The atmosphere throughout the novel is also maintained and studied in great depth through Pip’s vivid narrative in Chapter 8 when he enters the grounds of Satis House and sees what life can be like outside of Joe’s simple forge. Upon Pip and the reader’s entering Miss Havisham’s room in the derelict and defeated Satis House, the general feeling of gloom, despair, sorrow and shame, the gnawing sensation that the end result of everything is tragedy is brought out by beautifully written passages that help to paint evocative pictures in the reader’s mind of the state in which Satis House and its mentally frail owner lie in.
Passages like: ‘… we came to Miss Havisham’s house, which was of old brick, and dismal, and had a great many iron bars to it. ‘ (this gives and impression of a jail-like, run-down shambles. )’… but grass was growing in every crevice. ‘ ‘… the rank garden of the house… was overgrown with tangled weeds’ (this gives a feeling of the grounds not being maintained, making the house feel even more negative. )’The cold wind… made a shrill noise… ‘ (this gives a somewhat clichi?? d but nonetheless effective feeling of eeriness.
) (Estella’s view on the quality of the beer at the abandoned brewery) ‘Better not to brew beer there now or it would turn out sour… ‘ (this has a subtext that tells us that even the things that are meant to cause pleasure can be corrupted. ) (Pip on Miss Havisham’s bridal clothing) ‘She had not quite finished dressing… I saw that everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its lustre, and was faded and yellow. ‘ ‘… grave-like clothes…
‘ (Dickens adds a feeling that everything withers and dies against the test of time, and maintains the feeling of dilapidation and ruination. ) ‘… I saw a figure there hanging by the neck… the face was Miss Havisham’s… And my greatest terror of all was when I found no figure there’ (this is a straightforward morbid vision which simply makes the reader shocked and scared. In addition, the fact that Pip is only a child at this stage makes the fact that he is observing something so ghastly all the more horrible. ) In Chapter 8, the feeling of death and decay is brought to the fore.
And later on, as well as flashes of the feel encapsulated in this chapter, the feel of hard work in dirty conditions is brought out as Pip grows accustomed to life with upper class society. Negative imagery is used throughout the book, but Chapter 8 gives Satis House and menacing aura and character, and is used to great effect in describing the mysterious and macabre Miss Havisham. In Great Expectations, love is not stereotyped to be romantic and unequivocal. It is complex and often ends up in broken hearts and shattered dreams.
Throughout the novel, many people, such as Pip, Biddy, Joe Gargery, Molly, Magwitch, Herbert Pocket and Estella find out the nature of love to their expense, but in Chapter 8, there is one character that seems to have endured the full extent of the pain caused by love. On meeting Miss Havisham for the first time, it is made clear by Pip that there is something profoundly wrong with her, as she is evidently garbed for a wedding in a dress that lies in an atrociously unsanitary condition, even for the unclean era they lived in (as described in the previous paragraph. ) He describes her as being ‘… withered… within a withered bridal dress…
‘ having ‘no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes. ‘ Pip makes out that her figure is not at its exactly at its prime, and it is implied that she has not been especially conscious of looking after her health (‘I saw that the dress had been put upon the rounded figure of a young woman, and that the figure upon which it now hung loose, had shrunk to skin and bone. ‘ It is made clear that she grieving over someone or something. She then beckons for him to come closer to him, and declares that she ‘has not seen the sun since (Pip) was born’, that her heart is ‘Broken! ‘ and that she is ‘done with men and women.
‘ So the reader, along with Pip, can deduce that she has been jilted by the man who was due to wed with her, who we later discover to be Magwitch’s ex-acquaintance Compeyson, and has chosen not to change anything since. She continues to wear the ill-fitting, dirty wedding gown, she has put herself into isolation by entombing herself in the house, she has left the wedding feast idle to become putrid and rotten. She even went so far as to stop the clocks in the house to the time at which she received the news that Compeyson ran away, and tells Pip ‘I know nothing of the days of the week; I know nothing of the weeks of the year.
‘ She becomes an eccentric skeletal recluse, visited only by her relatives who are after her vast riches. The fact that the wedding was set on her birthday must have made her all the more miserable that she was stood up and subjected to so much pain at a time that was meant to be full of so much joy. She is the ultimate victim of love, and in her Dickens created one of his most memorable and haunting characters, who has been used and re-used many times by other writers, such as Carol Ann Duffy in her poem ‘Havisham’.
Later on in the book, Pip is rejected by Estella, Biddy pines unsuccessfully after Pip, Joe loses Pip’s sister, it is found out that Molly and Magwitch had to give up their daughter and both led poor lives after being separated, Herbert Pocket is constantly fretting over how to provide for ‘lower-station’ Clara and Estella is trained by Miss Havisham to be a weapon against men, but is in the end heavily abused by Bentley ‘the Spider’ Drummle.
Great Expectations has an almost cynical take on love, and Miss Havisham’s situation in Chapter 8 provides the extreme consequences and effects of love, and how unsatisfactory and painful it can be. The question ‘What makes a gentleman? ‘ must also be addressed. This falls in line with the themes of ambition and improvement. Pip really only considers the world of gentlemen after the fateful trip to Satis House in Chapter 8 and immediately strives to become one, perhaps without quite grasping the full meaning of what being gentlemanly is.
In the closing stages of Chapter 8, he is sure that he wants to be of a higher class than he is with Joe in the Marshes, if only to impress Estella. It is clear that he seeks self-improvement and is becoming more ambitious than he was before meeting with Miss Havisham and her ward, when he was quite happy to stay with Joe at the forge for the foreseeable future. Between Chapter 8 and Chapter 18, though, he becomes Joe’s assistant at the blacksmith’s forge and seems to be resigned to the fact that he will not become a gentleman.
A good example of Pip’s resentment and ashamedness of commonness and vulgarity between Chapters 8 and 18 is his scolding narrative on Joe’s quite comical shyness in addressing Miss Havisham and speaking only to Pip (‘It was quite in vain for me to endeavour to make him sensible that he ought to speak to Miss Havisham. ‘ ‘I am afraid I was ashamed of the dear good fellow – I know I was ashamed of him… ‘). Everything changes, though, when Jaggers arrives in Chapter 18 to take Pip away from the forge and away from Joe, as a benefactor (later revealed to be Magwitch) has provided him with money in order to become a gentleman.
Joe is ‘dumbfounded’, and when Jaggers offers compensation for ‘loss of (Pip’s) services), Joe reacts angrily and passionately, stating that no money could make up for the loss of a friend so dear as Pip. Immediately following this, Pip devotes an apologetic paragraph to Joe: ‘O dear good Joe, whom I was so ready to leave and so unthankful to, I see you again, with your muscular blacksmith’s arm before your eyes and your broad chest heaving, and your voice dying away.
O dear good faithful tender Joe, I feel the loving tremble of you hand upon my arm, as solemnly this day as if it had been the rustle of an angel’s wing! ‘ It shows that Pip is remorseful and regretful of his selfish and ungrateful actions, albeit with hindsight and experience. But at the time, Pip was could not have been more eager to snap up the offer of joining Jaggers in London to pursue his dream, with neither a second thought nor worry about leaving simple Joe and Biddy behind for London.
He thinks Miss Havisham is his benefactor and immaturely and insensitively brushes aside Biddy, who is clearly in love with him. At this stage, Pip is certain that being gentlemanly will come with getting his money and being taught about the finer points in life by Matthew Pocket, Herbert Pocket’s father and a relative of Miss Havisham. He has seen most of the social class hierarchy already in his short life, from the crude and tough convict Magwitch, to Joe and his sister, to middle-class Mr. Pumblechook, all the way up to the obscenely wealthy Miss Havisham.
And as Pip climbs each rung up the social ladder, his ambition forces him to strive to climb up onto the next one and ‘improve’ his life and standing. But when Magwitch is caught and dies and Pip loses his expectations, it becomes clear to him that having and giving respect, loyalty and affection, as he gives to Magwitch, Herbert and Estella and receives from Herbert, Magwitch and (rather undeservedly) from Joe and Biddy, is of more importance in being gentlemanly than flaunting excessive riches.
Magwitch, although on the lowest rung of the social ladder in England as he was exiled, has higher moral values than Bentley Drummle, a young, loutish man living the lavish life in London. Thus, as Pip realizes at the end of the novel, the people like Joe, who helped Pip recover from illness even after he had been shunned and humiliated at Pip’s hands, and Magwitch, who risked life and limb trekking to England to see his ‘London Gentleman’, are far nobler than a man like Drummle could ever be.
But Chapter 8 shows how people can be blinded by ambition in order to attain something which can be deceptively close. Chapter 8 of Dickens’ ‘Great Expectations’ is an excellent summary of not only the themes that are maintained or developed and changed throughout the novel, but of the circumstances in which Dickens lived before and during the time in which he wrote all of his books.
People having control over other people as a result of a strict hierarchical system and the decisive triumph of inner goodness over material wealth are the main topics in the plot. The plot is interlinked with graphic and sombre imagery which adds another level of understanding and depth. And the nature of love is studied in detail as never being fulfilling and always ending in broken hearts. In these ways does this chapter encapsulate and reflect the events and general feelings of the book.