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Chapter 2: Mr. and Mrs. Joe and I... Notes from Great Expectations

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Great Expectations Chapter 2: Mr. and Mrs. Joe and I...

Pip has been raised "by hand," that is, he's kept in line by a hand that never hesitates to whack him when he gets out of line. His sister Mrs. Joe, is the primary hand-swinger. Twenty years his senior, not good-looking, and incredibly red-faced, Mrs. Joe keeps the house lively with her constant stomping and cleaning, made all the more frightening because she seems to resent having to raise Pip, being married to a blacksmith, and wearing an apron all day. Her husband Joe, on the other hand, the mild-mannered blacksmith, has a kindly, if not slightly stunned manner. Pip, having returned late from the churchyard, is warned by Joe that Mrs. Joe is currently off looking for him. Joe informs him that she's on a rampage and has got the "Tickler," a stick she uses to hit Pip when her hand doesn't seem punishment enough to fit the crime. Luckily, Joe shelters Pip from his sister, and after a little hemming and hawing, she puts the Tickler away and prepares supper--bread slathered with butter. Remembering the shackled man, Pip risks a good beating by shoving his supper down his pants leg when Mr. and Mrs. Joe aren't looking. Joe, who thinks Pip has swallowed his dinner in one mighty gulp, shakes his head in amazement and tells Pip that "bolting" his food is liable to get him sick. Mrs. Joe, who can't stand to be left in the dark, gets even angrier because Pip and Joe are having a conversation and leaving her out.

After a dose of tar-water, a nasty preventative medicine, Pip is ordered to do some chores in preparation for tomorrow, which is Christmas day. Just before he heads off to bed, Pip hears the blast of the town's warning guns, and Joe explains that a convict escaped one of the prison ships last night. This news arouses Pip's curiosity, and he almost gets another beating by Mrs. Joe for asking a few questions. She sends him off to bed, where he passes a fitful night of guilt and terror; guilt that he's going to have to rob Joe and Mrs. Joe to get food for the shackled man, and terror that if he doesn't do this, he'll suffer the revenge of being beaten by the prisoner's boy. Terror wins, however, and early the next morning Pip steals a small amount of whittles from the pantry and a file from Joe's shop, and heads off into the misty marshes.

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