Why does Pip feel the need to protect the convict in the beginning of the story in Great Expectations?

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

Pip protects the convict because he threatens to kill him if he tells anyone.  Yet Pip also cares about the convict.

Pip is a genuinely kind and generous boy, but he is young and afraid.  Even though he does not have much, he is concerned about the convict.  The convict threatened him, and he is afraid, but he also does not turn him in.  The convict tells him he has an accomplice who will hurt Pip, but it is not true.  It is as a direct result of this help that the convict, Magwitch, decides to send all of his money to Pip so that he can be made into a gentleman.

In his encounter with Pip, Magwitch is cartoonishly violent, but Pip is still afraid.

You fail, or you go from my words in any partickler, no matter how small it is, and your heart and your liver shall be tore out, roasted, and ate. (ch 1, p. 6)

When Pip hears shooting and finds out about the Hulks, or prison ships, he is concerned.

“I wonder who's put into prison-ships, and why they're put there?” said I, in a general way, and with quiet desperation. (ch 2, p. 12)

Pip does have sympathy for the man.  He notices that he keeps hugging himself, and he is limping.

He was awfully cold, to be sure. I half expected to see him drop down before my face and die of deadly cold. His eyes looked so awfully hungry, too … (ch 3, p. 14)

Pip is concerned for the convict’s health.  He tells him he has the “ague” from lying out in the marshes.  If he were not genuinely concerned, he would not care about his health.  Pip says that he pities “his desolation” and is glad he enjoys the meal.  The convict notices that Pip is a genuinely nice boy.

Approved by eNotes Editorial Team

We’ll help your grades soar

Start your 48-hour free trial and unlock all the summaries, Q&A, and analyses you need to get better grades now.

  • 30,000+ book summaries
  • 20% study tools discount
  • Ad-free content
  • PDF downloads
  • 300,000+ answers
  • 5-star customer support
Start your 48-Hour Free Trial