Week 18 The Princess and the Blacksmith’s Boy

What a contrast this week’s instalment presents, when set against last week’s  bleak comedy of Joe’s disastrous visit to Pip’s London lodgings and the reappearance of the stranger from the Jolly Bargeman who fills in the back story of how he came to give Pip the two pound notes. Continue reading “Week 18 The Princess and the Blacksmith’s Boy”


Week 17: Pip, Joe & the novel in a nutshell

Thinking back to the kernel of the novel, how Dickens aimed to ‘put a child and a good-natured foolish man, in relations that seem to me very funny’ I think that this week’s number performs a fantasia on that idea: sums it up, replays it, re-performs it, and for this reader, does so in a magical fashion. But then, magic, sleight of hand and repetitive comic routines, are part of Dickens’s stock-in-trade in the marvellous narration of this novel. Continue reading “Week 17: Pip, Joe & the novel in a nutshell”

Week 16: The Strength of a Wrist

What a wealth of Victorian manhood Dickens presents us with this week and in the midst of it all, poor Molly with her powerful wrists that seem rather to display her vulnerability more than her strength, presented as they are by Jaggers to belittle Pip and gang’s masculinity and obscure Molly’s femininity. The violence of the image of Molly’s cut wrists renders the posturing of the young men more ridiculous than it already was. It must have been and still is quite a shocking image and I am trying and failing to think of an equivalent in Victorian literature. At this stage of course we know nothing of Molly’s back story and the question arises – did she cut herself or was this done to her? Either answer undercuts the idea of strength implied by both Wemmick and Jaggers. Wemmick’s slight servant is an interesting contrast to Molly but really registers as little more than a blip in the domestic comfort he enjoys with his Aged (a personal favourite). Continue reading “Week 16: The Strength of a Wrist”

Week 15: Happy families?

Harry Furniss, ‘Mrs. Pocket and Her Family’ (1910)
Harry Furniss, ‘Mrs. Pocket and Her Family’ (1910)

This week’s instalment begins with a closer look at the dysfunctional dynamics of the Pocket family. Despite Mrs. Pocket’s preoccupation with aristocratic hierarchy, this is an episode crammed with carnivalesque inversions: the servants run the household; little Jane proves a better parent than her parents; and the mutinous baby exhibits ‘a pair of knitted shoes and dimpled ankles to the company in lieu of its soft face’. In contrast to the disciplined order of the forge, enforced by Mrs. Joe, the Pocket household is chaotic. There is a surfeit of children, servants, and food. From the drunken cook to the buttonless page, evidence of domestic mismanagement is rife. Yet Mrs. Pocket chooses to blame innocent parties for perceived transgressions and slights. Characteristically, when a well-meaning neighbour informs her that the nurse has been seen slapping the baby, she is more put out by the interference than the assault. Continue reading “Week 15: Happy families?”

Week 14: Men Behaving Badly


So, the pale young gentleman from week seven (12 January 1861) is revealed as the delightful Herbert Pocket. There are some interesting doublings in this instalment: Pip and Herbert mirror one another and they are mirrored, in turn, by the dastardly Havisham and his caddish accomplice. Herbert, like Pip, was sent to impress Miss Havisham and secure his own great expectations, but he failed and Pip/Dickens makes it clear that lovely Herbert will charmingly fail at most things in life. Unlike Pip, Herbert was unimpressed by Estella – who seems to have inadvertently ensnared the deeply masochistic Pip simply by being horrible to him – and I love Herbert’s sensible, summary dismissal of her – ‘“Pooh!” said he, “I didn’t care much for it. She’s a Tartar.”’

Continue reading “Week 14: Men Behaving Badly”