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Echoes Between the Final Paragraphs of Chapters 1-7 of Great Expectations

University of California, Berkeley

bis brief essay will point out relationsbips in cbapters 1-7 of Great Expectations, the chapters that comprise the first four weekly installments - complex "rhyme-like" relationships in which sometbing in the final one or two paragraphs of one chapter either echoes or could be said to rhyme witb sometbing in tbe final paragraphs of one or more previous chapters. The analogy to rhyme is useful. Just as, for example, end-rhyme organizes lines in verse in a dimension extra to syntax, the relationships between tbe cbapter endings give layers of coherence to readers' experience that is extra to the sort generated by tbe narrative. In both cases, the effect is a kind of structural girding that, though it is extra and does not contribute to tbe object's parapbasable substance or "meaning," nevertbeless makes tbat substance feel truer, more nearly just, than it would otherwise feel by making the object - literally - more coberent: more like a tbing in nature and less like an artificial amalgam of parts.' Tbe relationsbips between tbe cbapter endings are also worth thinking about in tbat they go some way toward accounting for why the

1 Many critics have noted that Great Expectations is an especially coherent novel; some have gone so far as to call it Dickens's most coherent novel. For example, Shaw in his Preface calls Great Expectations Dickens's "most perfectly compact book" (vi); James Reed refers to it as "a series of events which have a homogeneity, an integrity, never elsewhere achieved in his work" (12); and K. J. Fielding says that "It is a masterpiece of construction, to which it is impossible to do justice in brief" (139). A few other critics find the novel's design, or feel of design, "too neat" - in Lionel Stevenson's words - "to be credible" (351-52). But the detractors are in the minority. For all intents and purposes, the coherence of Great Expectations is taken as a given and is considered to be a source, if not the source, of the novel's greatness. For a recent, provoking article on the symmetry in Great Expectations - an article that bears a very faint resemblance to this one, since both focus on the role of the weekly installments as means of that coherence - see Meckier. Vol. 29, No. 3, September 2012



weekly installments of Great Expectations (at least the first four, which make up much of the famous opening of the novel) feel coherent in and of themselves - feel like stand-alone units. Of course, these relationships are not the only means that produce this effect, but they are one of them, and demonstrable. What is more, apparently no critic has commented on them in print; the silence is especially remarkable given the improbable meticulousness with which Dickens establishes them and the metictilousness with which critics have poured over these early chapters in particular.^ Chapter 1 of Great Expectations ends with Pip running home from the convict and the graveyard: "I looked all round for the horrible young man, and could see no signs of him. But, now I was frightened again, and ran home without stopping" (12).' The second chapter - which, along with chapter 1, comprise the first installment - also ends with Pip running: There was a door in the kitchen, communicating with the forge; I unlocked and unbolted that door, and got afilefrom among Joe's tools. Then, I put the fastenings as I had found theni, opened the door at which I had entered when I ran home last night, shut it, and ran for the misty marshes. (19) Here Pip runs away from home, whereas at the end of chapter 1, he ran towards home. Note how the second sentence goes some way in pointing out this echo by laboring to distinguish the "door at which I had entered when I ran home last night" from the door between the kitchen and the forge that Pip locks before going outside. The next two chapters - chapters 3 and 4 - make up the second weekly installment. Like the ending of chapter 2, the ending of chapter 4 echoes its predecessor. Additionally, taken together, the endings of chapters 3 and 4 echo the way that chapters 1 and 2 end (chapters 1 and 3 end with Pip running from the convict and the marshes; chapters 2 and 4 end with Pip running from home). The following are the final three sentences of chapter 3. Pip has given the file to the convict, who immediately sets upon the legiron and seems to forget about Pip. I told him I must go, but he took no notice, so I thought the best thing I could do was to slip off. The last I saw of him, his head was bent over
2 That critics pay a lot of attention to the opening of Creat Expectations is well known and probably nor in need of documentation. But, for representative evidence of critics' interest in the opening, see Geoffrey Leech's recent article on Dickens's style in the first three paragraphs of chapter 1 (Leech focuses mainly on the third) - and Norman Macleod's response to that article. 3 Quotations are from the most recent Norton Critical edition edited by Edgar Rosenberg. Vol. 29, No. 3, September 2012


DICKENS QUARTERLY his knee and he was working hard at his fetter, muttering impatient imprecations at it and at his leg. The last I heard of him, I stopped in the mist to listen, and thefilewas still going. (22)

I will get to how this, the ending of the last paragraph of chapter 3, is echoed by the last paragraph of chapter 4. But first notice how it echoes the final paragraph of chapter 1 - again, the other chapter that ends with Pip leaving the convict on the marshes. In both cases, Pip doesn't just leave, but hesitates before he leaves: in chapter 1, he pauses to look back at the convict (in that chapter's second-to-last paragraph Pip says, "I set my face towards home ... But presently I looked over my shotilder, and saw him going on again"); in chapter 3, he pauses to listen for him. Here are the final sentences of the two chapters: The lasr sentence of chapter 1 is "But, now I was frightened again, and ran home without stopping" The last sentence of chapter 3 is "The last I heard of him, I stopped in the mist to listen, and the file was still going."^ The rhyme-like relationship between these chapters' final paragraphs, generally (in both, Pip pauses after departing) is compounded by the fact that the chapters' last words - "stopping" and "going," respectively - are precise opposites and thus could be said to rhyme with one another ideationally, as "day" rhymes with "night," "up" rhymes with "down," and so forth. "Stopping" and "going" exist in a rhyme-like relationship with one another even though, in "still going" (itself a potential oxymoron), "going" says "working away." Aft:er all, the general context is Pip's departure - his "going." Syntax excludes "going" from saying "departing," but it casually echoes that idea nevertheless. At the erid of the next chapter, chapter 4, Dickens returns to talking explicitly about Pip running. (Indeed, three of the first four chapters - chapters 1, 2, and 4 - end with Pip running.) This time Pip runs - or attempts to run - away from home because he is afraid his theft of the pork pie is about to be discovered. I felt that I could bear no more, and that I must run away. I released the leg of the table, and ran for my life. - But, I ran no further than the house door, for there I ran head foremost into a party of soldiers with their muskets: one of whom held out a pair of handcuffs to me, saying, "Here you are, look sharp, come on!" (29) 4 All the typographic signals in sentences quoted from Dickens are my own.

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Notice, first, how this fourth chapter ending echoes the ending of the previous chapter, the other chapter in the second installment. Both endings involve legs and imprisonment. At the end of chapter 3, two sentences after Pip says that the best thing to do is to "slip off' to leave the convict we get the sentence about the convict trying to free himself from the leg-iron that will not slip off. At the end of chapter 4, when Pip realizes he "must run away" and "released the leg of the table," Dickens bizarrely echoes the convict's attempt to release his leg from the leg-iron. What matters to me is the meticulousness of the echo, which does not seem to have any more motive not to mention any more effect, as far as the narrative is concerned than something like an internal rhyme or extra syllable in verse. As I mentioned, the ending of chapter 4, the conclusion of the second weekly installment, also echoes the corresponding ending of chapter 2, the conclusion of the first weekly installment. It does so generally Pip departs (or attempts to depart) from home in both and specifically in both final paragraphs, Dickens places momentary focus on doors or on a door. It is irrelevant or, at most, interesting to wonder whether or not Dickens intended all of these chapter endings to pair with one another. We can never know. That said, the more I think about the correspondences between these early chapter endings, the more confident I am that Dickens saw value in making the weekly installments interlock with one another in ways other than those generated by the plot. Consider the final paragraphs of the three chapters that make up the next two weekly installments: numbers 3 (chapter 5) and four (chapters 6 and 7). This is the final paragraph of chapter 5, which comprises the third installment. Pip and Joe are watching the convict board the prison ship. The something that I had noticed before, clicked in the man's throat again, and he turned his back. The boat had returned, and his guards were ready, so we followed him to the landing-place made of rough stakes and stones ... By the light of the torches, we saw the black Hulk lying out a litde way from the mud of the shore, like a wicked Noah's ark. Cribbed and barred and moored by massive rusty chains, the prison-ship seemed in my young eyes to be ironed like the prisoners. We saw the boat go alongside, and we saw him taken up the side and disappear. Then, the ends of the torches were Rung hissing into the water, and went out, as if it were all over with him. (36) And this is the final paragraph of chapter 6, the first of the two chapters that comprise the fourth installment. The chapter focuses on what happens after Pip and Joe return home on the night of the convicts' apprehension. In its final paragraph, Mrs. Joe forces Pip upstairs.

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DICKENS QUARTERLY This was all I heard that night before my sister clutched me, as a slumberous offence to the company's eyesight, and assisted me up to bed with such a strong hand that I seemed to havefiftyboots on, and to be dangling them all against the edges ofthe stairs. My state of mind, as I have described it, began before I was up in the morning, and lasted long after the subject had died out, and had ceased to be mentioned saving on exceptional occasions. (37-38)

And this is the final paragraph of chapter 7, the second chapter of the fourth installment. Pip is about to be taken by Mr. Pumblechook to town before he goes for the first time to Satis House the next morning. He has just said goodbye to Joe. I had never parted from him before, and what with my feelings and what with soap-suds, I could atfirstsee no stars from the chaise-cart. But they twinkled out one by one, without throwing any light on the questions why on earth I was going to play at Miss Havisham's, and what on earth I was expected to play at. (45) Dickens talks about something dying or going out at the end of all three of these chapters: the torches "went out" at the end of chapter 5; the subject of the convicts and their capture "died out" at the end of chapter 6; and the stars "twinkled out one by one" at the end of chapter 7? The last "out" - in the stars "twinkled out one by one" - echoes the previous ones but is also quite different from them. Pip is saying that the stars "came out," that they visibly manifested themselves, which, in fact, is something like the opposite of the other two instances, both of which talk about things (the torches and the subject ofthe convicts) dying out. Even if we take this difference into account, however, the resemblance between the first and third of these endings - the endings of chapters 5 and 7 - seems especially striking. In both cases, the thing that goes or comes "out" is a kind of light. And Dickens, in both cases, talks about light being thrown: literally at the end of chaptet 5 ("the ends ofthe torches were^?^ hissing into the water"); and metaphorically at the end of chapter 7 (the stars "twinkled out one by one, without throwing any light on the questions"). The uncanny connections among these three endings maybe seem more uncanny when it is pointed out that, in manuscript, chapters 5 and 6 were one chapter, which means that Dickens originally had two successive chapters end with related but different lights going "out" and with related but different lights being "thrown." The fact that chapter 6 also ends with
5 Note "why one earth" and "what on earth" in the last quoted passage. The idiom occurs in a sentence in which the distinction between sky and earth is inherent.

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sometbing "dying out" tbe subject of tbe convicts and tbeir capture - bolsters my argument that Dickens saw value in ending his chapters in pointedly similar but different ways. Space constraints forced him to divide a long cbapter into two shorter ones; but notbing forced him to make the ending of the newly conceived chapter echo the endings of the chapters that bracket it. I just described tbe ecbo in tbe last paragrapb of cbapter 7 of tbe idiom "to throw light" on something in tbe ending of cbapter 5, wbere actual ligbt torcbligbt is tbrown. Dickens seems in Great Expectations to take pleasure in this sort of echo effect, an effect in which an idiom and that idiom's literal sense are in some way jtixtaposed. The most obvious example of what I'm referring to is Pip's misapprehension (or misappropriation the matter is not entirely clear) of the idiom "to be raised by hand" - to be bottle-fed. Pip uses tbe idiom to describe the physical abuse be suffers from Mrs. Joe's actual band. Similar examples keep cropping up in these chapter endings. I have already quoted the last sentence of chapter 4. Tbere, juxtaposed to "I ran no further than the house door" is a second literal use of "to run" in "I ran head foremost into a party of soldiers" - but one colored by tbe idiom "to run into" meaning "to meet." I discussed tbe two instances of "thrown light" at the ends of chapters 5 and 7. And I pointed out the variation on the idiom/literal effect that "why on earth" and "what on earth" are in contexts in sentences about looking up at the sky. I also mentioned the time, in the last paragraph of chapter 3, when Pip says that he shotild "slip off," leave the convict, in the moment tbat tbe convict works away at tbe leg-iron tbat will not slip off. Consider one final example: Dickens's repeated use in cbapter 4 of tbe idiom "to take up," meaning to arrest or apprebend. Tbe idiom first appears in tbe opening sentence of cbapter 4: "I ftilly expected to find a Constable in the kitchen, waiting to take me up" (22). It appears again seven paragraphs later, when Pip talks about wbat Mrs. Joe tbinks of him in his ill-fitting Sunday clothes: "my sister must have had some general idea that I was a young offender whom an Accoucheur-Policeman had taken up (on my birthday) and delivered over to ber" (24). A bit later in the chapter, Dickens echoes the idiom by using its materials in contexts irrelevant to criminal arrest. The first instance is in the last paragraph of chapter 5, where we are told explicitly that the convict is literally "taken up" into the prison ship (36) - literally "taken up," that is, just after he is "taken up" metaphorically. Dickens echoes the idiom a second time in the corresponding final paragraph, the final paragraph of chapter 6. Pip there says he was "assisted ... up to bed," - taken up to bed - by Mrs. Joe. I may as well add that when Mrs. Joe takes Pip up to bed Pip says tbat sbe does so "with such a strong band tbat I seemed to bave fifiy boots on, and to be dangling tbem all against tbe edges of the stairs" (37). Notice here that Pip Vol. 29, No. 3, September 2012



is again "raised by hand." And the image, difficult to visualize but perfectly easy to understand, of the boy with "fifty boots on," casually links him in another way to the convict whose leg-iron made his leg heavy as well.^

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Ed. Edgar Rosenberg. New York: Norton, 1999. Fielding. K. J. "The Weekly Serialisation of Dickens's Novels." The Dickensian 54 (1958): 134-41. Leech, Geoffrey. "Style in Fiction Revisited: The Beginning of Great Expectations" Style 41 (2007): 117-32 Macleod, Norman. "Fictional Style and the Beginning of Great Expectations: Another View." Style A5: (2009): 564-^1. Meckier, Jerome. "Symmetry in Com(motion)." Dickens Quarterly 15 (March 1998): 28-9. Reed, James. "The Fulfillmeru ofPip's Expectations," The Dickensian 55 (1959): 12-18. Shaw, George Bernard. Preface. Great Expectations. By Charles Dickens. Edinburgh: R. and R. Clark, 1937. v-xxii. Stevenson, Lionel. The English Novel: A Panorama. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, I960.

6 Compare, as a related phenomenon, the echo of the first phrases of chapter 5 - "The apparition of afileof soldiers" (29) - in the threatening apparition in the dream that concludes chapter 10: "I was haunted by the file too. A dread possessed me that when I least expected it, the file would reappear. I coaxed myself to sleep by thinking of Miss Havisham's, next Wednesday; and in my sleep I saw the file coming at me out of a door without seeing who held it, and I screamed myself awake" (65-66). Vol. 29, No. 3, September 2012

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