Great Expectations By Charles Dickens Summary and Analysis Chapters 55-57 - (Volume III, Chapters 16-18)

Summary

Compeyson was supposed to identify Magwitch for the authorities, but because he drowned, the prosecution is delayed three days while they send for one of the old guards from the Hulks to identify him. Jaggers is angry with Pip for letting the money slip through his fingers and says they will try for some of it, though there is little hope of success. Herbert finds out he must leave for Cairo immediately and while Pip is happy for his friend, he fears for his own future. Herbert offers him a job with his firm but Pip delays his answer. For now, he must take care of Magwitch and one other unfinished piece of business.

Wemmick, in his "personal capacity" even though in London, comes by to apologize to Pip for the bad timing of the escape. He also comments on his severe upset over the loss of so much portable property. Pip tells him his concern is for the owner of that property, but Wemmick points out that there probably never was a chance to save Magwitch. Fearing Magwitch, Compeyson had been watching him even in Australia and had hoped to gain some of Magwitch's money as a reward for betraying him. During the conversation, Wemmick tells Pip he is taking a rare holiday on Monday and asks Pip to oblige him this once with his presence. Out of gratitude for all his help, Pip agrees.

When Pip arrives, Wemmick carries a fishing pole and pretends they are going for a walk. Their walk just happens to end at a church where everything is ready for a wedding, and he just happens to have a ring. Pip serves his friend as best man in his marriage to Miss Skiffins. Later, as Pip leaves, Wemmick reminds him that this is completely a Walworth sentiment, not to be mentioned in Little Britain because Jaggers may think Wemmick's brain is softening.

Pip spends all his time with Magwitch, who continues to worsen. Magwitch reflects on whether he might have lived a better life under better circumstances, but he makes no excuses. His trial is quick and he is condemned to die. Magwitch thanks Pip for his steadfastness in visiting and notes that Pip is more comfortable with him now that he is in trouble than when he was free. As Magwitch dies, Pip whispers to him that his daughter whom he thought was dead, is, in fact, alive and a lady, and that Pip loves her. Magwitch smiles and dies in peace. Pip's problems worsen as he is in debt and quite ill. Men come to arrest him for a debt but Pip is so ill he cannot be moved. He falls into a delirious state and imagines that Joe is there with him. When he finally he comes out of the fever he realizes Joe has been there all along, urged by Biddy to go to him right away. Pip is overwhelmed and asks Joe to be angry with him or hit him, just not to be good to him.

While there Pip sees that Joe has learned to write — Biddy taught him — and hears that Miss Havisham has died, leaving a "cool four thousand" to Matthew Pocket because of Pip's account of him. He also learns that Orlick was arrested after breaking into Pumblechook's house. Pip tries to tell Joe about Magwitch, intending to tell him the whole truth. Joe cuts him off, instead speaking to his own failings at protecting Pip when Pip was a boy. When Pip says Joe was not wrong, Joe tells him that, regarding the convict, they have nothing to discuss, either. Joe nurses him to health and loves him unconditionally but as Pip recovers Joe pulls back and resumes calling him "Sir." Pip is upset but realizes Joe does not know it is different this time. Intending to level with Joe about his debts, his guilt over treating Joe so badly, and his interest in asking Biddy to marry him, Pip gets up early the next day to find Joe already gone. There is a receipt showing Joe paid off Pip's debt. A couple days later, Pip heads home to talk to Joe and Biddy.

Continued on next page...

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