Great Expectations

by: Charles Dickens

Chapters 53–56

Summary Chapters 53–56

Summary: Chapter 53

The night is dark over the marsh; in the sky the moon is a deep red. Thick mists surround the limekiln to which Pip travels. He enters an abandoned stone quarry and suddenly finds his candle extinguished; a noose is thrown over his head in the darkness. He is bound tightly, and a gruff voice threatens to kill him if he cries out. A flint is struck, its flame illuminating Orlick’s wicked face.

Orlick accuses Pip of coming between him and a young woman he fancied, among other things, and declares his intention to have revenge. He also admits to killing Mrs. Joe, though he says that Pip is ultimately responsible for her death since Orlick did it to get back at him. “It was you, villain,” Pip retorts boldly, but inside he is worried: he is afraid that he will die and none of his loved ones will know how he hoped to improve himself and to help them. Orlick reveals that he has some connection with Compeyson and has solved the mystery of Magwitch, and that he was the shadowy figure lurking in Pip’s stairwell.

Orlick takes a swig of liquor, then picks up a stone hammer and advances menacingly toward Pip. Pip cries out, and suddenly Herbert bursts in with a group of men to save him. Herbert had found Orlick’s note asking Pip to meet him at the marshes and, worried, had followed Pip there. In the ensuing scuffle, Orlick manages to escape. Rather than pursuing him, Pip rushes home with Herbert to carry out Magwitch’s escape.

Summary: Chapter 54

In the morning, a sparkling sunrise dazzles London as Pip and Herbert prepare to put their plan in motion. With their friend Startop, the pair set out on the river; the Thames is bustling with activity and crowded with boats. When they stop for Magwitch at Clara’s house, he looks well and seems contemplative; he drags his hand in the water as the boat moves and compares life to a river. As they move out of London into the marshes, though, the mood darkens, the rowing becomes harder, and a sense of foreboding settles over the group. At the filthy inn where they stop that night, a servant tells them of an ominous boat he has seen lingering near the inn; Pip worries that it could be either the police or Compeyson. That night Pip sees two men looking into his boat, so the group arranges for Pip and Magwitch to sneak out early the next morning and rejoin the boat further down the river.

Making their way downriver, they see their goal—a German steamer that will take Pip and Magwitch away—in the distance. But suddenly another rowboat appears, and a policeman calls for Magwitch’s arrest. Magwitch recognizes Compeyson on the other boat and dives into the river to attack him. They grapple, and each slips under the surface, but only Magwitch resurfaces. He claims not to have drowned Compeyson, though he says he would have liked to, but he cannot avoid being chained and led away to prison. Now completely loyal to him, Pip takes his hand and promises to stand by him.

Summary: Chapter 55

Jaggers is certain that Magwitch will be found guilty, but Pip remains loyal. He does not worry when he learns that the state will appropriate Magwitch’s fortune, including Pip’s money. While Magwitch awaits sentencing, Herbert prepares to marry Clara and Wemmick enjoys a comical wedding to Miss Skiffins. Herbert offers Pip a job, but Pip delays his answer.