Chapter 5 (Volume 1, Chapter 5) (Instalment 3):

The Sergeant and Soldiers / In pursuit / We come up with the convicts

Synopsis of Chapter 5 (Volume 1, Chapter 5) (Instalment 3)

Pip thinks at first that the soldiers have come for him, but they only want Joe's help to mend a set of handcuffs. While they are waiting, the sergeant explains they are searching for escaped convicts.

Mr.Wopsle, Pip and Joe join the hunt, but Pip is worried that the first convict will think he has brought the hunt onto them. The two convicts are found fighting and are recaptured. Pip feels loyal to the first convict, and tries to signal to him that he is not guilty of betrayal; the convict returns his loyalty by claiming responsibility for the theft of the food.

Commentary on Chapter 5 (Volume 1, Chapter 5) (Instalment 3)

This was received as rather neat in the sergeant There was no police force at the time this novel is set, and soldiers would be called out for jobs such as hunting down escaped convicts.

And then they stood about, as soldiers do Pip observes the soldiers' actions as a young child would. Soldiers would have been much more commonly seen in Dickens' day, as they were scattered around the country in smaller groups than they are now.

A bitter sleet came rattling against us here on the east wind The weather is again an indication of the misery we are observing.

The torches we carried … nothing else but black darkness Dickens often makes use of light and darkness in this novel to indicate a mood or Pip's thoughts. The torches would have been bundles of tar-soaked sacking fixed on the end of poles. (See also Imagery and symbolism: Lamps, candles, torches and stars).

We don't know what you have done... fellow-creature. Joe's declaration of fellow-feeling indicates the important aspect of Christian charity at Christmas, and shows his simple, direct humanity.

The black Hulk … 'like a wicked Noah's ark the Bible (Genesis 6:1-9:29) describes God telling Noah to build a large ark (ship) in which he and his family would escape the Flood sent as a punishment of humankinds' wickedness. For the convicts, this ship signals punishment rather than deliverance.

Investigating Chapter 5 (Volume 1, Chapter 5) (Instalment 3)
  • Re-read the paragraph beginning ‘As I watched them while they all stood clustering about the forge …'
    • What is Pip's attitude to the convict?
  • Look for further evidence of Pip's sensitivity to the attitudes and behaviour of the people around him at the forge:
    • What is the source of this sensitivity?
  • Look in the last paragraph at the ways in which Dickens describes the convicts' return to the prison ship:
    • How does this contribute to the themes of the novel?
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