What precautions are taken in Chapter 40 of "Great Expectations", and why are they necessary?

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The convict Magwitch was exiled from his homeland for life because of his crimes, and if he is caught back in England, he will be sentenced to death.  Because of this, Pip must take precautions "to insure...the safety of (his) dreaded visitor".  Pip is looked after at his lodgings by "an inflammatory old female (and)...her niece", both of whom are known to be extremely nosy about the business of others.  To keep them from becoming suspicious, Pip decides to introduce the convict as his Uncle Provis, who has come visiting unexpectedly from the country. 

The evening of Magwitch's arrival, Pip encounters a mysterious stranger on the stairs.  Just to be safe, Pip checks with the night watchman, who reports that a stranger, who seemed to be accompanied by another, had asked for him.  Pip is troubled by this revelation, but can get no more information on the visitors.

Pip then asks Magwitch what other precautions might be taken to ensure his safety.  Magwitch feels "the danger ain't so great", as only Pip, Wemmick, and Jaggers know him, but Pip is worried that someone might recognize the convict on the street.  Magwitch is still not concerned, but suggests that if need be, "there's disguising wigs can be bought for money, and there's hair powder, and spectacles, and black clothes - shorts and what not...others has done it safe afore, and what others has done afore, others can do agen" (Chapter 40).

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Great Expectations

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