Great Expectations Chapter 26 Summary

Instructor: Abigail Walker

Abigail has taught writing and literature at various universities. She has an M.A. In literature from American University and an M.F.A. in English from The University of Iowa.

This lesson is a summary of Chapter 26 of ''Great Expectations'' by Charles Dickens. In this chapter, Pip and his companions spend an evening with Mr Jaggers and meet his mysterious housekeeper, Molly.

An Invitation

Pip stands in the office of his guardian, Mr. Jaggers, who also serves as a criminal lawyer. At the moment, Mr. Jaggers is in the wash closet, or bathroom, scrubbing his hands - as if to scour away any germs left behind by his clients.

When Mr Jaggers finishes, he returns to the room where Pip is and asks him and his friends to be his dinner guests the following night. Having spent the previous night with Mr Jaggers's clerk, John Wemmick, and having been told to expect this invitation, Pip readily accepts.

Mr Jaggers's Home

Along with his friends Herbert, Drummle, and Startop, whom Mr Jaggers has also invited, Pip arrives for dinner the following evening. Mr. Jaggers's house is grand but in disrepair: the paint is old and the windows are covered with dirt. Still, it is a functional house. None of the objects appears to be simply decorative; all seem to be used for practical purposes - like the sensible lighting fixtures and law books on the shelves. Unlike his possessions, many of the rooms in his house go unused, as Mr. Jaggers explains to Pip and his friends.

One of these friends, Drummle, who lives in the same house as Pip, especially interests Mr. Jaggers. Pip's guardian refers to him as 'the spider' because he is a 'blotchy, sprawly, sulky fellow.' Far from being repelled by Drummle's sinister appearance, Mr. Jaggers explains to Pip that he is drawn to Drummle's looks and begins a conversation with him as they sit down for dinner.

The Housekeeper

Once seated, they are served by a housekeeper named Molly, whose appearance Pip finds unsettling. Although middle-aged, the housekeeper looks younger than she is, as Pip observes while she moves agilely around the room. Her complexion is very light, her eyes quite big, and her hair especially long and thick. Her face has a mysterious, 'fiery air' that reminds Pip of something emanating from a pot belonging to the witches in a production of Macbeth he has recently seen.

As she brings dish after dish, Pip notices how steadfastly she watches Mr. Jaggers, as though worried he might find something to criticize. He doesn't. Instead, Mr. Jaggers and his guests enjoy a pleasant dinner. As the wine flows, Drummle becomes outspoken. He tells Mr. Jaggers that he is stronger than Pip, Herbert, and Startop, flexing his muscles to demonstrate his superiority, a display his companions then mimic.

A moment later, as the housekeeper reaches down to remove a plate from the table, Mr. Jaggers grabs her hand. He asks her to show her other wrist, the one she hides behind her back, to his guests. The housekeeper protests but finally gives in; her other wrist is severely scarred. Showing it off to his guests, Mr. Jaggers marvels at the strength she has in her wrists, which, Mr. Jaggers states, are stronger than any other person's.

Molly shows her wrists
Molly shows her wrists

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