In Chapter 20 of Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens, what does the phrase I have bolded mean?

Nevertheless, a hackney-coachman, who seemed to have as many capes to his greasy great-coat as he was years old, packed me up in his coach and hemmed me in with a folding and jingling barrier of steps, as if he were going to take me fifty miles

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  • 3
    Do you know what a "coach" is? – Hot Licks Apr 23 '17 at 12:22

Packed me up in his coach:

Pack as in how you would pack something into a suitcase.

and hemmed me in:

Blockaded, such that the protagonist was unable to move freely. E.g.:

The brick path to the door was hemmed in on either side by tall, unkempt boxwood hedges.


with a folding and jingling barrier of steps:

Coaches had folding steps that collapsed away when not in use, these are what is blockading the passenger against the interior of the coach.

The vocabulary is claustrophobic : hemmed, pack, and is being used to convey the sense of claustrophobia the character is experiencing in the coach.



By popular consent and courtesy of Malvolio, here is a photograph depicting a coach of a similar type that Dickens is writing about here:

enter image description here (Photo source: Gail-Thornton)

  • 5
    You should add that in context, the "coach" would have been a horse-drawn passenger wagon, probably enclosed like this one. I think Dickens must not have liked traveling by coach: his novels have vivid depictions of how claustrophobic and unpleasant it was. – Malvolio Apr 23 '17 at 14:02

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