Great Expectations

Great Expectations Summary and Analysis of Part III, Chapters 11-20 (50-59)

Part III: Chapter 11:

Pip goes home and Herbert takes care of his burns. Herbert has been spending some time with Magwitch at Clara's and has been told the whole Magwitch story.

Magwitch was the husband of Jaggers' servant woman, the Tigress. The woman had come to Magwitch on the day she murdered the other woman and told him she was going to kill their child and that Magwitch would never see the baby again. And Magwitch never did. Pip puts it all together and tells Herbert that Magwitch is Estella's father.


Though this chapter is short, it drops such a bomb that it takes longer to realize all the ironies and implications of that bomb than it does to actually read the chapter. Estella is the daughter of a convict and a murderous tigress! Pip's idea of all that is desirable in this life -- Estella, wealthy, beautiful, uncommon Estella -- is more closely related to the world of criminals and convicts than even he. Pip has been blindly headed towards what he thought he was running away from in the first place.

Of course, he does not feel any less respect or love for Estella. He cannot, because he knows her to be a lady. And so he must start to reevaluate how he judges people. He has judged himself harshly, at times, because he feels he has always been surrounded by criminals and violence and this is a reflection of his value as a person. But he can no longer do that, now that he sees that his benefactor is the father of the woman he loves.

Strangely, Pip feels he has not become what Magwitch had hoped for: a gentlemanly son. Unconsciously, however, Magwitch has given the world a ladylike daughter, in all ways very upper-class and uncommon.

Part III: Chapter 12:

Pip wants to make sure he has the whole thing straight and goes to see Jaggers the next morning.

Pip tells Jaggers that he knows his servant woman is the mother of Estella and that Jaggers brought her to Miss Havisham. He also tells him Magwitch is the father. Jaggers was not aware of this and is as visibly amazed as Jaggers can get. Then Pip asks him to give him more details on the story and appeals to Wemmick, standing by, to help him. While doing so, he tells Jaggers of Wemmick's warm castle and of his "Aged" relative. Jaggers is amazed at this as well, and tells Pip more of the story.

Jaggers had, in fact, talked (or rather threatened) his servant woman out of keeping the child and knew that Miss Havisham was looking to adopt. His reasoning amazes Pip, and Wemmick moreso, with its humanity. Jaggers says he wanted to save the child, to give it a chance in life, because he had seen too many children in her situation grow up in and out of jails and surrounded by the dangerous world of crime.


The solving of the mysteries is coupled with the unveiling of the true personalities of the characters involved. In this chapter, we are pleased to learn that Jaggers does indeed have a heart, and his heart went out to little Estella. Before this scene, Young Pip had often imagined that the face casts of the two dead criminals in Jaggers' office had a different expression everytime he walked in, implying that the masks of two dead men had more feelings and emotions than the living occupant of the room, Jaggers. Now, Jaggers is revealed, though only for a moment.

Wemmick's private self, too, is revealed in the presence of his employer. In a humorous commentary, Pip describes how uncomfortable they are with their new relationship. By berating a harried convict for his show of emotion, the two revert immediately to their old selves and find themselves on a much more comfortable plane.

Part III: Chapter 13:

Wemmick sends Pip a note indicating that now may be a good time to escape with Magwitch and get him out of the country.

Herbert and Pip plan to take the boat out with Magwitch in a few days, take him down the Thames until they run into a steamer headed for a foreign port.

In the meantime, Pip gets another letter, this one by an anonymous author, telling him to come down to the limekiln in the marshes that night. Once again, Pip goes to his hometown and walks out to the marshes.


On returning his village yet again, Pip hears his own story from an innkeeper who didn't know his identity. The story was about a young man from the village who had come into some property. This young man would often come back, but would give a cold-shoulder to the man who had been his initial benefactor and protector. The innkeeper is talking about Pumblechook as Pip's initial benefactor as Pumblechook in his loud mouth likes to identify himself. But for Pip it is yet another reminder of the "cold shoulder" that he has given Joe all these years. Joe truly was his benefactor and never asked for anything in return (unlike Pumblechook). With his reflections on Joe and on Magwitch, Pip is now examining the great relationships in his life as opposed to his great expectations.

Part III: Chapter 14:

Pip goes to the marshes to a shack near the limekiln where he is to meet the anonymous writer. There Pip is jumped by Orlick who ties him up and tells him that he is going to promptly kill him. Pip does not want to die, not because he values his own life, but because he still has moral obligations to fulfill with Magwitch (getting him out of the country) and Joe (asking for forgiveness).

Orlick admits to hitting Mrs. Joe over the head, but says it was Pip's fault because Pip was the favored one and Orlick was jealous. Orlick says he is working for Compeyson and assures Pip that Compeyson will make sure that Magwitch does not leave the country.

Just as it appears Orlick is going to kill him, Herbert, Startop and Trabb's boy burst through the door. Orlick escapes.

Pip had dropped the anonymous letter at home and Herbert found it. He and Startop came to the town and got Trabb's boy to show them where the shack was. Pip rests a day at home; the following day they plan to escape with Magwitch.


Orlick represents random violence and is probably the only truly evil character in the novel. He acts simply on his anger -- first with Mrs. Joe, now with Pip. At the same time, if there is a character that Pip would truly like to kill, it would be Orlick. Orlick, after all, was responsible for the death of his sister and was considered a threat to Biddy. Now Orlick threatened to take away the time Pip wants to set his life straight with the important people in his life.

Hatred begets hatred. The only way Pip sees as dealing with Orlick is violently. Fortunately, the only expression of violence that Pip is capable of in his current predicament is a ferocious scream.

Part III: Chapter 15:

They get up the next morning and start rowing down the river, picking up Magwitch at the preappointed time. They row downstream all day and put in on shore at an inn for the night.

They start off the next day and are within a few feet of a steamer that they hope to board when another boat pulls alongside to stop them. In the confusion, Pip sees Compeyson leading the other boat, but the steamer is on top of them. The steamer crushes Pip's boat, Compeyson and Magwitch disappear under the water, and Pip, Startop and Herbert find themselves in a police boat of sorts.

Magwitch finally comes up from the water. He and Compeyson and wrestled for a while, but Magwitch let him go and now Compeyson is presumably drowned. Once again, Magwitch is shackled and arrested.

Pip sits down next to the injured and exhausted Magwitch, and feels that he will stay by Magwitch's side until the end. Pip also realizes that the English government will take all of Magwitch's fortune.


The chapter begins with Magwitch and Pip sitting together in the boat, Magwitch seemingly unworried about the future: "...we can no more see to the bottom of the next few hours, than we can see to the bottom of this river what I catches hold of." But Magwitch is content to be free for the moment and sitting next to the boy he considers a son.

By the end of the chapter, with Magwitch in chains, Pip too feels that he is where he should be, sitting next to his adopted father. Pip, too, does not know what is in store for him in the future, with all his expectations dashed, but he is content to stand by the man who risked his life to be near him.

The single fact that the loss of Magwitch's fortune does not bother Pip demonstrates the power of his transformation. Even the generous Wemmick laments its loss to the crown, but Pip seems to take it as a mixed blessing. He will not live off the money of others again.

Part III: Chapter 16:

Magwitch is in jail and quite ill. Herbert is leaving for Egypt with the firm in the position that Pip, and now Miss Havisham, had secretly set up for him. Herbert plans to marry Clara as soon as her drunk old father dies. He offers Pip a job as his clerk in the company as well as a place to stay -- with he and Clara, once they get settled. Pip cannot give his answer for the job until he sees the Magwitch situation through, but asks Herbert to keep the position open for a few months for him.

Wemmick invites Pip to his castle on a Monday, the first holiday Wemmick has taken in over twelve years. He and Pip go for a walk.

They walk to a church where Miss Skiffins and Wemmick's "Aged" relative are waiting. With Pip as witness, Miss Skiffins and Wemmick proceed to get married.


Two of Pip's best friends have found happiness: Herbert in his job and in his pending matrimony to the fairy-like Clara and Wemmick in the completion of his castle fantasy with a queen in Miss Skiffins. In contrast, Pip is in the worst of straits. He has no employment, he no longer has a pending fortune, Estella has married someone else, and his adoptive father is dying in prison.

A Victorian moral lesson is being taught here. Herbert is a cheerful, hard working, honest man with limited resources but large dreams. His kindness to Pip and his sincere love of a woman below his status demonstrates that he is a moral, upright man. Good things, then, have come to the man who has lived an honest life. Likewise Wemmick has also showed kindness and incredible generosity to Pip and his "Aged" relative with nearly superhuman cheerfulness. He, too, has earned a good life with a good woman.

Pip, with his great expectations, has failed to achieve any of them, and now does not have even the smallest expectation of a good honest living with a good loving wife.

Through his difficulties, however, Pip is being transformed from a proud boy to an actual gentleman, with respect for good relationships and rejection of societal value judgments. Being witness to two beautifully caring love matches -- the romantic Herbert and Clara and the rather comical Wemmick and Miss Skiffins -- Pip is starting to learn what is important.

Part III: Chapter 17:

Pip attends to the ailing Magwitch daily in prison. "The kind of... resignation that he (Magwitch) showed, was that of a man who was tired out."

Magwitch is condemned to die and the sentencing is carried out with thirty two other convicts also condemned to die. Within ten days of the sentencing, Magwitch dies in prison. Before he does, Pip whispers to him that the daughter he thought was dead is quite alive. "She is a lady and very beautiful," Pip says. "And I love her." Magwitch kisses Pip's hand in response and passes away.


Pip's transformation is made graphically clear during the trial and sentencing of Magwitch. Throughout the trial, Pip holds Magwitch's hand. At the sentencing, Pip assists Magwitch out of the chambers while onlookers point their fingers at them. Pip is no longer the proud boy afraid of what people will think of his associates and his past. He is, literally, embracing his past. He honestly loves Magwitch and therefore does not fear showing this love in public. This Pip is a much different Pip from the one who would not visit Joe and Biddy in the privacy of the forge for fear that people would talk.

Part III: Chapter 18:

Pip, weakened by his burns, the fight with Orlick, and the general psychological stress, falls into a fever for nearly a month. Creditors and Joe fall in and out of his dreams and his reality. Finally, he regains his senses and sees that, indeed, Joe has been there the whole time, nursing him back to health.

Joe tells him that Miss Havisham died during his illness, that she left Estella nearly all, and Matthew Pocket a great deal. The rest of the relatives were given very little. Orlick has been put in jail because he broke into Pumblechook's house.

Pip slowly regains his strength. Seeing this, Joe slips away one morning leaving only a note. Pip discovers that Joe has paid off all his debtors.

Pip is committed to returning to the forge and to ask for forgiveness for everything he has done. He also wants to ask Biddy to marry him.


As in his childhood, Pip is assisted by the irreplaceable help of Joe. Through this action, Joe has already forgiven Pip.

Joe is most comfortable when Pip is at his weakest. As Pip grows stronger, Joe begins to distance himself. Finally, he leaves. Joe has proved his friendship, it is now Pip's turn to show his true colors.

Other endings are wrapped up. Miss Havisham makes good in the end by giving money to the one relative that she didn't allow to visit her. All the other relatives are given rather humorous inheritences to help with their faulty characters.

Part III: Chapter 19:

Pip returns to his home town and is treated with a certain coldness by the town that was so kind to him when he was on his way to great expectations. He meets Pumblechook, who tells Pip his misfortune is due to him because he was ungracious and ungrateful to his earliest benefactor and friend -- meaning, of course, not Joe but himself, Pumplechook.

Pip walks toward the forge, creating a picture in his mind of the simply happy life he will have with Biddy.

Pip comes to the forge and indeed finds happiness -- but the happiness is Joe and Biddy's. It is their wedding day.

Pip wishes them well, truly, and asks them for their forgiveness in all his actions. They happily give it.

Pip goes to work for Herbert's' firm and lives with the now married Clara and Herbert. Within a year, he becomes a partner. He pays off his debts and works hard.


Poor Pip has one last lesson to learn and he learns it in Biddy's marriage to Joe. The lesson appears to be that one should not have expectations at all, simple or grand.

Pip, walking in his old neighborhood, is struck by the simple beauty of the place. He develops expectations of the place as much as he creates an expectation of an idyllic marriage to Biddy.

The expectation fails because, once again, Pip is adhering to societal concepts of what is happiness (this one taking place in a simple village with a simple wife) instead of seeing people for who they really are and appreciating the relationship beyond its societal label.

Pip sees the simple village, he remembers his simple and happy life in the forge with Joe. The idyllic vision in his head has nothing to do with the actual people involved, including himself. Pip, in fact, is not thinking of Biddy when he imagines their life together. He does not examine or appreciate that relationship for what it is. If he had been more attentive to the actual relationships involved instead of his idyllic view of them, he would have seen Biddy's love for Joe and Joe's love for her. He would have seen that Pip's place at the forge was as a friend, not as a husband or a brother.

In the end, there is a feeling that Pip's life is actually just beginning. The journey through his great expectations was in preparation for what would become a fuller life. Pip will now adhere to the Victorian standards of working honestly for his money, of being loyal to his friends, of being generous and kind even to those whom societal may view as low or common. In essence, Pip has made the past a part of his life and has more realistic expectations of the future. He can now live more fully in the present, developing and appreciating relationships.

Pip seems to have finally learned all he needs to learn. But we have one more chapter...

Part III: Chapter 20:

Being out of the country working for Herbert's firm, Pip has not seen Biddy or Joe in eleven years. He visits them finally and meets their son, a little Pip, sitting by the fire with Joe just like Pip himself did years ago.

Pip tells Biddy that he is quite the settled old bachelor, living with Clara and Herbert and he thinks he will never marry.

Nevertheless, he goes to the Satis House that night to think once again of the girl who got away.

And there he meets Estella. Drummle treated her roughly and recently died. She tells Pip that she has learned the feeling of heartbreak the hard way and now seeks his forgiveness for what she did to him.

The two walk out of the garden hand in hand, and Pip "saw no shadow of another parting from her."


The final chapter of Great Expectations remains a controversy with critics even today. Dickens had initially written a different ending in which Pip runs into Estella on a London street but she has not changed at all and he, in turn, feels none of the old feelings for her. Though much more depressing, many critics consider the first ending more true to the story's themes. Their argument, in some cases, is that the entire point of the book was that Pip must come to realize happiness through his own internal process and not through some external situation (such as position or wealth) or person (like Estella).

Nevertheless, there is some justice in Estella and Pip finally finding love in each other. Because of their difficulties, they seem both to have come to a realization of what it means to be happy and therefore are ready for a healthy relationship with each other. Chapter Nineteen demonstrated that Pip had been living an upright life for 11 years when he finally runs into Estella again. Estella might be seen as the final reward for a true Victorian gentleman.

And, although we are not witness to Estella's transformation from ice queen to sensitive lady, we, as readers, must in the end forgive her for her treatment of Pip. Estella, moreso than Pip, represents the abused child, the true victim of circumstance, that Dickens presents in many other characters throughout his novels. Estella had no choice in her lot in life -- she was born to criminals and brought up to be emotionless by a cold, vengeful woman. Even Estella's marriage to Drummle, and her abuse in that relationship, is predesigned by powers beyond her control. While Pip had good friends in Joe and Herbert and Wemmick, Estella had only jealously bitter relatives.

Estella's life, in fact, is nearly identical to the lives of both her criminal parents. She has been trapped, nearly imprisoned, throughout her life, but literally and figuratively. Estella is trapped in a house without daylight for her entire childhood and then moved, like a prisoner herself, to houses in Paris and then London. Finally, she ends up trapped in an abusive marriage. Estella's past, her roots, her beginnings, are symbolized not by the warm fire of the forge, as is Pip's case, but in the barren empty lot where the Satis House once stood.

Estella is the true victim of society's values. It is a miracle that she emerged sane or with any feelings at all. And so, like Pip, we must forgive her and wish the two of them well.