Great Expectations


This quotation is said by Pip‘s sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery, who is twenty years his senior, and who mistreats the young Pip.

Magwitch suprises Pip in the churchyard.
The escaped convict Abel Magwitch startles a young Pip during a visit to his family grave in a Kent churchyard.

Chapter Summary.

Great Expectations Chapter 2.

Chapter 2 of Great Expectations begins with Pip, as narrator, expanding on the home-life he briefly introduced us to in the previous chapter. We learn his sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery, is much older than Pip, that she is ‘not a good-looking woman‘, that she prides herself on having brought up Pip ‘by hand‘, and that she possesses an angry temper. By contrast, Joe is a ‘mild, good-natured, sweet-tempered, easy-going‘ man who displays kindness and concern towards Pip, although is emotionally weak, described as ‘a sort of Hercules in strength, and also in weakness‘. In the chapter, we witness a display of the emotional and physical abuse Mrs. Joe metes out to Pip and also to Joe.

The chapter goes on to continue the story of Pip returning home from his traumatic visit to the churchyard. He finds Joe alone, warning him that Mrs. Joe is out looking for him and is in a rage. Mrs. Joe angrily returns, using her cane (ironically called ‘tickler‘) to draw out Pip from hiding behind a door before throwing him to the other side of the room, where Joe attempts to shield him from any further harm. She quizzes Pip on his whereabouts before the three sit down to dinner. Pip manages to hide bread down his trousers (to give to the hungry man he has just met in case he is unable to get any other food). Joe notices that the bread has apparently been eaten far too quickly, incurring the wrath of Mrs. Joe who doles out tar-water to Pip as medicine, before administering it to Joe as well.

Being Christmas Eve, Pip helps prepare the pudding but hears distant shots fired. Joe explains that the guns were a warning of another escaped convict from the nearby prison ships (hulks), coming after another escape the previous day. Mrs. Joe. resents Pip asking further questions, telling him to ‘ask no questions, and you’ll be told no lies‘, but he continues to ask about the prison ships before being told to go to bed. The next morning, Pip wakes early and steals some food from the pantry, including bread, cheese, brandy, and a pork pie. He also steals a file from Joe’s forge. Pip runs off to meet the convict he knows will be expecting him to be at the old battery on the misty marshes.

  • Bringing someone up ‘by hand‘ was a reference to raising a baby without breastfeeding (a risky practice at the time). However, Pip humorously repeats the term as a euphemism for Mrs. Joe’s forceful manner, with her physical beatings and emotional bullying.


Taken from the following passage in Chapter 2 of Great Expectations:

It was Christmas Eve, and I had to stir the pudding for next day, with a copper-stick, from seven to eight by the Dutch clock. I tried it with the load upon my leg (and that made me think afresh of the man with the load on his leg), and found the tendency of exercise to bring the bread and butter out at my ankle, quite unmanageable. Happily I slipped away, and deposited that part of my conscience in my garret bedroom.

“Hark!” said I, when I had done my stirring, and was taking a final warm in the chimney corner before being sent up to bed; “was that great guns, Joe?”

“Ah!” said Joe. “There’s another conwict off.”

“What does that mean, Joe?” said I.

Mrs. Joe, who always took explanations upon herself, said, snappishly, “Escaped. Escaped.” Administering the definition like Tar-water.

While Mrs. Joe sat with her head bending over her needlework, I put my mouth into the forms of saying to Joe, “What’s a convict?” Joe put his mouth into the forms of returning such a highly elabourate answer, that I could make out nothing of it but the single word “Pip.”

“There was a conwict off last night,” said Joe, aloud, “after sunset-gun. And they fired warning of him. And now it appears they’re firing warning of another.”

“Who’s firing?” said I.

“Drat that boy,” interposed my sister, frowning at me over her work, “what a questioner he is. Ask no questions, and you’ll be told no lies.

It was not very polite to herself, I thought, to imply that I should be told lies by her even if I did ask questions. But she never was polite unless there was company.

At this point Joe greatly augmented my curiosity by taking the utmost pains to open his mouth very wide, and to put it into the form of a word that looked to me like “sulks.” Therefore, I naturally pointed to Mrs. Joe, and put my mouth into the form of saying, “her?” But Joe wouldn’t hear of that, at all, and again opened his mouth very wide, and shook the form of a most emphatic word out of it. But I could make nothing of the word.


Mrs. Joe Gargery.

Mrs. Joe Gargery is Pip’s much older and abusive sister in Great Expectations. She is named after her mother, Georgiana but generally referred to as simply ‘Mrs. Joe‘ throughout the novel. Mrs. Joe is married to a Kent village blacksmith, Joe Gargery and they live in a house attached to the forge. After the death of his parents, Mrs. Joe is Pip’s only family. Mrs. Joe is an angry and forceful woman who resents the burden of bringing Pip up ‘by hand‘. Her short temper reduces her to being violent towards Pip and Joe. Later in the story, Mrs. Joe is attacked by Orlick during a botched burglary, leaving her severely disabled.

  • In screen adaptations of Great Expectations, the character of Mrs. Joe has been played by such actors as Freda Jackson (1946 film), Rosemary McHale (1989 TV mini-series), Lesley Sharp (1999 TV movie), Claire Rushbrook (2011 TV mini-series), and Sally Hawkins (2012 movie).

Philip Pirrip (Pip).

Philip Pirrip, called Pip, is the protagonist and narrator in Charles Dickens’s novel Great Expectations. He is amongst the most popular characters in English literature. Pip narrates his story many years after the events of the novel take place, starting as a young orphan boy being raised by his sister and brother-in-law in the marshes of north Kent. The novel follows Pip’s progress from childhood innocence to adulthood, where we see a financial and social rise. But these fortunes are offset by an emotional and moral deterioration, which forces Pip to recognise his negative expectations in a new self-awareness.

My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.

Opening lines of Great Expectations.
  • In screen adaptations of Great Expectations, the character of Pip has been played by such actors as Jack Pickford (1917 film), John Mills (1946 film), Michael York (1974 TV movie), Ioan Gruffudd (1999 TV movie), and Jeremy Irvine (2012 film).

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Ask no questions, and you'll be told no lies.