Illustration of Pip visiting a graveyard

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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Where in the novel does Pip for the first time make up his own mind to do something for someone else? Explain this incident in depth. What does this act show about Pip’s character?

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Pip’s initial kindness to the convict in chapter 1 is instigated by threats. Although he makes good on his promise, stealing food and taking it to him, he is motivated by his fear. The convict’s gratitude in becoming Pip’s anonymous benefactor sets in motion the long chain of events that constitute the novel’s entire plot. Although the money makes Pip wealthy, it does nothing to improve his character; it does quite the opposite.

It is not until years later when the convict Provis, whose real name is Magwitch, returns and reveals both his earlier actions and his present danger that Pip decides to help him (chapter 41). Provis wants to stay in London, but Pip and his friend Herbert realize that if he does so, he will be apprehended and returned to prison. Impressed both that Provis had supported him all these years and that he has risked his freedom to see how the boy turned out, Pip decides to help him. He and Herbert figure out a plan for Provis to leave England, which involves Pip taking the risk of accompanying him; if caught, he could get in trouble too.

The reader will probably have been exasperated with Pip thorough the course of the novel, as money turns his head, he becomes an unbearable snob, and he mistreats those closest to him. The kindness he displayed in the early chapters seemed to be a key feature of his personality, however; finally he is restored to his own true self when he decides to help Provis. Further, in the next few days he realizes that since he is broke, he cannot help Herbert with his new business, and he turns to Miss Havisham to help his friend.

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