Great Expectations | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Great Expectations | Chapters 47–48 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 47

Pip avoids reading the newspaper because he doesn't want to learn that Estella has married Drummle. He remains anxious about Magwitch but can do nothing about this except continue to row his boat at regular intervals. After a rowing excursion Pip attends a play in which Mr. Wopsle is an actor. When the play is over, Wopsle meets Pip and admits seeing him during the performance. Wopsle also saw another person seated behind Pip, who looked like the convict on the marshes with the bruised left cheek. Pip feels terror about Compeyson shadowing him. Pip leaves Mr. Wopsle, goes home, and tells Herbert the frightening news. Pip and Herbert agree that they can do nothing about Compeyson except to tell Wemmick about him and to be especially cautious.

Chapter 48

Mr. Jaggers meets Pip as he walks home and invites him to dinner. Wemmick has also been invited. At the dinner Wemmick gives Pip a note from Miss Havisham, which asks Pip to see her. Then Jaggers says that Drummle has "won the pool." Pip realizes Jaggers is referring to Drummle's marriage to Estella. Jaggers says he's not sure who will win with this marriage. Because Estella is more intelligent, she will win unless Drummle beats her. The possibility that Drummle might beat Estella torments Pip. When the housekeeper, Molly, serves food, Pip notices the similarity of her eyes and hands to the eyes and hands of Estella. He realizes Molly is Estella's mother but says nothing about it. As Pip and Wemmick walk away from Jaggers's place, Pip asks him what he knows about Molly. Early in his career Jaggers defended Molly on the charge of murdering a woman out of jealousy. Using a clever defense Jaggers convinced the jury to acquit Molly. Since then she has been his servant and acts like a tamed beast. Molly had a daughter, who disappeared.

Analysis

In Chapters 47 and 48 Dickens continues to focus on the theme of uncertainty and deceit. Mr. Wopsle shows confusion and uncertainty when he tells Pip that a man was seated behind him during the play. Pip realizes that the man is Compeyson, which fills Pip with dread about being followed by this man. Pip and Herbert realize they can do nothing about Compeyson and so remain in a state of anxious uncertainty.

Later Pip's uncertainty about how Estella came to be adopted by Miss Havisham is partially clarified. While eating dinner with Mr. Jaggers, Pip realizes that Molly is Estella's mother. Wemmick confirms this when he tells Pip that Molly had a daughter who disappeared. Because Mr. Jaggers defended Molly and is also the lawyer for Miss Havisham, he must have arranged for the daughter to be adopted by the recluse. However, why Jaggers placed a little girl under the influence of the demented Miss Havisham is not explained.

Also Dickens shows how uncertainty and deceit applies to Mr. Jaggers. On the surface Jaggers appears to be a lawyer who does everything by the book and does not tolerate any breaking of the law. However, in a way, Jaggers is also susceptible to corruption. For his own reasons Jaggers decides to defend Molly even though he knows she is guilty. So Jaggers deceives the court to get Molly acquitted. For instance, Jaggers made sure "this woman [Molly] was so very artfully dressed from the time of her apprehension, that she looked much slighter than she really was." In other words Jaggers made Molly look as if she was not strong enough to commit the murder.

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