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Great Expectations Summary and Analysis

by Charles Dickens

Part III, Chapters 1-10 (40-49)

Part III: Chapter 1:

Pip gets up and eats breakfast with the convict, who tells him his name is Magwitch though he is going by Provis while in England. Pip is disgusted with him, though, at the same time, he wants to protect him and make sure he isn't found and put to death. Pip buys some clothes for him that will make him look like a "prosperous farmer."

Pip goes to Jaggers to verify that this man is his benefactor. Indeed, Jaggers assures him that Miss Havisham had nothing to do with his great expectations.

Analysis:

Pip is closer to Magwitch than he knows since they both base the value of people on societally structured hierarchies. Pip still believes that one's value is decided by the class one is born, or adopted, into. Because he thinks of Magwitch as the lowest of the low, he thinks himself the lowest of the low because of his association with him. Magwitch does not see it this way. Instead, he believes that the amount of money you have, and how ostentatiously you spend it, is what gives one value. Thus, he has spent his life working for money to make a poor blacksmith boy a "gentleman."

Part III: Chapter 2:

Herbert meets Magwitch. Pip brings Magwitch to a nearby inn, then returns to discuss with Herbert "what is to be done."

Pip feels he cannot take any more of Magwitch's money, mostly because Pip is still proud and it is the money of a criminal. At the same time, Pip does not want Magwitch's execution on his hands which will surely occur if it is discovered he is back in England. Pip wants to protect Magwitch since he has risked his life to come back to see him.

The two decide that Pip will try and convince Magwitch to leave England with him. After that, they'll see what happens. Magwitch returns for breakfast the next morning, and Pip asks him about the other convict that Pip had seen him fighting with in the marshes on the Christmas day long in the past.

Analysis:

The reader has been shown very few moments when Young Pip has been happy. Pip was unhappy even when he should have been happy -- during his apprenticeship with Joe -- and continued to be unhappy even when great expectations were announced for him. Now a great mystery has been solved in the way of the appearance of Pip's benefactor, and Pip is, once again, unhappy. We notice, however, that Pip is unhappy not so much because of his circumstances but because of how he views those circumstances. And although many in the novel are living a much worse life than he -- Joe and Biddy, Magwitch himself, Wemmick and Jaggers, Herbert and the rest of the Pockets -- they do not seem to demonstrate the same unhappiness with their lot in life. Magwitch, his life in danger, seems strangely happy to be in the company of Pip, a person he had met under dire circumstances for just a few moments many years before.

Only Pip has yet to reach within himself to find a happiness that neither society, nor romantic concepts of home, can offer him.

Part III: Chapter 3:

Magwitch tells them the story of his life. From a very young age, he was alone and got into trouble. Mostly, he stole out of hunger and cold. At that same young age, he was impressed with the fact that others referred to him as hard, as a criminal, and predicted that he would spend his life in and out of jail. Indeed, his life ran along this very path.

In one of his brief stints actually out of jail, Magwitch met a young well-to-do gentleman named Compeyson who "had the head of the devil." Compeyson had his hand in everything illegal: swindling, forgery, and other white collar crime. When Magwitch met him, Compeyson was working with a half-crazed man called Arthur, who saw visions of a woman dressed all in white, with a broken heart, who came to haunt him. On one of these haunts, Arthur gave up his own ghost and died.

Compeyson then recruits Magwitch to do his dirty work and soon gets Magwitch into trouble with the law. Both standing before the judge, Compeyson, being a gentleman, is given a lesser sentence than Magwitch, a career criminal. Magwitch hates the man.

Herbert passes a note to Pip: "Young Havisham's name was Arthur. Compeyson is the man who professed to be Miss Havisham's lover."

Analysis:

Previously non related story lines now come together and into focus. Magwitch worked with the man who had jilted Miss Havisham on her wedding day. And Compeyson's work horse Arthur turns out to be Miss Havisham's half brother who worked against her, haunted by her until the end.

Magwitch hates Compeyson with a self-sacrificing vengeance, and yet the reason for his hatred -- that Compeyson was the mastermind behind the crimes yet received less of a sentence -- is tied to his sacrifice for Pip. Compeyson got a lighter sentence because he was considered by society to be a gentleman. So Magwitch sets out on a life of sacrifice to provide the same advantages for Pip. Magwitch both hates this societal label and accepts it, as is demonstrated by his constant reference to himself as "low." Indeed, Dickens seems to hint that Magwitch may have been a much different man if people had not told him since a young age that he would come to no good. And yet he wants to exploit the societal labeling by promoting Young Pip into gentlemanhood.

Magwitch, a sympathetic character, is a reflection of what Pip, or any of us, could become if we take societal labels to heart.

Part III: Chapter 4:

Pip finds out that Estella is at the Satis House and feels he needs to go back to visit both she and Miss Havisham.

He returns to his home town and, at the town inn, meets Drummle, who is obviously courting Estella. The two pass rude words to each other, then they depart on their own ways.

Analysis:

Magwitch has turned Pip's world upside down, just as he had turned the Young Pip upside down to get some bread when they first ran into each other in the churchyard. But even if Magwitch had not presented himself as benefactor, it is clear that Pip would not have lived a satisfying life. With or without Magwitch, Estella was not being grommed for Pip. She was being groomed as a lady for a man of greater fotune, in this case, the insolent Drummle. The high-class life that Pip thought he wanted is not a very pleasant place to be with people like Drummle taken as models. But Pip's world had to be turned upside down for him to start seeing that.

Part III: Chapter 5:

Pip finds Miss Havisham and Estella in the same banquet room in the Satis. Pip tells Miss Havisham that he is unhappy with the way she led him on to thinking that she was his benefactor and the manner in which she hinted that he and Estella were destined to be together. It was his own fault, says Miss Havisham, just like it was the fault of her relatives to believe this was the case as well.

Pip tells her that Herbert and Matthew Pocket are different from her other relatives. They are the same blood but they are kind and upright. Pip breaks down and confesses his love for Estella. Estella tells him straight that she is incapable of love -- she had warned him of as much before -- and she will soon be married to Drummle.

Even Miss Havisham seems to be finally feeling sympathy toward Pip, holding her heart as if remember how her own was broken.

Pip walks back to London. At the gate to his house he is given a note by the Porter written by Wemmick: "Don't Go Home."

Analysis:

Pip is justifyably angry at both Miss Havisham and Estella, though he forgives them both without them even asking because he realizes it was his own folly that brought him to unreal expectations. Estella's and Miss Havisham have vastly different reactions to Pip's break down in front of them. Miss Havisham appears to be touched, finally, and Pip's broken heart strikes a chord in her own heart. Estella, on the other hand, appears amazed at the show of emotion and doesn't seem to understand it. She is not angry, she is curious, as she really doesn't know what it means to love as Pip is now loving her.

Their reactions may also be an indication of culpability, in the sense that some characters are more guilty of their sins than others because of the level consciousness in their actions. Miss Havisham deliberately set out to break Pip's heart through Estella. Estella, on the other hand, is unconscious of what she did. She only acted as she was brought up to act.

Part III: Chapter 6:

Pip gets a room at a nearby inn and in the morning visits Wemmick at his castle. Wemmick tells Pip things he has learned from the prisoners at Newgate. Pip is being watched, he says, and may be in some danger. As well, Compeyson has made his presence known in London.

Wemmick has already warned Herbert as well who, heeding the warning, brought Magwitch to his fiancé Clara's house in a neighborhood that Pip does not frequent. As well, the house is right next to a dock on the Thames, making an escape by river more easily accomplished.

Pip spends the day with Wemmick's deaf old relative, the "Aged," and leaves as it starts to grow dark.

Analysis:

As the threat on Magwitch's life grows, so does Pip's affection and worry for him. Pip is no longer worried about himself, or even about having the blood of Magwitch on his hands, he is worried about the man at hand.

In this crisis, Pip is reminded who his true friends are: Wemmick, who is willing to be unprofessional and ask questions around the criminal areas of town and Herbert, who is risking his own life by helping Pip harbor a wanted man.

Part III: Chapter 7:

Pip goes down to Clara's to find Magwitch and Herbert. Herbert introduces him to Clara. Clara has no relatives except her father, a drunk, bed-ridden old sailor who lives on the second floor (Herbert has never met him) and constantly claims Clara's attention.

Pip tells Magwitch that he is being watched and this is the best place for him now. In order to stay safe, Pip and Magwitch must only have contact through Herbert. Pip is a little sad to leave him. The rough old convict appears to have "softened" a bit.

Analysis:

In this chapter, Pip actually misses Magwitch and wants to be closer to him. We are reminded of a parrallel moment in the first chapter when young Pip looked back on the marshes he was running from and saw Magwitch walking away into the cold night. That singular figure on the horizon struck a sympathetic chord in young Pip and made the two of them unified in their abandonment by the world. Here, too, Pip has changed from fear (and disgust) of the convict, to sympathy and genuine companionship.

Part III: Chapter 8:

Pip goes to dinner alone one night, then to the theater where he sees Mr. Wopsle in one of his productions. Mr. Wopsle stares strangely at Pip throughout the play, getting quite out of character.

Afterwards, Mr. Wopsle asks Pip who it was that he came with. Pip says he came alone. Mr. Wopsle tells him that there was man sitting behind Pip for much of the production and that he recognized him as the second convict that he, Pip, and Joe had hunted with the soldiers when Pip was just a child. Compeyson!

Analysis:

Things are coming together quickly in the next few chapters. Pip is learning mysteries that have been unknown since the beginning of the novel. At the same time, the suspense is growing because there is a sense that all of these subplots are going to collide soon. Compeyson and Magwitch's ongoing hatred, Miss Havisham's "creation" of Estella, Pip's snubbing of Joe and Biddy. The rhythm of the novel and its subplots -- the introduction of mysterious events, their explanations, and the reaction of these explanations by the various characters -- lends itself well to the series genre in which this story, and all of Dickens' novels, were first published. Only one or two chapters, in the form of a magazine, were presented to the public at a time. One week a mystery would be introduced, the next week suspense would build, the week after that solutions and new problems, plus new characters, would come to light.

It is easy to see how all of England waited eagerly for the next issue of Dickens' story, much like some today discuss the ongoing plots and subplots of soap operas. One can imagine that when the different issues of Great Expectations were first published, the readers felt, and probably talked, about Pip and all the characters as if they knew them personally. Pip was made all the more real by the fact that, in many cases, Dickens was creating the story as he went along. Therefore anything really could happen to Pip from one issue to the next when not even the author knew all the details.

Part III: Chapter 9:

Pip has dinner with Jaggers and Wemmick at Jaggers' home and learns from the host that Drummle has indeed married Estella. Jaggers' verdict on the subject is that Drummle, because of his "spidery" character, will either beat her or "cringe," that is, become a brow-beaten husband himself. The whole conversation pains Pip, who has been trying to avoid the subject even with Herbert.

During the dinner, Pip finally realizes what had been so familiar about a certain look he had seen in Estella. It was a look that he had seen in Jaggers' servant woman as well. Pip knows instinctively now that Jaggers' servant woman is Estella's mother!

On their way home together, Wemmick tells the story of Jaggers' woman servant, the "tigress" as Wemmick refers to her. It was Jaggers' first big break-through case, the case that made him. He was defending this woman in a case where she was accused of killing another woman by strangulation. This is why Jaggers' likes to show off the poor woman's hands to company. The woman was also said to have killed her own child, a girl, at about the same time as the murder.

Analysis:

Once again, Pip sees his life colliding with criminality and violence as he realizes that his love is the daughter of a murderess. The solutions to all the mysteries of the novel are starting to pour out now. For each one, Pip's life is being dissassembled. Things are not how he first saw them. People are not how he first defined them. Convcts are kind and ladies are the daughters of criminals. Gentleman are scoundrels and blacksmiths are loyal. He has started letting go of the societal definitions for these people and started seeing them for who they are: individuals beyond labeling.

Part III: Chapter 10:

Miss Havisham asks that Pip come visit her. He finds her again sitting by the fire, but this time she looks very lonely. In fact, as she begins to speak, Pip sees that a big change has come over the cold woman. She seems almost afraid of Pip. Pip tells her how he was giving some of his money to help Herbert with his future, but now must stop since he himself is no longer taking money from his benefactor. Miss Havisham wants to help, and she gives Pip nine hundred pounds to continue to assist Herbert.

She then asks Pip for forgiveness. Pip tells her she is already forgiven and that he needs too much forgiving himself to be able not to forgive others.

"What have I done?" Miss Havisham repeats again and again. "What have I done?"

Pip asks her about the history of Estella. Miss Havisham says that she was brought as a mere infant by Jaggers during the night.

Pip goes for a walk around the garden then comes back to find Miss Havisham on fire! Pip takes his jacket, and the tablecloth from the old banquet table, and puts the fire out, burning himself badly in the process. The doctors come, announce that she will live. they put her on the banquet table to care for her (where she said she would always lie when she died.)

Analysis:

Repentance and forgiveness is a common theme among the relationships in the novel and it is interesting to see the instances where forgiveness is given and where it is refused. We are reminded of Mrs. Joe's last words to Joe, seeming to imply a request for forgiveness for her actions toward he and Pip.

In this chapter, Miss Havisham is asking for forgiveness from Pip for having been a part of breaking his heart. She commiserates with him because her own heart had been so broken once. Pip immediately forgives, but believes her to have been much more of a disservice to herself and to Estella in her actions. She took away the light (both daylight and a spiritual sense of joy) from both their lives. In so doing, she destroyed a young girl's capacity to love, and she herself is growing old with none to love her.

Miss Havisham's request for forgiveness, of course, reminds Pip of his own need to reconcile and ask for forgiveness from Joe and Biddy and his treatment of them.

Reflecting the Christian influence in Victorian morality, those that do not seek reconciliation will sooner or later destroy themselves. We will see this in the upcoming chapters with Magwitch's hatred for Compeyson and Orlick's hatred for Pip.

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