Chapter 38 (Volume 2, Chapter 19) (Instalment 23):

Estella with Miss Havisham again / True to the lesson or false? / Drummle claims to know Estella

Synopsis of Chapter 38 (Volume 2, Chapter 19) (Instalment 23)

Dickens devotes this chapter to Pips agonised obsession with Estella. Pip is encouraged to visit her at Richmond but is tortured by jealousy of her other admirers. She says she has been summoned to Satis House by Miss Havisham, and Pip is to escort her. Pip agrees and is strengthened in his conviction that Miss Havisham is his benefactor, and that she has plans for him and Estella.

Miss Havisham is dazed to see Estella, asking her constantly about the men who have been attracted to her, and asking Pip how Estella treats him. Pip feels humiliated as he realizes that Miss Havisham's purpose for Estella is to use her to gain revenge on as many men as possible. Estella begins to chafe under the intensity of Miss Havisham's probing and the two women quarrel. Afterwards, Estella is apparently unaffected by what has taken place.

Pip cannot sleep, and gets up to go for a walk, only to find Miss Havisham walking restlessly. She goes to her rooms and walks on for hours while Pip stands trapped, without a light and unable to return to his bed. Next day, all seems to be the same between Miss Havisham and Estella.

Pip is now a member of the Finches of the Grove, and at one dinner when Drummle is called upon to propose the health of a lady, he chooses to name Estella. Pip is angry and believes that Drummle does not know Estella. He then discovers that Drummle is following Estella about and that she is encouraging him in her impersonal way. He tells her that Drummle is a worthless fellow, and does not understand when Estella says that this is irrelevant since Miss Havisham's purpose for Estella is revenge on any man and all men. The chapter ends with a reminder that a turning point in Pip's life is near.

Commentary on Chapter 38 (Volume 2, Chapter 19) (Instalment 23)

my mind … unto death. An oblique reference to the wedding vows - ‘till death us do part'.

‘Pip, Pip,' she said one evening … ‘will you never take a warning?' There are moments when Estella almost seems to pity Pip; here she suppresses her usual scornful tone to tell him she can never love him.

The Spider … was used to lying in wait Mr. Jaggers is perceptive about the less admirable aspects of people's characters (Chapter 27).

the Eastern story Dickens is referring to a story from Tales of the Genii, published by James Ridley under the pen-name of Sir Charles Morell in 1764.

Investigating Chapter 38 (Volume 2, Chapter 19) (Instalment 23)
  • Re-read the two paragraphs beginning, ‘I saw in this, wretched though it made me …' and ending ‘… the gropings and the pausings of the beetles on the floor.'
    • What are the limitations of Pip's perceptions in this passage?
  • In what ways does Dickens prepare the reader for the events of Volume 3 of the novel?
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