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Great Expectations

Charles Dickens

Chapters 47–52

Chapters 40–46

Chapters 53–56

Summary: Chapter 47

Pip anxiously waits for Wemmick’s signal to transport Magwitch downriver. Despite his softening attitude toward the convict, he feels morally obligated to refuse to spend any more of Magwitch’s money, and his debts pile up. He realizes that Estella’s marriage to Drummle must have taken place by now, but he intentionally avoids learning more about it. All of his worries are for Magwitch.

Pip goes to the theater to forget his troubles. After the performance, Wopsle tells Pip that in the audience behind him was one of the convicts from the battle on the marsh so many years ago. Pip tries to question Wopsle calmly, but inside he is terrified, realizing that Compeyson must be shadowing him. Pip rushes home to tell Herbert and Wemmick.

Summary: Chapter 48

Jaggers invites Pip to dinner, where he gives the young man a note from Miss Havisham. When Jaggers mentions Estella’s marriage shortly after Jaggers’s housekeeper Molly walks in, Pip realizes that Molly is the person he couldn’t place, the person Estella mysteriously resembles. He realizes at once that Molly must be Estella’s mother. Walking home with Wemmick after the dinner, Pip questions his friend about Molly, and he learns that she was accused of killing a woman over her common-law husband and of murdering her little daughter to hurt him. Pip feels certain that Estella is that lost daughter.

Summary: Chapter 49

Pip visits Miss Havisham, who feels unbearably guilty for having caused Estella to break his heart. Sobbing, she clings to Pip’s feet, pleading with him to forgive her. He acts kindly toward her, then goes for a walk in the garden. There, he has a morbid fantasy that Miss Havisham is dead. He looks up at her window just in time to see her bend over the fire and go up in a column of flame. Rushing in to save her, Pip sweeps the ancient wedding feast from her table and smothers the flames with the tablecloth. Miss Havisham lives, but she becomes an invalid, a shadow of her former self. Pip stays with her after the doctors have departed; early the next morning, he leaves her in the care of her servants and returns to London.

Summary: Chapter 50

Pip himself was badly burned trying to save Miss Havisham, and while Herbert changes his bandages, they agree that they have both grown fonder of Magwitch. Herbert tells Pip the part of Magwitch’s story that the convict originally left out, the story of the woman in his past. The story matches that of Jaggers’s housekeeper, Molly. Magwitch, therefore, is Molly’s former common-law husband and Estella’s father.

Summary: Chapter 51

Pip is seized by a feverish conviction to learn the whole truth. He visits Jaggers and manages to shock the lawyer by proclaiming that he knows the truth of Estella’s parentage. Pip cannot convince Jaggers to divulge any information, however, until he appeals to Wemmick’s human, kind side, the side that until now Wemmick has never shown in the office. Jaggers is so surprised and pleased to learn that Wemmick has a pleasant side that he confirms that Estella is Molly’s daughter, though he didn’t know Magwitch’s role in the story.

Summary: Chapter 52

Pip leaves to finish the task of securing Herbert’s partnership. He learns that Herbert is to be transferred to the Middle East, and Herbert fantasizes about escorting Clara to the land of Arabian Nights.

A message from Wemmick arrives, indicating that they should be ready to move Magwitch in two days. But Pip also finds an anonymous note threatening “Uncle Provis,” demanding that Pip travel to the marshes in secret. Pip travels to the inn near his childhood home, where he is reminded of how badly he has neglected Joe since he became a gentleman. Of all his losses, Pip thinks he regrets the loss of Joe’s friendship the most. That night, humbled and with an arm injured from the fire, he heads out to the mysterious meeting on the marshes.

Analysis: Chapters 47–52

Pip’s compulsion to solve the mystery of Estella’s origins fills him with a feverish purpose while he waits for Wemmick’s signal. The story he uncovers connects even more completely the world of Miss Havisham and the world of Magwitch. Pip, who was originally mortified to learn that his fortune came from someone so far beneath Estella, now learns that Estella is the daughter of his secret benefactor and therefore springs from even humbler origins than himself. The revelation, nevertheless, does not seem to change his feelings for her. This is due in part to Pip’s own changing feelings for Magwitch—Herbert and Pip are by this point loyal to the former convict—and in part to Pip’s self-critical nature. He is still harder on himself than on those around him, and it is perfectly in keeping with his character to overlook in Estella something he could not overlook in himself.

Aside from the continuing progress of the plot to escape with Magwitch—evading Compeyson, waiting for Wemmick’s signal—the most important development in this section is Miss Havisham’s full repentance for her behavior toward Pip. The original dynamic between the two, with Miss Havisham as the manic, powerful old woman and Pip the cowering child, is completely reversed in Chapter 49, when Miss Havisham drops to her knees before Pip, crying, “What have I done! What have I done!” But something of Pip’s original feeling for the dowager creeps back into his mind as he walks through the garden and imagines her hanging from a beam in the brewery, just as he used to do when he was a child.

When he looks through her bedroom window to reassure himself of her well-being, he sees her catching on fire and running at him, “shrieking, with a whirl of fire blazing all about her, and soaring at least as many feet above her head as she was high.” Although her injuries from the fire leave her bedridden and destroyed (just as Orlick’s attack left Mrs. Joe an invalid in Chapter 15), this dramatic ending to Miss Havisham’s story does not assuage her guilt and remorse or end her search for Pip’s forgiveness. From her bed, she continually entreats him, “Take a pencil and write under my name, ‘I forgive her!’”

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The Ending

by mdd07c, September 16, 2012

So do Pip and Estella end up marrying each other? The language seems ambiguous and there is no mention of whether they do or not in this sparknotes!

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53 out of 75 people found this helpful

To answer your question..

by shoomate, September 18, 2012

In the original ending, they did not get together. Estella got remarried after Dummle died, and thought Joe and Biddy's son was Pip's son, and Pip didn't correct her. In the second and final ending, Estella and Pip reunite in the garden, and it says "there was no shadow of another parting from her", basically meaning they got together. It doesn't tell the reader 100% that they got married or anything, but it is highly likely they did in this ending.

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38 out of 54 people found this helpful

great expectations

by nthuteng, September 25, 2012

so what is the significance of Newgate for Pip's development from childhood to the end of the novel? and how does the narrator uses manners to comment on moral awareness

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22 out of 57 people found this helpful

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