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Great Expectations Chapter 54 Summary

Instructor: Clayton Tarr

Clayton has taught college English and has a PhD in literature.

In this lesson, we will summarize Chapter 54 of Charles Dickens's 'Great Expectations' by looking at some important thematic elements, including Pip's relationship with Magwitch. Several significant events happen in this chapter, including Magwitch's arrest.

A Reflection

We begin in March; the sun presages spring in England, but the wind says that it is still winter. Pip has decided to leave with Herbert Pocket and his schoolmate Startop with the plan of saving Magwitch. They will board a boat east out of London on the Thames River, and then depart on a steamer for Germany.

Pip reflects on all that has happened to him. Recent events include Pip learning that Magwitch, the convict he saved at the beginning of the novel, is his benefactor. He has also learned that Estella is the daughter of Magwitch and Molly, Mr. Jaggers' maid, and has witnessed the accidental, fiery injury of Miss Havisham.

Pip is aboard the boat and details passing through the crowds of boats and under the city's famous bridges. Eventually, he picks up Magwitch, who is waiting to be retrieved. Magwitch, who is hiding out under the alias of Provis, expounds upon many things, including what it feels like to be a prisoner. He also makes an ominous comment: ''we can no more see to the bottom of the next few hours than we can see to the bottom of this river what I catches hold of.'' Nevertheless, the four men succeed in passing out of London.

Caught

Although the men have escaped London and have done good work navigating their way down the river, they get the impression that they are being followed. They see nothing, however, and eventually stop at a public-house, a combination pub and inn, to eat, drink, and rest for the night. One of the regulars at the pub makes some unsettling comments about the actions of another boat he had seen, which worries Pip and his friends.

Pip is awoken during the night by the movement of two men, but he falls back to sleep. In the early morning, Pip and Magwitch head off to investigate, but they find nothing. They join Herbert and Startop aboard the boat, and when they see the steamer bound for Hamburg, Germany, in the distance, Pip and Magwitch say goodbye to Herbert and Startop.

The steamer pulls up, and they are surprised to be hailed by another boat, which cuts them off. ''You have a returned Transport there. ... That's the man, wrapped in the cloak. His name is Abel Magwitch, otherwise Provis. I apprehend that man, and call upon him to surrender, and you to assist.'' Pip is horrified to see Compeyson, the other convict from the beginning of the novel, and their boat capsizes. Compeyson drowns, and Magwitch is captured.

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