Great Expectations Chapters 50 and 51
by Charles Dickens

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Chapters 50 and 51 Summary

Chapter 50

Herbert cares for Pip as he recovers from his burns. He mentions that he plans to marry Clara as soon as her father dies, since Old Bill Barley requires so much care that it is preventing the wedding. Herbert tells Pip that Magwitch has also been opening up to him and shared a story about his wife. Magwitch said that his wife was a jealous woman who killed a stronger woman who was also interested in Magwitch. This murderous woman had a daughter with Magwitch, but—as far as Magwitch knows—killed her as well. Magwitch hid throughout the murder trial so that he could not be called upon to witness against his wife. Compeyson leveraged knowledge of these proceedings against him. Magwitch also mentioned that young Pip reminded him of his daughter, as he would have been the same age as her. Pip realizes that Magwitch must be Estella's father.

Chapter 51

Pip and Herbert rush to confirm Estella's parentage. Pip meets with Wemmick and Jaggers, and while Jaggers refuses to answer directly, he makes clear that he was the lawyer who got Magwitch's wife acquitted. He says that in a certain case, a woman accused of murder claimed to have murdered her daughter but had not. This lie was crucial in her defense, so the child had to disappear. Knowing the unfortunate fates of many orphans and knowing that Miss Havisham was looking to adopt, Jaggers used his position to bring Estella to Miss Havisham. Jaggers urges Pip to not reveal this to anyone, feeling it is best kept a secret and will only embarrass Estella.

This is perhaps the most significant revelation in Great Expectations. The connections between Estella, Magwitch, and Jaggers are made clear, and Pip's fortunes are revealed to be—if indirectly—very much connected with Estella's.