Chapter 7 (Volume 1, Chapter 7) (Instalment 4):

My life as an odd boy / Touching Joe's education / Arrival of Mrs. Joe with news

Synopsis of Chapter 7 (Volume 1, Chapter 7) (Instalment 4)

Pip is destined to become Joe's apprentice but does odd jobs meanwhile. Mr.Wopsle's great aunt supposedly runs an ‘evening school' and a general shop, but it is in fact Biddy, her grand-daughter, a dirty, neglected orphan, who manages the shop and helps Pip to begin to learn the alphabet.

Joe tells Pip the story of his painful childhood and his marriage to Mrs. Joe. He displays compassion towards his abusive father and understanding and tolerance of his wife's character and behaviour.

Mrs. Joe returns with Mr.Pumblechook, and with the news that Miss Havisham, a rich and reclusive woman who lives in the nearby town, has asked if there is a local boy who could go and play at her house. Mr.Pumblechook has come to take Pip to his house for the night, before taking him to meet Miss Havisham the next morning.

Commentary on Chapter 7 (Volume 1, Chapter 7) (Instalment 4)

Catechism A series of questions and answers to be found in The Book of Common Prayer designed to teach the fundamentals of Christian doctrine. The method of catechism was also used in other educational contexts.

Mark Antony's oration A famous scene in Shakespeare's Julius Caesar (c. 1598-9, Act 3, scene 2, lines 81-112). Pompey, a Roman Senator, is mentioned in the speech, and is possibly here an echo that prompts the mention of ‘Pompeying' (Mrs. Joe's word for ‘pampering').

Collins William Collins (1721-1759) was an English poet who wrote a celebrated ‘Ode on the Passions' (1747).

I fell among those thieves A reference to the story of the Good Samaritan. See Luke 10:30-35.

Book of Common PrayerWhen I held accidentally our Prayer-Book upside down Until the twentieth century, all Anglican churches used the Book of Common Prayer. Its words were so well known that Joe doesn't need to read in order to follow the service.

I asked him with a modest patronage Pip is beginning to feel superior to Joe.

I derived from this last, that Joe's education, like Steam, was yet in its infancy This little joke helps place the novel in its historical setting in the early nineteenth century, when steam power was just beginning to be developed.

Whatsume'er the failings on his part, Remember reader that he were good in his hart The rhythm is faulty, and the spelling is poor, but this is the only literary production of Joe's life and he is proud of it, even though he finds it amazing that he wrote it.

your sister is a fine figure of a woman This is the phrase Joe repeats about Mrs. Joe, even though Pip does not agree with it. Joe also insists that his father was good in his heart, in spite of the evidence to the contrary. Joe sincerely believes these things: he cannot think badly of anyone.

But I did mind you, Pip Pip cannot at this stage see the depth of Joe's moral perception and charity, but he is moved by Joe's concern for him.

‘And bring the poor little child … there's room for him at the forge!' Joe's statement echoes the story of the birth of Christ, when Mary, in the final stages of pregnancy, has to give birth in a stable because there was no room at the inn. See Luke 2:7.

conscious that I was looking up to Joe in my heart Pip can glimpse a morally more profound nature than his own, but forgets this at many points in the novel.

And then I looked at the stars … all the glittering multitude. Pip is thinking of the convict and his loneliness and desolation. Joe's talk has made him realise that some measure of comfort and love is infinitely better than none at all.

I was put into clean linen of the stiffest character, a young penitent into sackcloth Dressing in uncomfortable sackcloth and putting ashes on one's head is a way of expressing penitence (regret for sin) which dates back to the Old Testament.

Investigating Chapter 7 (Volume 1, Chapter 7) (Instalment 4)
  • What is the tone of:
    • Pip's view of Mr.Wopsle and his great-aunt
    • Mrs. Joe‘s approach to Joe and Pip in her announcement of Miss Havisham‘s invitation.
  • Re-read the paragraph beginning ‘And I ain't a master-mind,' Joe resumed.'
    • What does it tell us about the character of Joe?
  • What do you understand by the term ‘hypocrisy'?
    • How does Dickens portray hypocrisy in this chapter?
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