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Great Expectations | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Chapter 59

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 59 of Charles Dickens's novel Great Expectations.

Great Expectations | Chapter 59 | Summary



Chapter 59 begins with Pip, after working 11 years for Clarriker's, visiting Joe and Biddy at their home. There Pip meets little Pip, Joe and Biddy's son. Joe says he and his wife hope that little Pip will grow up to be like the adult Pip. Pip takes little Pip on a walk to the cemetery on the marsh. Later Pip talks with Biddy with her little girl on her lap. Biddy tells Pip that he must marry. Pip doubts if he will.

A friend convinced Dickens to replace his original ending with the following ending, which is summarized here:

Pip confesses to Biddy that he has not forgotten Estella, but his dream of marrying her "has all gone by." Pip has heard that Drummle had abused Estella. Two years earlier Drummle died from an accident with a horse he treated badly. Pip walks to Satis House and finds that the buildings have been torn down and all that remains is the old garden wall. In the evening mist, Pip sees a figure walking through the former garden. As he approaches he realizes the figure is Estella. They greet each other. Estella says she has never been here since she left to get married. Pip hasn't returned either until now. Tears drop from Estella's eyes. Estella explains that the ground they now walk on is the only possession she has left. Pip says he works hard and earns a sufficient living. Estella admits she has lately often thought of Pip and has given him a place in her heart. Pip replies that Estella has always had a place in his heart. Estella asks for Pip's forgiveness and hopes they can be friends. Pip says, "We are friends." Pip takes Estella's hand and they leave the ruined place. Pip says, "I saw no shadow of another parting from her."

The following summarizes Dickens's original ending, which is generally unpublished:

Two years after Pip visits Joe and Biddy, Pip walks with little Pip in London. Pip has heard that Drummle had abused Estella. After Drummle dies from an accident with a horse he treated badly, Estella married the doctor who treated Drummle. The doctor had previously witnessed Drummle's abuse of his wife and tried to stop it. Pip and little Pip accidentally meet Estella, who is driving a pony carriage. Pip and Estella exchange sad looks and shake hands. Estella says she has changed and, mistaking the child for his son, asks to kiss little Pip. Pip lifts the boy to her, and she kisses him. Later Pip feels glad he had this chance meeting with Estella because he could tell from her voice and touch that "suffering had been stronger than Miss Havisham's teaching, and had given her a heart to understand what my heart used to be."


In the revised ending for Chapter 59, Dickens interrelates the theme of guilt and redemption, the theme of social class and ambition, the symbol of Satis House, and the symbol of tears. Estella and Pip walk among the ruins of Satis House. This symbol of death has been destroyed and "some of the old ivy had struck root anew." Such imagery provides hope that Pip and Estella's relationship will be redeemed by being renewed. Also Pip notices Estella's "friendly touch of the once insensible hand." This detail suggests that Estella's haughty view of Pip as a common person is gone, and she now relates to Pip as an equal and friend no matter his social status. Her ambition to break men's hearts has crumbled like Satis House.

Estella cries when she reflects on her life at Satis House. Dickens thus uses the symbol of tears to represent Estella's sadness and perhaps as a sign that she is renewing herself. Earlier Pip claims that tears shed can have benevolent and clarifying effect on a person's soul. Finally Estella asks for Pip's forgiveness, thereby showing remorse and the hope of redemption. Pip's romantic ambition concerning Estella has been tempered with suffering but still remains. They hold hands with the hope of never parting again.

In the original ending for Chapter 59, Dickens does not use the symbols of Satis House and tears. However, the author still develops the theme of social class and ambition and the theme of guilt and redemption. Estella has obviously been changed by her marriage to Drummle. She has married a doctor who is kind but not rich. By doing this she shows a new value for love and a disregard for social status. Also Pip senses that Estella's suffering has opened her heart to love and vulnerability. She has come to understand what Pip's heart used to be. In addition when Estella shakes Pip's hand, her touch conveys affection. Pip suggests her touch indicates a loving, understanding heart. All of these elements imply that Estella now disregards social class and ambition and has attained a type of redemption. Pip's great expectations of wealth and marrying Estella have disappeared, but in their place he has gained a more mature and compassionate heart.

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