Illustration of Pip visiting a graveyard

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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Chapters 38 and 39 Summary

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Chapter 38

Pip visits Estella in Richmond many times as Estella begins to navigate public society. Estella is clearly using Pip to make her other suitors jealous, and Pip is miserable around her. She does not play with Pip's emotions the way she does with those of her other suitors, however; instead, she mostly ignores him. Despite all of this, Pip's obsession with Estella only grows.

Eventually, the two of them visit Miss Havisham. Estella recounts stories to Miss Havisham of all the suitors who desire her and how she has been playing with their emotions and breaking their hearts. Miss Havisham clearly loves to hear these stories, and Pip realizes Miss Havisham has been raising Estella specifically to torment men. Despite all this, he clings to a belief that he is the exception and that Estella will eventually have a real relationship with him and marry him.

On one visit, Estella and Miss Havisham argue, as Miss Havisham is frustrated that Estella is just as cold with her as she is with her suitors. Estella responds that she can't show warmth and affection, having never received it herself from Miss Havisham. Pip leaves as this fight breaks out, and upon returning, he observes that it's as if the fight never happened.

After this visit, Drummle makes a toast to Estella in front of Pip. Pip challenges him to provide proof that Estella is close to him, and he is able to produce a note from Estella. This devastates Pip. He confronts Estella about it, but she brushes him off, making clear that she has no serious interest in Drummle. This does little to calm Pip.

Chapter 39

Pip is visited at home by a strange man during a storm. Though he does not recognize him at first, Pip eventually realizes that the man is the convict he met as a child. The convict asks Pip about his life since they last met, and as Pip speaks about his mysterious benefactor, he comes to realize that his benefactor is, in fact, the convict. The convict, whose name is Magwitch, explains that he has been in New South Wales, Australia, herding sheep and sending all the money he can to Pip through Jaggers. He beams at Pip, overjoyed to have created a gentleman.

Upon learning this, Pip is crushed, having spent so long trying to distance himself from the sense of guilt and grime associated with the convict. This also means that Miss Havisham is not his benefactor and that she never intended for him to marry Estella. He is unsure whether or not to feel safe around Magwitch, and he begins to realize how badly he has treated Joe and that he made a mistake by leaving him and Biddy.

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Chapters 36 and 37


Chapters 40 and 41