Illustration of Pip visiting a graveyard

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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Chapters 56 and 57 Summary

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Last Updated September 5, 2023.

Chapter 56

Pip visits Magwitch in jail. Magwitch is incredibly sick, and he appears to be dying. Two of his ribs are broken, and his lung is punctured. The punctured lung makes it incredibly difficult for Magwitch to breathe.

Pip is horrified by his friend's condition and continues to visit him in jail every day. Jagger attempts to get Magwitch's trial postponed, but unfortunately, the courts refuse. At Magwitch's trial, Pip accompanies him to court and holds his hand.

Magwitch recognizes the trial for the political spectacle that it is. His unhealthy condition and his damnation by the courts reveal the economic, political, and social oppression that the poor of England faced. The court sentences Magwitch to death, but he dies from his sickness and injuries before he reaches his planned execution.

Pip remains next to Magwitch in the last moments of his life and comforts his dying benefactor. He assures him that Magwitch's daughter, Estella, is in good health and is beautiful and that Pip cares dearly for her. Magwitch is greatly comforted by Pip's words, and a peaceful expression comes over his face as he kisses Pip's hand and breathes his last breath.

Chapter 57

After the death of Magwitch, Pip realizes that he is incredibly alone and in a great deal of debt, with no good plan for climbing out of his financial hole. To make matters worse, he becomes very sick. He has such a high fever that he begins hallucinating and sees the departed Magwitch, along with Miss Havisham.

Pip continues to be unable to pay his bills, and eventually, debt collectors come after him and arrest him. Joe comes to Pip's aid and pays his debts to secure his freedom. Pip feels guilty about this because even though he hasn't been a great friend to Joe, Joe has proven himself time and time again to be a wonderfully steady friend to Pip. After Pip recovers from his sickness, he learns that Miss Havisham has died. Joe also tells him that Orlick was imprisoned after he was caught robbing Pumblechook.

Joe and Pip go on a trip to the countryside, where Joe apologizes to Pip for not being able to protect him from Mrs. Joe as a child. He is more formal with Pip than he was in years past, and after leaving Pip a note saying that all Pip's debts have been paid (which reveals that Biddy has taught Joe to read and write), Joe departs. Pip is greatly saddened at this departure and develops a plan to find Joe and work with him in the forge. Pip also plans to propose to Biddy.

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Chapters 54 and 55


Chapters 58 and 59