Chapter 2 (Volume 1, Chapter 2) (Instalment 1):

Mr. and Mrs. Joe and I / The pursuit of knowledge under difficulties

Synopsis of Chapter 2 (Volume 1, Chapter 2) (Instalment 1)

Pip arrives home late and is therefore in trouble with his sister, Mrs. Joe. Twenty years older than Pip, she is strict and impatient. Joe is friendly and sympathetic but is only able to protect him up to a point. Mrs. Joe shows no love and feels martyred by her responsibilities for Joe and Pip. The description of Pip's upbringing suggests that Mrs. Joe sees him as a nuisance who has to be forced into acceptable behaviour.

Pip hides part of his own meal to give to the convict. His terror is overwhelming because he thinks that the theft he is planning is the sort of crime for which people are sent to the hulks. Next morning (Christmas Day) he gets up early, takes some food, and sets out for the marshes.

Commentary on Chapter 2 (Volume 1, Chapter 2) (Instalment 1)

Who brought you up by hand? Mrs. Joe is reminding Pip that she is not his mother. She has not breast-fed him but has fed him by hand. She may also be suggesting that she thinks beating him is the best way to discipline him.

Some medical beast … a fine medicine … Tar-water was literally that: water with some tar added, and thought to be good for the digestion. A few lines later, it is called an elixir, a word from ancient Greece describing a mythical drink that allowed people live for ever. Mrs. Joe seems to regard tar-water as a weapon as much as a medicine.

It was not very polite to herself … unless there was company Pip is afraid of his sister, but perfectly capable of making judgments about her character and behaviour.

I have often thought that few people know what secrecy there is in the young under terror An intervention by the adult Pip. Throughout the novel Dickens is very concerned to remind his readers of what it is like to experience life from a child's point of view. More on parents and children?

Investigating Chapter 2 (Volume 1, Chapter 2) (Instalment 1)
  • Re-read the paragraph beginning ‘Conscience is a dreadful thing when it accuses man or boy:'
    • How does the writer present Pip's feelings?
  • Look in this chapter for indications that Pip's account is given by the older Pip looking back to his childhood
  • How would you describe Pip's relationship with Joe?
    • How does Mrs. Joe treat them?
  • As you go through the novel, look out for characters who might be seen as substitute parents to Pip.
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