In chapter 55 of Great Expectations, Wemmick invites Pip to go on a morning walk with him. As they are leaving Wemmick's house, Pip narrates that:

I was considerably surprised to see Wemmick take up a fishing-rod, and put it over his shoulder. “Why, we are not going fishing!” said I. “No,” returned Wemmick, “but I like to walk with one.”

I thought this odd; however, I said nothing, and we set off.

Soon they come to a church, and Wemmick suggests that they go in. He leaves the fishing-rod outside. Inside, Pip discovers the actual reason for the walk: Wemmick is marrying Miss Skiffins and wants Pip to serve as his best man.

As they leave the church, Wemmick "triumphantly shoulder[s]" the fishing-rod again. No more is said about it for the rest of the chapter.

Like Pip, I am puzzled about the inclusion of the fishing-rod in this little excursion. Does it have some kind of significance or symbolism? Or does it merely serve as another example of Wemmick's quirks?

All quotes from the Project Gutenberg e-book.


1 Answer 1


To disguise the point of the expedition.

Wemmick does not want anybody to know the real reason for the walk. By carrying a fishing-rod, he intends to keep anyone from even suspecting that he is on his way to marry Miss Skiffins.

His comment after the business is concluded shows this:

[W]hen we were going out of church Wemmick took the cover off the font, and put his white gloves in it, and put the cover on again. Mrs. Wemmick, more heedful of the future, put her white gloves in her pocket and assumed her green. “Now, Mr. Pip,” said Wemmick, triumphantly shouldering the fishing-rod as we came out, “let me ask you whether anybody would suppose this to be a wedding-party!" [emphasis added]

So the fishing-rod is an elaborate feint to keep anybody from figuring out what is going on. Either they would assume he was going fishing, or, like Pip, noticing that Wemmick sports "a sleeker hat" than usual, they'd wonder what strange venture would require both such relative finery and a fishing-rod. In neither case would they arrive at the truth. The fish Wemmick dangles from his rod is a red herring.


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