What kind of punishment does Pip expect for striking the young man in Chapter 12 of Great Expectations?  

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The way in which the young Pip is haunted by fears of being punished for hsi various misdemeanours as he sees them is really rather pitiful, but it does serve to highlight the theme of crime and punishment, and how Pip's life was tained by his association with Magwitch in the initial chapter, and how his act of theft in stealing food for Magwitch is something that overshadows the rest of his life.

As Chapter Twelve opens, we are presented with a Pip that is terrified of the possible repercussions of his fight with the young man. Pip feels that "the pale young gentleman's blood was on my head, and that the Law would avenge it." Although he is unsure of what specific punishment might be awaiting him, his conscience tortures him with the inevitability of some form of punishment, as the following quote demonstrates:

Without having any definite idea of the penalties I had incurred, it was clear to me that village boys could not go stalking about the country, ravaging the houses of gentlefolks and pitching into the studious youth of England, without laying themselves open to severe punishment. For some days, I even kept close at home, and looked out of the kitchen door with the greatest caution and trepidation before going on an errand, lest the officers of the County Jail should pounce upon me.

We can see through this description of Pip's fear the way that guilt and his terror of punishment and being caught dominated his life. Notions of wrongdoing and crime are something to which Pip is extremely susceptible. Although the precise punishment is therefore not detailed, we can see the way that the fear of punishment itself was a force that governed Pip's life for a while.

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Great Expectations

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