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Great Expectations | Study Guide

Charles Dickens

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Chapters 51–52

Course Hero Literature Instructor Russell Jaffe provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapters 51–52 of Charles Dickens's novel Great Expectations.

Great Expectations | Chapters 51–52 | Summary



Chapter 51

Pip, with his arm in a sling, goes to Mr. Jaggers's office and interrupts Jaggers and Wemmick as they are checking off vouchers. Pip tells them about the tragic accident at Satis House, in which Miss Havisham and he were burned. Then Pip hands Jaggers the tablets, which convey Miss Havisham's instructions about paying 900 pounds to help Herbert in his business. Jaggers writes out the check. After this Pip reveals that he knows the identity of Estella's parents. Because Jaggers himself does not know who Estella's father is, this news gives him a start. Then Pip explains how he learned this information without mentioning Wemmick's involvement in the matter.

Pip asks Jaggers to explain how Estella came to be adopted by Miss Havisham. Jaggers explains that he knew a woman charged with murder who had a child and also knew that Miss Havisham wanted to adopt a daughter. Jaggers told the woman he would try to get her acquitted only if she offered her daughter up for adoption. Jaggers did this, having seen hundreds of poor children raised in harsh conditions that made it more likely they would lead difficult lives and become criminals. The woman agreed to the terms, and Jaggers got her acquitted. Jaggers asks Pip what purpose would it serve to tell Estella's mother and father about their child. Also Jaggers wonders how Estella would benefit by knowing the identity of her parents. Indeed such news would bring her disgrace. Pip agrees with Jaggers.

Chapter 52

Pip gives the check for 900 pounds to Herbert's boss, thereby securing Herbert as a partner in his business. The month of March arrives. Pip's right arm and hand have healed considerably, but his left arm remains in a sling. Herbert and Pip receive a note from Wemmick, suggesting that Pip should leave with Magwitch via a foreign packet-boat the following Wednesday. Because of Pip's injury, he is unable to help row the rowboat to meet the packet. As a result Herbert and Pip ask their friend Startop to row, without telling him any details about their mission. Startop happily agrees.

Pip receives another note, telling him to come alone to the "little-sluice house" by the limekiln on the marshes if he wants information about Magwitch. Perplexed by the mysterious note, Pip decides to comply with its instructions, fearing that if he doesn't he might bring harm to Magwitch. Pip goes to his home village and stays at an inn. While there he learns that Pumblechook has once again falsely claimed credit for making Pip rich.


In Chapters 51 and 52 Dickens presents the theme of guilt and redemption. Pip completes his redemptive act of securing Herbert a partnership in business. At the end of Chapter 52, Pip also compares Pumblechook's attempt to falsely gain credit for Pip receiving a fortune to Joe's loving, long-suffering behavior toward Pip. This comparison makes Pip feel guilty because he has not given Joe the thanks and praise he deserves. In contrast Pumblechook receives praise from villagers for making Pip rich, which the seed merchant does not deserve.

Dickens suggests how the theme of guilt and redemption applies to Jaggers. As has been seen throughout the novel, Jaggers is a shrewd, controlling man who deals harshly with his clients. Even so, Jaggers is not cruel, and, in this way, he differs from Miss Havisham. He can still take pity on people, as is shown through his attempt to provide for the little girl. Jaggers knows his solution is far from perfect—Miss Havishman is a strange caretaker for Estella. But he at least attempts to help the girl. Perhaps through this act Jaggers attempts to redeem himself for all the clients he dealt with in a heartless manner.

These chapters also deal with the theme of uncertainty and deceit. The uncertainty about how Estella came to be adopted is clarified. However, Pip becomes uncertain when he reads the mysterious note telling him to come to the marshes. As he takes the coach toward the marshes, Pip debates whether he should heed an anonymous message. Pip is also faced with Pumblechook's deceit as he takes false credit for Pip's change of fortune.

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