Great Expectations By Charles Dickens Summary and Analysis Chapters 40-42 - (Volume III, Chapters 1-3)

Summary

Pip feels a mixture of revulsion for the convict and fear for the convict's safety. Apparently, someone followed the convict the night he arrived at Pip's apartment and later Pip stumbles over someone hiding in the dark at the bottom of his apartment stairs. While the convict has come to England to see Pip and enjoy flaunting the gentleman he has made, Pip tells him he is in danger and that they need to lay low. The convict tells Pip his name is Abel Magwitch and that he is using the name "Provis" for this trip. He suggests that Pip tell everyone he is Pip's uncle.

Pip visits Jaggers to seek advice. Jaggers is careful to prevent Pip from saying that "Magwitch" is in England so they cannot be accused of breaking the law. He also confirms that Miss Havisham is not Pip's benefactor. All business, the lawyer tells Pip he will forward all accounts and balances due, so that Pip may communicate this information to this "Provis" person, or by mail to Magwitch in New South Wales.

Pip secures an apartment nearby for Magwitch and orders some clothes for a disguise. However no matter what Magwitch puts on, he has "convict" written all over him. Pip is thrilled when Herbert returns. The convict swears Herbert to secrecy and it is obvious from Herbert's face that he shares Pip's feelings. Later, when the convict has gone to his lodging, Pip and Herbert discuss what to do. They agree Pip can no longer accept the man's money, and that Pip must get him out of England as soon as possible. In the course of making plans, they learn from Magwitch that he was abandoned early in childhood and barely survived. He tells them about his involvement in crime but assures them he has paid his debt to society and will not be "low." He mentions working with two men, Arthur and Compeyson, the latter having swindled some money years before from some rich lady. Compeyson and Magwitch eventually ended up on the same prison ship but Compeyson got off easy being a gentleman. Magwitch, on the other hand, was sentenced to life, and then banished. Herbert tells Pip that Miss Havisham's brother's name was Arthur and Compeyson was the man who left her at the altar.

Analysis

Wemmick and Jaggers display their careful habit of staying just within the law by referring to Provis as an agent of Magwitch, who they are "sure" is in Australia. They are careful in all their statements so that no one can trace them to the knowledge that Magwitch is in England illegally. Ominous events are foreshadowed when Pip suspects that Magwitch has been followed to his apartment and that someone is now watching them.

Magwitch's motives are a mixture of good and bad; part reward, part revenge. He is obviously grateful for Pip's help years ago and is generously rewarding him with an easy life. Even his manner of holding Pip's hands is much more honest and heartfelt than Pumblechook's "May I?" However Magwitch can be "low" as well. He wants to show society that a low dog like him can make a fine gentleman. By showing Pip off to the world he gets revenge for how the world treated him.

Pip's and Herbert's reactions to Magwitch's money are interesting and somewhat snobbish. Pip is essentially dependent, living off of someone else's money. Whose money it is should not make any difference — he is dependent no matter what. But even though the money is honestly earned, Pip cannot bring himself to accept the convict's gift. In one respect it is a good decision because finally Pip is deciding to fend for himself and to care for another out of higher motives than money. But at the same time, refusing the gift solely because of who gives it is sheer snobbery.

Dickens continues to show his skills in the descriptive scenes of Magwitch's eating habits, and the use of the face casts in Jaggers' office to reflect Pip's thoughts and feelings.

Glossary

Negro-head tobacco strong black tobacco sweetened with molasses and pressed into square cakes that was popular with sailors and workingmen.

hair powder; shorts Magwitch's suggestions for a disguise are outdated, reflecting his many years away from England. Wigs were no longer used, hair powder was used only by the old-fashioned, and shorts or knee-breeches were worn only by some clergy members on ceremonial occasions.

physiognomy the practice of trying to judge character and mental qualities by observation of bodily, especially facial, features.

pannikins small pans or metal cups.

the crimes in the Calendar this is a reference to the Newgate Calendar (1771), a series of true-crime stories. Pip is imaging that Magwitch's crimes were among these.

kind of Patience solitaire.

fashionable crib . . . a shake-down Magwitch wants Pip to find him cheap lodging of the kind thieves are used to, often in disreputable public-houses where the beds are made up of straw on the floor.

a Traveller's Rest a place that tramps, convicts, or people in hiding (such as a deserting soldier) would have used for a shelter.

the horrors the last stage of alcoholism: delirium tremens.

Bridewells and Lock-Ups prisons.

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