Great Expectations; Charles Dickens

Literatura Universal. Novela Inglesa. Siglo XIX. Autobiografía. # Autobiographical Novel. Victorian England. Process of Maduration. Self-Discovery

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Walworth:

The Castle

“Great Expectations”

The Castle... The good twin... The hidden Wemmick... The outlet for emotion... The need to be human... The weakness that needs to be protected... The opening of the true self... A world behind a mask...

Walworth is an essential setting for the understanding of Wemmick. Dickens uses it to develop not only Wemmick's character but also his relationship with Pip and the contrast between Mr. Jaggers and him.

As the reader knows more about the place, he or she also knows more about the character. There are many dimensions or aspects to this setting for it is full of symbolism. It is not only the place itself that makes the Castle such an important element but also the characters associated with it and its influence on Wemmick. Walworth is the only way for Pip and the reader to see Wemmick as a person, and not as the dry, cold clerk at Mr. Jaggers' office. Far away from the city, the Castle is pure of its dirtiness, corruption and superficiality.

The dry man. When Pip first meets Wemmick, at the office, he sees him as a “dry man” (171) “walking in a self-contained way as if there were nothing in the streets to claim his attention” (172). This gives a bad impression of Wemmick; however, it is just a misjudgment. Once Wemmick sets foot in his place, he transforms into a whole different person. In the city, he merely wears a “suit”, a uniform that makes him be one more among the crowd of regular people.

Personal vs. proffesional. “Never heard of it. Never seen the Aged. Never heard of him. No; the office is one thing, and private life is another. When I go into the office, I leave the Castle behind me, and when I come into the Castle, I leave the office behind me” (208). Wemmick has never shown the place to Jaggers; however, he has shown it to Pip even though he has met him at the office and could make his relationship strictly professional. That is why the invitation to the Castle is so important in the development of their relationship.

Opening up. Wemmick invites Pip to visit his home. “I have not much to show you; but such two or three curiosities as I have got, you might like to look over; and I am fond of a bit of garden and a summer-house” (201). He speaks in a humbler tone and, for the first time, mentions something about his personal life. This offer is the beginning point of the relationship between Wemmick and Pip, leading them to stronger and closer ties later on in the text. “I can't help confiding in you, though I know it must be troublesome to you; but that is your fault, in having ever brought me here” (295). The fact is, however, that Wemmick does not mind Pip's confidence.

The Aged Parent. This character brings a sense of family to the Castle. He is also a very amusing character that makes the reader smile and sympathize with him. Dickens surprises not only Pip (and later Mr. Jaggers) with this character but also the reader who had followed and trusted Pip's misjudgments. In addition, when the old man says “All right, John; all right!” (207), he is giving Wemmick an identity other than the one he has at the office. Somehow, he is showing a more human Wemmick, a son. He gives his father treats and spoils him, completely destroying any previous image the reader had of him.

The appearance. “It appeared to be a collection of black lanes, ditches, and little gardens, and to present the aspect of a rather dull retirement” (206). This is the first thought Pip has when he first sees the Castle. His opinion will change as he gets to know the place, the same way that he changes his mind about Wemmick. The place and its appearance remain the same; however, Pip perceives them in a different way because he realizes what this house means to Wemmick. He is extremely proud of it for it is his “own doing” (206). It is something that he has done on his own, little by little. At the Castle, Wemmick is, so to speak, the king; at the office, he is the subordinate.

The fort. Wemmick has built his house protecting it as if he was hiding treasures in it. Likewise, he protects his personal life, choosing cautiously who can enter in it. He says, “After I have crossed this bridge, I hoist it up - so - and cut off the communication” (206). When he is there, he does not want to have anything to do with the city, the office and the rest of the world. It makes the reader wonder whether this extreme obsession with separating these two lifestyles comes from his occupation, some experience early in his life or his personality.

Animals and plants. This very subtle detail in Wemmick's description of his place is a beautiful symbol. “At the back there's a pig, and there are fowls and rabbits; then, I knock together my own little frame, you see, and grow cucumbers; and you'll judge at supper what sort of a salad I can raise” (207). These are the symbols of life. Seen at the office, one can not picture such a serious man surrounded by rabbits and growing cucumbers.

The transformation. “By degrees, Wemmick got dryer and harder as we went along, and his mouth tightened into a post-office again” (210). Wemmick becomes another person, almost another character when he leaves his home. “He looked as unconscious of his Walworth property as if the Castle and the drawbridge and the arbour and the lake and the fountain and the Aged, had all been blown into space together by the last discharge of the Stinger” (210). This is another example of how he tries to hide his life at home to protect it, as if something were to happen to it. Even the opinions he expresses vary from one place to another, not allowing himself to cross that line separating John and Wemmick the clerk. “'That,' he returned, `is my deliberate opinion in this office.'” (291). Sometimes, however, he does make comparisons between the two places, advising Pip to remember that, in the office, the real Wemmick is not the one speaking. “They must not be confounded together. My Walworth sentiments must be taken at Walworth; none but my official sentiments can be taken in this office” (291). This statement suggests that his unofficial opinions would not be accepted perhaps in other environments such as the office. Does he then feel he is doing something wrong by having these different opinions? He is scared of speaking up. He is subordinated to Jaggers' influence and does not allow himself to be other than neutral and cold in appearance.

Miss Skiffins. This is another character that surprises the reader. Wemmick has feelings! The scene in page 297 in which the Aged P. is reading the news and Wemmick keeps trying to put his arm around her is an example of this. He shows himself as a man, with emotions and needs. This scene makes him both comic and ridiculous. All these new behaviors seen in him look strange, for the reader is not used to this other Wemmick; however, they are what make Wemmick a more credible and likeable character.

The twin Wemmicks. Pip describes Wemmick's two personalities and attitudes as two twins: one being good, and the other one wrong (not bad, just wrong). The twin at the office is the wrong one, obviously. At the dinner with Mr. Jaggers, Wemmick hides his relationship with Pip, he plays his role as if nothing happened. “From my point of view, he was the wrong twin all the time, and only externally like the Wemmick of Walworth” (391). But the transformation works both ways: “and we had not gone half a dozen yards down Gerrard-street in the Walworth direction before I found that I was walking arm-in-arm with the right twin” (391).

The exposure. In page 412, Pip mentions to Mr. Jaggers (and in the presence of Wemmick) the existence of the Castle, the Aged parent and this warm-hearted Wemmick Jaggers was so ignorant of. This confession from Pip somehow frees Wemmick from having to hide this other life he lives. He is stronger; he is more master of himself; he owns a life. The two men look at each other, full of distrust. They are both taken by surprise. Jaggers stares at a man he realizes does not know at all. Taken out of their “official roles”, they barely know how to act naturally.

The change. Wemmick's liberation of the pressure and influence of the office world makes him almost a new man. He gets married with Miss Skiffins. It is not the marriage that is surprising or odd, but the way he acts (unpredictable and confident).

Therefore, the Castle is the box of treasures that made Wemmick a prisoner. He is freed by introducing Pip to this world. The Castle represents what is most valued by Wemmick. This box full of surprises shows Wemmick's character naked... those who made it inside the fort, got to know the real king.

Bibliography

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Penguin Books Ltd, New York: 1996.