Book Notes

Chapter 17: A Change in Biddy... Notes from Great Expectations

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Great Expectations Chapter 17: A Change in Biddy...

Pip falls into the routine of apprenticeship life and only visits Miss Havisham once a year, on his birthday. Older Pip, the narrator, tells us that this was a custom that went on many years. Nothing ever changes at Manor House, and Pip's discontent with his apprenticeship continues. One change he does sense, however, is in Biddy, who now carries herself with self-assuredness and, though she is no Estella, is pleasant to look at and spend time with.

Biddy and Pip start talking one day; it's a sweet conversation in which Pip expresses his admiration with Biddy's ability to learn, and recalling her early tutelage of Pip, Biddy even sheds a few tears. Pip invites Biddy for a walk on Sunday afternoon, and on the appointed day they head out into the marshes together. There Pip reveals his secret to Biddy: he wants to be a gentleman. Biddy doesn't think much of this, and when Pip admits it is partly a desire to impress Estella that has led him to this decision, Biddy says that Estella's probably not worth it if he has to become a gentleman to impress her. Pip seems to accept this need to rise up and become more than a common blacksmith, as a sad consequence of having been exposed to the finer things through Miss Havisham and Manor House. He says:

"... what would it signify to me, being coarse and common, if nobody had told me so!" Chapter 17, pg. 149

Topic Tracking: Class 4

Pip is very honest with Biddy, and comfortable, too--much more so than he is with Estella. He's honest enough to admit that he wishes he could make himself fall in love with Biddy, which Biddy says will never happen. Older Pip tells us that there came moments in his young life when it was very clear that Biddy was superior to Estella, and in these moments he believed he could be content with life as a village blacksmith. But hope of something better, expectations to live a life uncommon, always came rushing in to disturb that peace.

Topic Tracking: Love 4

As the two walk toward home, old Orlick crosses their path and insists upon walking with them. Pip tells him they don't need any company and Biddy afterwards confides that she doesn't like Orlick and suspects he has a crush on her. Thereafter, Pip is always dutiful about keeping Orlick away from Biddy.

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