Summary and Analysis Chapters 52-54



A number of story lines are drawing to a close: Pip completes the transaction with Clarriker for Herbert's business, Herbert will be leaving soon for Egypt, and Pip's life as a wealthy man is over. It is also time to get Magwitch out of England. Receiving a note from Wemmick, they are to make their move Wednesday. Startop, Pip's friend from Mr. Pocket's house, is included because Pip still cannot row due to his burns and Startop is a loyal friend. The plan is to leave early Wednesday and row downriver to pick up Magwitch. They will continue past the Custom's House to Kent and stay at an inn there overnight. Thursday morning they will meet an ocean-going steamer on the river and get Pip and Magwitch aboard. Herbert leaves to get departure schedules for the various steamers, while Pip gets passports.

While Herbert visits Magwitch to tell him the plan, Pip returns home to find a note asking him to come alone, that night or the next, to the sluice-house on the marshes, for important information about his Uncle Provis. Because of the mention of Provis, Pip decides he must go and barely catches the afternoon coach home. He ponders the wisdom of his decision, but feels he must see it through for Magwitch's safety. He orders dinner at a small inn and checks on Miss Havisham while waiting. During dinner the innkeeper tells him about Pumblechook helping some young man become wealthy. Filled with guilt and remorse Pip cannot eat, as the story only strengthens the contrast between Pumblechook's arrogance and Joe and Biddy's true friendship. As it is close to nine, he heads for the marshes and the sluice-house. The flats are abandoned and lonely but there is a light in the sluice-house. He sees no one, but is caught from behind and tied to a ladder inside. His captor is a drunken Orlick, who intends to kill him and put his body in the limekiln so no one will ever find him. As he toys with Pip's nerves, Orlick confesses to killing Mrs. Joe and hiding on the stairs at Pip's London flat. He is now working with someone who knows all about Magwitch and is very powerful. Pip guesses it is Compeyson. Orlick waves the same gun with the brass-bound stock that he had at Miss Havisham's. Orlick reminds Pip that Pip cost him that job and Biddy, as well. Pip's life flashes before him and Pip realizes he will never have the chance to apologize to Joe and Biddy. He looks for a way to escape but sees none. At the last minute, Pip is rescued by Herbert, Startop, and Trabb's boy. Orlick escapes. Herbert explains that they had found the note to Pip from Orlick so they rushed to Kent. Unable to find him, they encountered Trabb's boy, who served as their guide.

Rushing back to London, they prepare for Wednesday's departure. On Wednesday, all goes well until that night, when they feel they are being followed. The next day, the group heads into the river just as a steamer approaches, but they are intercepted by a boat of customs' agents. They arrest Magwitch, and one of the sitters in the boat turns out to be Compeyson. Unaware of the approaching steamer that is about to run them over, the two convicts struggle and one of the boats capsizes. In a matter of moments Compeyson is drowned and a seriously injured Magwitch is pulled on board the galley. The steamer heads out to sea taking all hope of escape with it.

Herbert and Startop return to London while Pip stays with Magwitch. Any repugnance Pip felt for the man is gone now and he realizes that Magwitch has been a better man to him than Pip has been to Joe. Magwitch wants Pip to leave and save himself, but Pip vows to stay by his side. Pip realizes now why Wemmick wanted him to hold the wallet — with Magwitch arrested, all of the money will be forfeited to the crown. Pip decides there is no need for Magwitch to ever know the truth about that.

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