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Chapter 16: Murderous Attack on Mrs. Joe... Notes from Great Expectations

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Great Expectations Chapter 16: Murderous Attack on Mrs. Joe...

The attack on Mrs. Joe, while it seems to have been of murderous intent, did not kill her. Still, the town officials are on the hunt for her attacker, without much success at all. The only real evidence is a leg iron, a convict's shackle. This makes Pip suspect that his convict may be the attacker, and the thought of this plunges him into retroactive guilt, and new torment over whether he should confess to Joe the story of the convict in the churchyard, which he's never told.

The blow to Mrs. Joe's head is bittersweet; though she's lost her ability to talk and to move around confidently, she's also undergone a great mellowing-out. Her fiery temper has been replaced by patience, and she's a good sport about communicating with chalk and a slate rather than commanding with her venomous tongue. To help Mrs. Joe get around, Biddy, Mr. Wopsle's great-aunt's young orphan relation, moves in with the Joes. This is a great relief to Joe and Pip. Biddy's first success at her new job comes when she deciphers a character that Mrs. Joe has written on the slate, and which Pip has been at a complete loss to interpret. It looks like the letter "T," and Biddy realizes this is a drawing of an anvil, meaning Mrs. Joe wants the company of Orlick, the anvil-wielding journeyman. No one, not even Orlick, knows why Mrs. Joe would want to see him, but he complies and soon is making regular visits to the woman who he was beat up for insulting not so long ago.

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