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 27, Pip was afraid both of how Joe would see his new life and of how the people in his new life would see Joe. Now, Pip is caught between his fear of Magwitch and his fear for Magwitch: he is afraid of the convict, but he also fears for Magwitch’s safety. The news of Compeyson’s arrival coincides with the appearance of the “man crouching in the corner” in the darkness on Pip’s stairs, making the danger suddenly seem very real.

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 44, only to find that Estella has abandoned him to marry Drummle, Miss Havisham seems to pity him. He says, “I saw Miss Havisham put her hand to her heart and hold it there, as she sat looking by turns at Estella and at me.” Even as he tries to preserve his sense of their world by leaving it, protecting it from being tainted by the world of Magwitch, he finds Estella and Miss Havisham changing. Despite his efforts, his romantic ideals may be impossible to preserve.

Read more about Miss Havisham’s transformation.

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 42, “He set up fur a gentleman, this Compeyson . . . He was a smooth one to talk, and was a dab at the ways of gentle-folks.” As a result, Compeyson was able to negotiate a light sentence at his trial, while the rough-edged Magwitch received a heavier one. Estella’s cruelty spurred Pip to desire social status, but Compeyson’s betrayal spurred Magwitch to desire something even more: Pip wished to become a gentleman, but Magwitch wished to “own” a gentleman, thus inspiring his plans for Pip.

Read more about Compeyson as a contrast to Magwitch.

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 46, Magwitch seems kind and noble compared to Clara’s brutish father, Bill Barley, and Pip is sincere when he tells him, “I don’t like to leave you here.” The subtle sense of suspicion and dread that seizes Pip’s world—he cannot “get rid of the notion of being watched”—alarms him more for Magwitch’s sake than it does for his own. He is in constant fear that Magwitch’s pursuers are “going swiftly, silently, and surely to take him.” The main mysteries of the novel (apart from that of Estella’s parentage) have been resolved; Dickens now relies on a sense of suspense and danger to keep the plot moving forward.

Read an in-depth analysis of Abel Magwitch.