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”

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Week 30: I Do Touch You, My Dear Boy

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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”

Week 29: Two Hauntings

This week’s chapters get off to an inauspicious start, with waiting, waiting, waiting; chapter 47 is bookended by a reminder that Pip is waiting for Wemmick’s sign, but it does not come. The feeling of being “Condemned to inaction and a state of constant restlessness and suspense” is shared by us as readers, and heightened by the tone of the instalment: we can see Dickens placing the comic and tragic side by side again, as in last week’s chapters, but the alternation is much quicker. Rather than one chapter of each, we have Pip’s humorous commentary on the bad acting of the theatre punctured by the confirmation that Compeyson is trailing him and, in spite of his heightened anxiety and fear, Pip had not noticed. There is little humour in Molly’s story, or Pip’s sudden realisation that she is Estella’s mother, and these moments simply raise more questions that are left unanswered at the close of the instalment. Continue reading “Week 29: Two Hauntings”

Week 28: Pipparing for the worst

Blimey. After the abruptness of last week’s cliffhanger – ‘Don’t go home’ – Dickens goes the other extreme and really dwells on it this week doesn’t he? Given that his readers have been wondering for seven days what the message could mean, they then have to wait even longer as Pip lies awake, fearing the worst and pondering the meaning of those three words. Even sleep offers no escape from the ominous phrase in its many iterations: Continue reading “Week 28: Pipparing for the worst”

Week 27: Sticks and Stones

The last time I wrote for the blog it was to cover Mr Wopsle’s disastrous but hilarious debut as Hamlet. As we commented at the time, the episode felt rather anomalous in a series of increasingly dark narrative turns on Dickens’s part. In preparing to write on this week’s instalment, this idea was brought home to me even more strongly – I found myself longing for a time when Pip’s worry-of-the-week was whether Trabb’s boy might be laughing at him or not. By contrast, this week’s instalment is an exceptionally dark and melancholy one, with poor Pip bound into a series of increasingly unhappy events, all culminating in that terror-inducing cliffhanger.
Continue reading “Week 27: Sticks and Stones”