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Satis House & Newgate Prison in Great Expectations

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 'Great Expectations' by Charles Dickens, Satis House and Newgate Prison are places of interest and importance. In this lesson, we will take a look at both and consider what each may represent.

Newgate Prison and Satis House

At first glance, Newgate Prison and Satis House could not be any more different. Newgate Prison is a place that houses murderers and thieves, while Satis House is the home of a wealthy old lady. The differences between these two places goes a bit deeper, but there are also some interesting similarities once we look a little closer.

Satis House Basics

When Pip is a kid, he finds out that a wealthy old woman named Miss Havisham has requested that he come to her house to play. Because she is wealthy, everyone assumes that Pip will be groomed to become wealthy, as well. On his first day in the house, Estella tells him that the home is called Satis. She also translates the word for him, and explains that it means ''enough.'' Pip asks what this means, and Estella tells him that the house was named Satis to suggest that whoever lived in the home would have enough and not want more.

Satis House Appearance

When Pip arrives at the house, he notices that it is ''old brick, and dismal, and had a great many iron bars to it. Some of the windows had been walled up; of those that remained, all the lower were rustily barred. There was a courtyard in front, and that was barred.'' From this description, we can assume that Satis House is not exactly a place of joy and merriment. The bars and rust suggests that whoever lives inside is desperate for security, or perhaps paranoid about intruders.

As it turns out, we learn that Miss Havisham was stood up on her wedding day and stopped living a normal life from that point on. It is interesting to note that both Newgate Prison and Satis House have bars. Both sets of bars keep people safe. While the prison bars are meant to keep the people outside the prison safe, the bars on Satis House are meant to keep Miss Havisham safe. Both types of bars represent imprisonment, despair and protection.

Newgate Prison

Unlike Satis House, Pip does not give us much of a description of Newgate Prison the first time he sees it. He simply tells us that it is a ''a grim stone building.'' This leaves much of the details up to the reader. However, while Pip is looking at the building, a drunk man offers him a tour of the court proceedings inside the prison yard. Pip declines, and tells the guy that he has to be somewhere. The man takes Pip to see the area where they whip and hang the convicted. Pip is disgusted by the scene and heads off to go to Mr. Jaggers' office.

At this point, we see another similarity between Satis House and Newgate Prison. Both buildings were not actively sought out by Pip. He did not go looking for Satis House and all the drama that came along with it. Pip also was not searching for the prison; he stumbled upon it while exploring.

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