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Great Expectations

Charles Dickens

Chapters 40–46

Summary Chapters 40–46

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.