Week 36: Pip-petual motion

And that’s a wrap. After 36 weeks of expecting (the same length as a pregnancy, coincidentally), Dickens has delivered the final chapter. And where has the past nine months brought us to? An ending that contains an iconic moment – we’ll come to that in a bit – and many moments frequently overlooked in our memories of this story’s end (yes, I’m looking at you, watercress). Continue reading “Week 36: Pip-petual motion”


Week 35: There’s No Place Like Joe

We begin this penultimate installment with Pip in a rather desperate state of affairs. As Joanne commented last week, the previous few single-chapter parts have been characterised by relentless dramatic action, interspersed with last week’s brief moments of levity (Wemmick’s delightful “Halloa…let’s have a wedding!” being my particular highlight). This week we’re back to the single-chapter-action format, although the mood is somewhat gentler and more contemplative, with a rich emotional arc for Pip and, at the installment’s close, a sense of what is to come in next week’s final part.
Continue reading “Week 35: There’s No Place Like Joe”

Week 34 Marriage and Death

After two action packed instalments, each of a single chapter, Dickens has reverted this week to the pattern of two contrasting chapters in an instalment that draws together some of the themes of the novel.  The tension of the previous week, with Magwitch’s recapture and Compeyson’s death, is relieved in chapter 55, with the news of Herbert and Clara’s impending marriage and the wedding of Wemmick and Miss Skiffins.  The tenderness of the scene between Herbert and Pip, in which Herbert, unaware that he owes his present position to Pip, offers his friend the possibility of a clerkship, and a home in his new household, is another example of the empathy between the two that Emma pointed out in her comment on Week 31.   Wemmick’s hilarious wedding, with the ritual putting on and taking off of white gloves and Miss Skiffins seated in a upright chair, we’re told, like a violincello in a case, embraced at intervals by her delighted bridegroom, is a welcome distraction. Continue reading “Week 34 Marriage and Death”

Week 33: Head over heels and all at sea, again.

Every week since 15th June, readers of All The Year Round have been being reminded that the end is nigh.


It’s a distinct feature of reading in the periodical press that without such extra-textual clues, followers of a serial story have no real way of knowing how close to the close of play they are, because each week’s or month’s installment renews with just the same amount of letterpress. We are in a different context from readers of the one, two or three volume novel, whom a writer like Jane Austen could address thus, anticipating that readers will be far less worried about the outcome than the protagonists: Continue reading “Week 33: Head over heels and all at sea, again.”

Week 32: A Marsh of Fire

Image result for orlick attack pip


An action-packed instalment. One might think that the build-up to Pip’s capture by Orlick, Orlick’s explanation of his villainous plan and its motivation, and Pip’s rescue by Herbert, Startop and Trabb’s boy would be sufficient to fill the instalment, but Dickens also adds in a return to London and an anxious wait for Wednesday when Magwitch’s escape has been planned. The mood throughout is fretful as soon after Pip is saved from the fires of Orlick’s kiln, his anxiety mounts again as he waits to enact the plan for Magwitch’s escape. Continue reading “Week 32: A Marsh of Fire”

Week 31: The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth

After the dramatic events of last week, this instalment is somewhat quieter. Much of the story is dedicated to preparation, practical and narrative, for what will follow. There is also a sense of tying up loose ends as the novel moves towards its endgame. Pip returns to Little Britain, seeking confirmation of his theory about Estella’s parentage. Herbert’s future is secured. And following the long awaited signal from Wemmick, Herbert and Pip set about their final preparations to smuggle Magwitch out of the country by securing passports, engaging Startop as replacement oarsman, and undertaking some dockside reconnaissance. Continue reading “Week 31: The truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth”

Week 30: I Do Touch You, My Dear Boy


From the outset, there is an eerie deathliness hanging over this week’s instalment, which heavily foreshadows the shocking death of Miss Havisham. I was reminded, in the opening passages, of The Mystery of Edwin Drood, in which Cloisterham is presented in similarly hallucinatory terms as a deathly place in which the past haunts the present. Pip gestures towards the Gothic, pre-Reformation life of the city and observes how the ‘refectories and gardens’ of ‘old monks’ have been demolished and repurposed for newer buildings. Images of demolition, rebuilding and repurposing are key to the moral of this week’s instalment, in which Miss Havisham breaks down and attempts to patch up some of the damage she has done. There is a sense here of human history and psychic and social life as composed of a bricolage of fragments.

Continue reading “Week 30: I Do Touch You, My Dear Boy”