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How did Pip almost die in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens?

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laur6384 | eNotes Newbie

Posted November 11, 2013 at 3:33 PM via web

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How did Pip almost die in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens?

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K.P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted November 11, 2013 at 9:44 PM (Answer #1)

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There are two instances when Pip almost dies. The first time is when Orlick almost succeeds in murdering him. The second time is shortly thereafter when Pip succumbs to an illness that almost takes his life. The events occur is Chapters 53 and 57.

In Chapter 52, Pip receives an anonymous letter that he later learns, to his disadvantage, was written and sent by his old nemesis, Orlick, the massive though unmotivated and "slouching" man who worked for Joe. Pip goes, as the letter directs him to do, to the "little sluice-house by the limekiln on the marshes." After leaving a message fro Herbert saying he is going down to check on the illness of Miss Havisham, Pip jumps upon the coach, nearly missing it. While waiting for the appointed hour of his mysterious rendezvous, which he would not have considered attending had it not been for the mention oh his Uncle Provis, Pip learns more deeply to regret his lack of gratitude to Joe when he hears the innkeeper fabricate the story of a young man who is ungrateful to "the brazen impostor Pumblechook."

"If you are not afraid to come to the old marshes to-night or to-morrow night at nine, and to come to the little sluice-house by the limekiln, you had better come. If you want information regarding your uncle Provis, you had much better come and tell no one, and lose no time. You must come alone. Bring this with you."

It is by this means that Orlick, in Chapter 53, entraps Pip, "sets upon" him, ties him to a ladder and prepares to kill him just like he would a wild animal (since he calls Pip "Wolf"). Orlick, who is drinking a vast quantity of liquor the whole time of Pip's captivity, intends to take Pip's murdered body and put it in the limekiln to burn it to cinders, leaving no record nor trace of Pip's presence or death. Orlick has wrung up his nerve and told Pip all that he meant to, including a confession of attacking (and trying to murder) Pip's sister,  and Pip has resolved to wring every once of strength into a valiant resistance to Orlick, when in burst Herbert, Trabb's boy and Startop to rescue Pip and attend to his badly reinjured arm. Pip had almost died because of Orlick's attack.

The second instance is shortly thereafter in Chapter 57. Following Magwich's death, following Pip's attempt to move from his Temple lodgings to cheaper rooms, and during his near-arrest and imprisonment for debts, Pip almost dies from illness. He had been becoming ill for a long time but the promises to be kept and Magwich's trial, illness and death, among other events, had kept him preoccupied and escaping illness: "The late stress upon me had enabled me to put off illness, but not to put it away; ...." Pip suffers immobilizing weakness, high fever and delirium. For a good part of the illness, Pip suffered alone with no one with him, but word was gotten to Joe who came to help him. Through Pip's delirium, he thought he saw Joe's face, but he also thought he was a brick in the house wall .... Finally it came about that Joe and the doctor he had hired, "[my] writing-table, pushed into a corner and cumbered with little bottles," were able to cure Pip's fever, and Pip began to have more rational thoughts. Joe was moved to tears to hear Pip speak his name because Pip had almost died due to his illness.

  At last, one day, I took courage, and said, "Is it Joe?"
  And the dear old home-voice answered, "Which it air, old chap."
   ... Joe had actually laid his head down on the pillow at my side, and put his arm round my neck, in his joy that I knew him.
  ... Joe withdrew to the window, and stood with his back towards me, wiping his eyes.

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