Chapter 40 (Volume 3, Chapter 1) (Instalment 25):

Provis / Death if identified / I try in vain to hide him / Much Virtue in an Affidavit

Synopsis of Chapter 40 (Volume 3, Chapter 1) (Instalment 25)

Pip's problem now is hiding the convict and when he stumbles over a silent man on the stairs, who immediately disappears, Pip is uneasy that someone should be there on this particular night. The porter reveals that when Pip's ‘uncle' asked for directions, another man followed him.

The convict's real name is Abel Magwitch but he is calling himself Provis. Mr. Jaggers was his lawyer when he was transported to Australia. Pip is rather repelled by his presence, but Magwitch is affectionate towards Pip. He shows Pip a bulging wallet and declares that his only ambition is to watch Pip living and spending like a gentleman. Magwitch tells the appalled Pip that, despite the danger of being hanged as a returned convict, he intends to remain in England.

Pip books a room, buys clothes for Magwitch and goes to see Mr. Jaggers who confirms that the convict is indeed Pip's mysterious benefactor. The lawyer points out that there has never been a shred of evidence that it was Miss Havisham.

In Pip's eyes, the new clothes cannot disguise Magwitch, who seems to look even more like a convict than he did before. He wonders what crimes Magwitch has committed. Pip hates the convict's presence and considers running away. After five days and nights, Herbert returns. Clutching a knife and a Bible, Magwitch demands Herbert's sworn silence, on pain of dreadful penalties. The oath taken, Magwitch assures Herbert that Pip will ‘make a gentleman' out of him.

Commentary on Chapter 40 (Volume 3, Chapter 1) (Instalment 25)

the safety of my dreaded visitor Dreaded he may be, but Pip has no intention of betraying the convict

‘A warmint dear boy.' In repeating this description of himself, Magwitch gives a hint about his background and his sense of himself, which he will develop later.

What I was chained to, and how heavily, became intelligible to me Pip now ironically feels shackled; yet he has a strong sense of obligation to Magwitch. (See also Imagery and symbolism: Chains, files and prisons).

a great thick pocket-book A pocket-book is a kind of wallet.

blast you every one … the whole kit on you put together!' Here Magwitch reveals the origin of his desire to use Pip to take revenge on society.

pulling a greasy little clasped black Testament out of his pocket, ‘we'll have him on his oath.' Pip is horrified that Magwitch's New Testament is being used for the purpose of making people swear an oath of silence in relation to its owner.

Slop suit Tough, poor quality clothing issued to sailors from the ship's stores.

shorts Knee-breeches, also worn by sailors.

Herbert came bursting in with all the airy freshness of six hundred miles of France upon him Herbert's return is like a breath of fresh air. Perhaps for the first time, Pip is really dependent on his friend for help.

The imaginary student … not more wretched than I Pip's nightmares are compared to the situation in Mary Shelley's Frankenstein (1818), where the scientist is pursued by the monster he has created.

Take it in your right hand … Kiss it!' Magwitch's oath on the Bible is based on court procedure. He assumes that anyone who takes it, willingly or not, will keep it out of fear of God's vengeance. God is enlisted as if he were a particularly fearsome gang member who will make oath-breakers regret their action.

Investigating Chapter 40 (Volume 3, Chapter 1) (Instalment 25)
  • Re-read the second paragraph
    • Analyze Pip's language in connection with his employees
  • Re-read the two paragraphs beginning, ‘Next day the clothes I had ordered all came home …' and ending ‘… Prisoner, Felon, Bondsman, plain as plain could be.'
    • How far would you say Pip's dismay is a social concern and how far is it based on fear?
  • How far do you think Pip's mental agony in this chapter comes from fear of being exposed and how much comes from regret at the development of his outlook in London?


Related material
Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.