Summary: Chapter 40
In the morning, Pip trips over a shadowy man crouching on his staircase. He runs to fetch the watchman, but when they return the man is gone. Pip turns his attention to the convict, who gives his name as Abel Magwitch. To keep the servants from learning the truth, Pip decides to call Magwitch “Uncle Provis,” an alias Magwitch made up for himself on the ship from Australia to England. Pip arranges a disguise and calls on Jaggers to confirm Magwitch’s story. Magwitch tramps around the apartment, embarrassing Pip, “his” gentleman, with his bad table manners and rough speech.
Summary: Chapter 41
After five days of enduring his guest, Pip is forced to confront his problem head-on when Herbert returns home. Magwitch leaves, and Herbert and Pip discuss the situation, agreeing that Pip should no longer use Magwitch’s money. They plan for Pip to take Magwitch abroad, where he will be safe from the police, before parting ways with him.
Summary: Chapter 42
The next morning, Magwitch tells the young men his story. He was an orphaned child and lived a life of crime out of necessity. His earliest memory is of stealing turnips to feed himself. As a young man, he met a gentleman criminal named Compeyson and fell under his power. Compeyson had already driven another accomplice, Arthur, into alcoholism and madness. Arthur, Magwitch says, was driven to despair by the memory of a wealthy woman he and Compeyson had once victimized. Magwitch remembers a woman from his own past and becomes distraught, but he does not tell Herbert and Pip about her. He continues, saying that when he and Compeyson were caught, Compeyson turned on him, using his gentleman’s manners to obtain a light sentence at the trial. Magwitch wanted revenge, and Compeyson was the man Pip saw him struggling with that night on the marsh.
At this point, Herbert passes Pip a note that tangles the situation even further. The note reveals that Arthur was Miss Havisham’s half-brother; Compeyson was the man who stood her up on their wedding day.
Summary: Chapter 43
Ashamed that his rise to social prominence is owed to such a coarse, lowborn man, Pip feels that he must leave Estella forever. After an unpleasant encounter with Drummle at the inn, he travels to Satis House to see Miss Havisham and Estella one final time.
Summary: Chapter 44
Miss Havisham admits that she knowingly allowed him to believe she was his benefactor, and she agrees to help Herbert now that Pip can no longer use his own fortune. Pip finally tells Estella he loves her, but she coldly replies that she never deceived him into thinking she shared his feelings. She announces that she has decided to marry Drummle. Surprisingly, Miss Havisham seems to pity Pip.
Upset beyond words, Pip walks the whole way back to London. At a gate close to his home, a night porter gives him a note from Wemmick, reading “don’t go home.”
Summary: Chapter 45
Afraid, Pip spends a night at a seedy inn called the Hummums. The next day, Pip finds Wemmick, who explains that he has learned through Jaggers’s office that Compeyson is pursuing Magwitch. He says that Herbert has hidden Magwitch at Clara’s house, and Pip leaves at once to go there.
Summary: Chapter 46
Upon arriving, he finds that Clara’s father is a drunken ogre and feels glad that he has helped Clara and Herbert escape him. He finds Magwitch upstairs and is surprised by the concern he now feels for the old convict’s safety; he even shields Magwitch from the news of Compeyson’s reappearance. Herbert and Pip discuss a plan to sneak Magwitch away on the river, and Pip begins to consider staying with his benefactor even after their escape. Pip buys a rowboat, keeping a nervous watch for the dark figure searching for Magwitch.
Analysis: Chapters 40–46
Throughout these chapters, Pip is again caught between powerful and conflicting feelings. When Joe visited London in Chapter
Magwitch’s story of Compeyson also causes the two plotlines that have defined Pip’s life—that of the convict and that of Miss Havisham and Estella—to collapse into one. This means that the world of Pip’s secret guilt and the world of his highest aspiration share a common history, and the stark polarities in which Pip has always believed—the rigid lines separating good from evil and innocence from guilt—are suddenly threatened. Interestingly, when Pip goes to break off his relations with Estella and Miss Havisham in Chapter
The story of Compeyson also highlights the theme of class differences that has run throughout the novel. Magwitch is a low-born orphan, but Compeyson is an educated man. As Magwitch says in Chapter
Pip is fortunate throughout this section to have such good friends, emphasizing the novel’s theme that loyalty and human affection are more important than social standing and ambition. Both Herbert and Wemmick are instrumental to the plot to rescue Magwitch. Herbert helps Pip from the beginning of the plan, and Wemmick even breaks the division between his office self and his Walworth self (subtly reflecting the collapse of other rigid categories throughout this section) to give Pip information about Compeyson that he learned at Jaggers’s office.
Miss Havisham’s softening toward Pip in this section is mirrored by Pip’s gradual softening toward Magwitch. Though at first he seems fearsome and rough, the convict slowly impresses both Pip and Herbert with the raw sense of honor underneath his powerful personality. In Chapter
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