Chapter 57 (Volume 3, Chapter 18) (Instalment 35):

Joe tends me in my Sickness / Joe and I talk things over / Things necessary and unnecessary/ Joe delicately leave me

Synopsis of Chapter 57 (Volume 3, Chapter 18) (Instalment 35)

Pip is in debt and cannot pay his rent. He becomes very ill and is delirious for a long time. As he recovers, he becomes aware that Joe is nursing him, sent by Biddy. Joe's behaviour is no longer an embarrassment, as Pip now appreciates the heart that lies behind it.

Joe gently tells Pip of Miss Havisham's death, and gives details of her will: everything is left to Estella apart from a late decision to bequeath £4000 to Matthew Pocket on the strength of Pip's assessment of him (see Ch. 44; Vol. 2, Ch. 5). Her other relatives have been left insultingly small legacies. Orlick is in jail after breaking into Mr. Pumblechook's house and attacking its owner.

In his weakness, Pip feels that his childhood dependence on Joe has returned; Joe knows that Magwitch, not Miss Havisham, was Pip's benefactor, but when Pip tries to tell Magwitch's story, Joe stops him. Joe is more concerned to explain why he could not always protect Pip from his sister and that, with Biddy's help, he has come to terms with his guilt. Pip is not sure whether Joe knows that he is no longer rich.

To Pip's distress, Joe moves away from him emotionally as he recovers. When Pip decides to confess his poverty, he finds Joe has gone, having paid Pip's debts. Pip decides he must follow Joe and tell him everything, beg Biddy's forgiveness, and ask her to marry him. He rehearses the speech he intends to make to her and three days later sets off for the forge.

Commentary on Chapter 57 (Volume 3, Chapter 18) (Instalment 35)

Joe wrapped me up … his great nature. Pip's illness has put him into a state of childlike dependence, which he thoroughly enjoys.

when I heard the Sunday bells … I laid my head on Joe's shoulder As often happens, Dickens' references to Christianity are indirect.

we talked as we used to … just as simply right Pip has regained his former innocent perception in his judgement of Joe. All the complications arising from his new social rank, and the embarrassment they caused him, have now been swept away by his experiences since the return of Magwitch.

‘It ain't a grab at a man's whisker … but I don't see the good' Joe is aware that he could not help Pip as much as he would have liked and tries to explain the limitations placed on his behaviour by Mrs. Joe's personality.

Suppose ever you kep … fully equal to his inclinations Compare the first two paragraphs of Ch. 6; Vol. 1, Ch. 6), for Pip's childhood perception that Joe might be more aware than he is prepared to admit.

I had resolved that I would wait over to-morrow, to-morrow being Sunday, and would begin my new course with the new week. This is another indirect religious reference. Pip has decided not to say anything until Monday, so as not to disturb the Sabbath.

… I would tell him what I had in my thoughts … and then the change would be conquered for ever Dickens is maintaining the narrative tension by suggesting that further turns in the plot are yet to take place (see Ch. 55; Vol. 3, Ch. 16 for the first reference). He tantalises his readership by saying that the outcome of this conversation is all he has left to tell.

Investigating Chapter 57 (Volume 3, Chapter 18) (Instalment 35)
  • Re-read Ch. 2; Vol. 1, Ch. 2) for an account of Mrs. Joe's methods of dealing with Pip and Joe
  • Note the stages by which Pip reaches a new understanding of Joe and Biddy in this chapter
  • Re-read the paragraph beginning ‘That I had a fever and was avoided' and consider Dickens' methods in expressing Pip's delirious perceptions
  • Re-read the paragraph beginning ‘The purpose was, that I would go to Biddy …' at the end of the chapter and consider the tone.
    • Compare its tone to Pip's statements to Biddy in Ch. 35; Vol. 2, Ch. 16). What differences, if any, do you think Biddy might see in what he says?


Related material
Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.