Chapter Summary.

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.