Background.

Great Expectations

Context.

Quotation said by Estella to Pip. Pip, the narrator and main character of Great Expectations has started to pay visits to the house of Miss Havisham. There, he meets Miss Havisham’s ward Estella, who he thinks is very pretty and seemed very proud.

Estella is very condescending towards the young Pip who she views as just a common boy. This is demonstrated here when the two play cards together and Estella mocks Pip for using the words Jacks in a card that she has been brought up to call Knaves.

Image of Estella and Pip in later life, reflecting on their friendship.
Image of Estella and Pip in later life, reflecting on their friendship.

Character Profile: Estella.

Estella is Miss Havisham’s beautiful young ward. Although she grows up not knowing who her real parents are, Pip later discovers she is the child of the convict Abel Magwitch and Molly (who becomes Mr. Jagger’s’ housekeeper). Mr. Jagger’s secures the child a good future by placing Estella with Miss Havisham. Miss Havisham instills a bitterness towards men in Estella, who does not return Pip’s, or any other boy’s, affections towards her. Estella is chased by and marries the cruel Bentley Drummle, but later widowed. She is eventually changed by her experiences and time which brings Pip back into her life.

Source.

Taken from the following passage in Chapter 8 of Great Expectations:

“What do you play, boy?” asked Estella of myself, with the greatest disdain.

“Nothing but beggar my neighbour, miss.”

“Beggar him,” said Miss Havisham to Estella. So we sat down to cards.

It was then I began to understand that everything in the room had stopped, like the watch and the clock, a long time ago. I noticed that Miss Havisham put down the jewel exactly on the spot from which she had taken it up. As Estella dealt the cards, I glanced at the dressing-table again, and saw that the shoe upon it, once white, now yellow, had never been worn. I glanced down at the foot from which the shoe was absent, and saw that the silk stocking on it, once white, now yellow, had been trodden ragged. Without this arrest of everything, this standing still of all the pale decayed objects, not even the withered bridal dress on the collapsed form could have looked so like grave-clothes, or the long veil so like a shroud.

So she sat, corpse-like, as we played at cards; the frillings and trimmings on her bridal dress, looking like earthy paper. I knew nothing then of the discoveries that are occasionally made of bodies buried in ancient times, which fall to powder in the moment of being distinctly seen; but, I have often thought since, that she must have looked as if the admission of the natural light of day would have struck her to dust.

He calls the knaves Jacks, this boy!” said Estella with disdain, before our first game was out. “And what coarse hands he has! And what thick boots!”

I had never thought of being ashamed of my hands before; but I began to consider them a very indifferent pair. Her contempt for me was so strong, that it became infectious, and I caught it.

She won the game, and I dealt. I misdealt, as was only natural, when I knew she was lying in wait for me to do wrong; and she denounced me for a stupid, clumsy labouring-boy.

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He calls the knaves Jacks, this boy!
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