And at some point I”m going to have to explore why there are so many swords in Great Expectations. So far – swords cards are all I”m reminded of. No other suits. Just swords. And I’ve got another post coming on a Nine of Swords connection now too!
In this scene Pip’s sister is working her way up into a hysteria, and according to Pip it’s VERY calculated the entire way through. Having been in similar situations, I will defend her and say it’s more likely she’s NOT as in control of herself as Pip thinks, and most likely is standing in the back of her own head, helpless to stop the momentum. In any case, still a decent example of drama for it’s own sake.
(spacing / paragraph length differences and italics are my own to highlight the text)
Taken from Chapter 15 of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens:
My sister had been standing silent in the yard, within hearing – she was a most unscrupulous spy and listener – and she instantly looked in at one of the windows.
‘Like you, you fool!’ said she to Joe, ‘giving holidays to great idle hulkers like that. You are a rich man, upon my life, to waste wages in that way. I wish I was his master!’
‘You’d be everybody’s master, if you durst,’ retorted Orlick, with an ill-favoured grin.
(“Let her alone,’ said Joe.)
‘I’d be a match for all noodles and all rogues,’ returned my sister, beginning to work herself into a mighty rage. ‘And I couldn’t be a match for the noodles, without being a match for your master, who’s the dunder-headed king of the noodles. And I couldn’t be a match for the rogues, without being a match for you, who are the blackest-looking and the worst rogue between this and France. Now!’
‘You’re a foul shrew, Mother Gargery, growled the journeyman. ‘If that makes a judge of rogues, you ought to be a good’un.’
(“Let her alone, will you?’ said Joe.)
‘What did you say?’ cried my sister, beginning to scream. ‘What did you say? What did that fellow Orlick say to me, Pip? What did he call me, with my husband standing by? O! O! O!’ Each of these exclamations was a shriek; and I must remark of my sister, what is equally true of all the violent women I have ever seen, that passion was no excuse for her, because it is undeniable that instead of lapsing into passion, she consciously and deliberately took extraordinary pains to force herself into it, and became blindly furious by regular stages; ‘what was the name he gave me before the base man who swore to defend me? O! Hold me! O!’
‘Ah-h-h!’ growled the journeyman, between his teeth, ‘I’d hold you, if you was my wife. I’d hold you under the pump, and choke it out of you.’
(“I tell you, let her alone,’ said Joe.)
‘Oh! To hear him!’ cried my sister, with a clap of her hands and a scream together -which was her next stage. ‘To hear the names he’s giving me! That Orlick! In my own house! Me, a married woman! With my husband standing by! O! O!’ Here my sister, after a fit of clappings and screamings, beat her hands upon her bosom and upon her knees, and threw her cap off, and pulled her hair down – which were the last stages on her road to frenzy. Being by this time a perfect Fury and a complete success, she made a dash at
the door, which I had fortunately locked.
What could the wretched Joe do now, after his disregarded parenthetical interruptions, but stand up to his journeyman, and ask him what he meant by interfering betwixt himself and Mrs. Joe; and further whether he was man enough to come on? Old Orlick felt that the situation admitted of nothing less than coming on, and was on his defense
straightway; so, without so much as pulling off their singed and burnt aprons, they went at one another, like two giants. But, if any man in that neighbourhood could stand up long against Joe, I never saw the man. Orlick, as if he had been of no more account than the pale young gentleman, was very soon among the coal-dust, and in no hurry to come out of it. Then, Joe unlocked the door and picked up my sister, who had dropped insensible at the window (but who had seen the fight first, I think), and who was carried into the house and laid down, and who was recommended to revive, and would do nothing but struggle and clench her hands in Joe’s hair. Then, came that singular calm and silence which succeed all uproars; and then, with the vague sensation which I have always connected with such a lull – namely, that it was Sunday, and somebody was dead – I went up-stairs to dress myself.
When I came down again, I found Joe and Orlick sweeping up, without any other traces of discomposure than a slit in one of Orlick’s nostrils, which was neither expressive nor ornamental. A pot of beer had appeared from the Jolly Bargemen, and they were sharing it by turns in a peaceable manner. The lull had a sedative and philosophical influence on Joe, who followed me out into the road to say, as a parting observation that might do me good, ‘On the Rampage, Pip, and off the Rampage, Pip – such is Life!’