglect in constraining a boundless man to specialized detective? Admittedly, he is one hell of a detective, but should we celebrate that?

Works Cited

Doyle, Arthur Conan. A Study in Scarlet. Penguin Classics, 2001, pp. 1-128.

Rozman, Levy. “GothamChess about eating sand Animation.” YouTube, uploaded by doctor bees, 21 April 2021,

A Study in Gabriel Betteredge

In The Moonstone, Betteredge tries to assert his importance in the discovery of the gem. On the arrival of the esteemed detective who promised to uncover the mystery, Betteredge immediately establishes his authority over the house to him in an attempt to include himself in the investigation (Collins 107). In other ways, Betteredge serves as one of the main narrators of the story and takes pride in his breadth of knowledge on the subject. For this reason, he believes he is qualified for the Sergeant to “speak to [him] about the business on which [his] lady was to employ him”, though is disappointed when the sergeant reveals “not a word” about it (Collins 107). Though Betteredge acts as Sergeant Cuff’s main informant of crucial information about the operations and personal lives of the tenants, such as his recommendation of questioning Mrs. Yolland about the whereabouts of Rosanna Spearman, Betteredge still maintains some frustration not participating as a leading proponent of the Moonstone discovery. In other attempts to insert himself, he references the predictive qualities and the advice of his trusted Robinson Crusoe. Reading Betteredge’s assertion of his value in the discovery of the Moonstone, I related him to Sherlock Holmes when reading A Study in Scarlet

Holmes shares Betteredge shares similar arrogance in relation to the cases he investigates, though he is backed with the experience of a skilled and successful detective. In this version, a continuation of Betteredge’s character, Holmes has his own particular way of collecting clues, such as jumping on the back of a cabman’s carriage to chase after his suspect. As well, his peers and those he questions throughout his investigation are often in awe of his ability to discover such explicitly accurate information, such as when he tells Dr. Watson he knew that he came from Afghanistan from a “train of thought that did not occupy a second” (Conan Doyle 22). To this Dr. Watson is astonished and further admires the detective prowess that Holmes maintains that he did not believe possible to “exist outside of stories” (Conan Doyle 22). Holmes’ character is how Betteredge attempts to be perceived by Sergeant Cuff.

Neurodivergent Representation in Sherlock Holmes

During today’s group discussion, I asked a question regarding Sherlock Holmes’s refusal to remember what he considers unnecessary information. Specifically, Holmes says, “You see, I consider that a man’s brain originally is like a little empty attic, and you have to stock it with such furniture as you choose. A fool takes in all the lumber of every sort that he comes across, so that the knowledge which might be useful to him gets crowded out, or at best is jumbled with a lot of other things, so that he has a difficulty in laying his hands upon it” (Doyle 9). Obviously, being a jack of all trades is of not importance to Holmes, even though most men during this period valued well-versed education as a symbol of elevated social status. In addition to this oddity, Sherlock Holmes focuses his brain power on two specific fields: forensic science (5) and detective work (both of which go hand-in-hand). In fact, one could go as far as to say that Sherlock Holmes’s infatuation with detective work borderlines obsession. He applies most of his time and brain power to solving cases and developing new methods to do so. As a result, Holmes is viewed as “eccentric (3)” by those who know him–all except for Watson.

Davis brought up a good point about Sherlock Holmes’s potential neurodivergence. Although Arthur Conan Doyle makes no effort to diagnose Holmes with Asperger’s or any other type of condition (Asperger’s was not described in the DSM until the mid-twentieth century), he arguably represents the condition in the most digestible manner for his audience at the time. Not only is Holmes’s obsession with forensics indication of the likelihood of his neurodivergence, but also his communication style and his extremely close observations of people and his environment are tell-tale signs of his unique thought process, which Watson notices and grows to admire throughout the novel. What we may consider dry humor or flatness of character in Holmes’s verbal responses may actually be an indication of his inability to verbally engage other people in a usual, more inviting manner. In addition, Holmes’s attention span is very short, and Watson notes many occasions during which Holmes’s body language is notable for its unusual nature (Doyle 21).

This opens up a bigger discussion about the ways in which 19th century authors such as Doyle, Collins, and even Bronte attempt to portray disability without having the current language to name it. How could Catherine Earnshaw’s “personality” be analyzed as a result of trauma, and what language does Bronte use to convey such a framework? I think there is a lot to delve into here.