Great Expectations Chapter 16 Summary

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

In Chapter 16 of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Pip struggles with his role in his sister's attack. We also learn of Mrs. Joe's strange new affection for an unexpected person.

The Details of the Attack

In the beginning of chapter 16, Pip tries to work out how he may be connected to the attack on his sister. He recounts the details of the assault according to witnesses. Joe was at the bar until 9:45pm. A witness saw Mrs. Joe before 9:00pm, so the time of the attack was narrowed down to between 9:00 and 9:55, when Joe got home from the bar. When he arrived, nothing was stolen or disturbed aside from Mrs. Joe who lay bleeding on the floor.

The most important clue is a convict's leg-iron that has been filed off. Joe determines that the leg-iron is not from either of the convicts who escaped the night of the attack. Pip believes it is the leg-iron from the convict he helped years ago. Despite this, Pip does not think his convict was behind the attack. He believes it was either the strange man from the bar or Orlick.

Pip Feels Guilty about his Involvement

Pip feels guilty and wonders if he should tell Joe the entire story about helping the convict. Every day he debates telling Joe, and every day he decides that he is in too deep to stop. Pip explains that the secret ''had so grown into me and become a part of myself, that I could not tear it away.'' Pip also thinks Joe would not believe him. As Pip debates coming clean, he observes the police and investigators running in circles trying to figure out who was behind the attack.

Pip explains how his sister's life and mental abilities have changed since the attack. Her hearing, memory, and vision are all damaged. She hallucinates and can not speak clearly. Pip gives her a slate to write on to communicate. This causes problems since Joe can not read well and Mrs. Joe's penmanship is hard to decipher. On the positive side, she is not being a jerk anymore.

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