Free Study Guide for Great Expectations by Charles Dickens-Book Summary
Pip is twenty-three when “his convict” visits him. The man is old and gray, and at first Pip fails to recognize him as the man for whom he furnished food and file so many years ago. The man greets Pip with open arms, but it is not until he produces the file that Pip realizes his identity. The man tells Pip that he has done quite well for himself, and Pip tries to hurry him off by repaying him the two one-pound notes given to him in The Jolly Bargemen. The man burns them and reveals himself as Pip’s benefactor. Oblivious to the shock and repulsion his announcement causes in Pip, the man says he is hiding from his death sentence and asks for help.
Pip is consumed by shock, horror, disappointment, and, finally, shame; he realizes how he has been betrayed and how he has betrayed others. At the close of this chapter, Dickens proclaims “THIS IS THE END OF THE SECOND STAGE OF PIP’S EXPECTATIONS.”
This chapter can be considered as the climax of the novel. Pip, who has always believed Miss Havisham to be his provider, receives the rudest shock of his life. He realizes that not only has he embarrassed himself by fawning in gratitude for the old lady, he has been tricked by her encouragement to do so. He knows with certainty now that she has not set him aside to marry Estella; she has toyed with him as she does all men.
Fortunately, the convict is so full of love for Pip he fails to notice the horrible effect his announcement has on the boy. While Pip is regretting everything about that meeting long ago, the convict is expecting a grateful reception and shelter from the storm and from death.
The irony that forms the base of the plot of Great Expectations is here played out in its entirety. Pip, with his soaring expectations, has become a gentleman and has been allowed to take part in the world of snobbery and false pride. He now realizes that his great ascent has been tainted by criminal fortunes of less than respectable characters. The fountainhead of his good fortune is a man who makes a complete mockery of his gentlemanly pretensions by being a criminal sentenced to death.
As the second of three stages in Pip’s development, this one is characterized by the weight of responsibility placed on Pip. How he reacts to this news and the new expectations he forms will shape the rest of his destiny.
Pip goes to Jaggers to confirm the name of his patron without revealing his visitor. Jaggers confirms it to be Abel Magwitch, the convict. Jaggers tells Pip he has never encouraged him to think it was Miss Havisham. Pip sees someone outside his door and realizes Magwitch might be in danger. So he finds him a place to live nearby and provides him with new clothes. He tells the servants that Magwitch is his uncle Provis.
When Herbert returns, Pip takes him into his confidence and reveals the identity of his “Uncle.” He tells Herbert he will not accept anything else from Magwitch. Further, he says they need to move Magwitch away from London to a safe place.
Magwitch tells them about his past, beginning with the fact that he does not know anything about his parents. He spent a lot of time in and out of jail. He associated himself with a man called Compeyson and began working for him, stealing, forging, and defrauding people. They were both tried for felonies, but since Compeyson looked the part of a gentleman, he got a lesser sentence. Herbert helps Pip put the facts together and deduce that Compeyson was Miss Havisham’s cheating fiancée long ago. Magwitch and Compeyson are sworn enemies. Compeyson is probably in London as well, posing an immediate threat.
For the first time, the convict is given a name--Abel Magwitch. Till now, he has been a two-dimensional figure in the novel known only as Pip’s “convict,” but Dickens humanizes him by giving him a name when he comes into Pip’s life directly. Here Magwitch is also given human emotions in striking contrast to his brutal animalistic qualities from years past. Here he is proud, thankful, and happy; in the past he was angry and menacing.
A lot of exposition takes place that paves the way for even more revelations. Of significance is the mention of Magwitch’s wife. She is not named, or even explained, but her existence is a clue to the great unfolding mystery that binds the novel together.
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TheBestNotes.com Staff. "TheBestNotes on Great Expectations".
. 09 May 2017