Why is Abel Magwitch in danger of being recaptured in Great Expectations?

Abel Magwitch is in danger of being recaptured in Great Expectations because he has no place to go. He's not familiar with the Romney Marshes, so he doesn't know where to hide. That's why he needs Pip's help to remove his chains. Unable to hide, he needs to get away from the Marshes as soon as possible, and he can only do that if his chains are broken.

Expert Answers

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

Abel Magwitch has escaped from a prison barge and is at large on the Romney Marshes. He isn't familiar with the area, and so he doesn't know where he might hide from his pursuers. This makes it almost certain that he will be recaptured. A detachment of soldiers is already out looking for him, and surely it's just a matter of time before they capture him.

Under the circumstances, Magwitch has no choice but to remove his chains if he's to stand any realistic chance of avoiding his captors. Without being weighed down with chains, he might be able to get away. It's a long shot, but it'll be worth the effort if he doesn't have to go back to that prison barge.

But this is easier said than done. Magwitch needs tools to help him remove his chains—the kind of tools that, say, a blacksmith would have. It's a real stroke of luck, then, when Magwitch comes across a young lad, Pip, whose brother-in-law just happens to be a blacksmith. Magwitch uses this fortuitous encounter as an opportunity to threaten Pip into bringing him a file for his leg irons, as well as some much-needed food and drink.

Although Magwitch is subsequently recaptured, this was his only realistic chance of escaping.

Last Updated by eNotes Editorial on

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