What were the two convicts arguing about when they were captured in Great Expectations?  

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bullgatortail eNotes educator| Certified Educator

When the two convicts were captured during the early evening hours on the marshes in Chapter 5 of Charles Dickens' Great Expectations, they were arguing about the true nature of their escape. Pip's convict claimed that he was trying to return the second convict to the soldiers who were hunting them. When the soldiers grew near, they heard

... one voice calling “Murder!” and another voice, “Convicts! Runaways! Guard! This way for the runaway convicts!” Then both voices would seem to be stifled in a struggle, and then would break out again. 

When the convicts were finally captured, Pip's convict told the soldiers that

     “I took him! I give him up to you! Mind that!... 
     “I don't expect it to do me any good. I don't want it to do me more good than it does now,” said my convict, with a greedy laugh. “I took him. He knows it. That's enough for me.”

The second convict claimed that Pip's convict was trying to kill him.

     “Take notice, guard—he tried to murder me,” were his first words.

But Pip's convict denied it, claiming that if he had wanted to kill the man, he would have succeeded. Instead, he claimed, he would rather go back to prison himself, as long as the second convict joined him.

mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The scene of the two convicts' capture underscores the curious remarks that Pip's convict has made in Chapter I about the young man who hides and hears their conversation, a young man who has a secret way of getting at a boy's heart and liver. Now, when Pip sees the second convict, he assumes he is this "young man," but it seems that Pip's convict and this convict are enemies, not partners, and they are somehow connected.

That Pip's convict declares in Chapter V,

"Singlehanded I got clear of the prison ship; I made a dash and I done it.  I could ha' got clear of these death-cold flats likewise--look at my leg; you won't find much iron on it--if I hadn't made discovery that he was here.  Let him go free?  Let him profit by means as I found out?  Let him make a tool of me afresh and again?  Once more? No, no, no. If I had died at the bottom there,....I'd have held to him with that grip, that you should have been safe to find him in my hold"

Clearly, there is a deep hatred for this second convict by Pip's convict, for he is a man who apparently has taken advantage of the first convict in some sort of criminal activities in the past.  This chapter, then, foreshadows some further action in the narrative that will clarify the tension between the two convicts.


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Great Expectations

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