Great Expectations

Charles Dickens

Chapters 47–52

Summary Chapters 47–52

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!’”