In Charles Dickens' novel Great Expectations, John Wemmick is Mr. Jaggers' clerk and the protagonist Pip's friend.[1] Some scholars consider him to be the "most modern man in the book."[2][3] Additionally, Wemmick is noted as one of Dickens' "most successful" split characters, insofar as Wemmick's character represents an exploration of the "relationship between public and private spheres in a divided existence."[4]


John Wemmick is a bill collector for the lawyer Mr. Jaggers. The job requires a demanding, uncaring attitude, a personality the working Wemmick takes on. To impress and stay in the favor of his boss, Mr. Jaggers, he berates Jaggers' clients with disdain. He is described as having "the same air of knowing something to everybody else's disadvantage, as his master had."[4] His professional attitude contrasts with Wemmick's more outwardly pleasant home and personal life.

Portable Property[]

Wemmick often ventures to Newgate Prison to speak with prisoners currently being represented by Jaggers, or already condemned to die after Jaggers' appointment to them. When Wemmick talks to a prisoner that has been condemned to die, he does his best to take whatever valuable artifacts they may have with them off their hands. This he calls their "portable property." Wemmick does this out of a sense of necessity, given his financially challenged status. [5]

Relation with Pip[]

At one point in the story, Wemmick advises Pip to acquire his benefactor Magwitch's "portable property." He argues that despite Pip's noble intentions to help Magwitch, the pragmatic course of action would be to prepare for failure. In acquiring Magwitch's "portable property," Pip would at least be guaranteed his inheritance. After he sends back Magwitch's pocketbook, Pip feels dignified, and will not follow Wemmick's advice. In the end, Pip forfeits all that Magwitch intended for him to have.

Personal life[]

Wemmick owns a house which is modeled as a castle, complete with a drawbridge, cannon and moat. Wemmick feels protected from the harsh realities of his profession by his house. As Wemmick tells Pip, "the office is one thing, and private life is another. When I go into the office, I leave the Castle behind me."

He is engaged to marry Miss Skiffins a source of joy in his life. His behavior with Miss Skiffins is another indication of Wemmick's split character status. In his personal life Wemmick, for the first time, also reveals a "sexuality which Dickens comically depicts in his relationship with the brightly apparrelled but wooden Miss Skiffins." Pip approves of Wemmicks' behavior around Miss Skiffins, insofar as it humanizes him. This is contrasted with Pip's observation of Wemmick's behavior in the presence of Jaggers, which he compares to his behavior around Miss Skiffins by saying "there were twin Wemmicks and this was the wrong one."[4]


  1. "Great Expectations Character List". SparkNotes. Retrieved 16 April 2010. 
  2. "Great Expectations: The Tragic Comedy of John Wemmick". University of Calgary Press. Retrieved 16 April 2010. 
  3. Pickrel, Paul. Great Expectations.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Lecker, Barbara. Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900. Rice University. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name "Lecker" defined multiple times with different content
  5. "Great Expectations: Character Analysis: Jaggers and Wemmick". CliffsNotes. Retrieved 17 April 2010.