Chapter 39 (Volume 2, Chapter 20) (Instalment 24):

A stormy night in the Temple / I recognize my visitor / He explains my great mistake / And I awake from my dream

Synopsis of Chapter 39 (Volume 2, Chapter 20) (Instalment 24)

Two years have passed and Pip still does not know the identity of his benefactor. He and Herbert have moved to the Temple, another Inn of Court. Pip is still unable to settle to anything, though still keeps up his reading, and Herbert is currently in Marseilles on business.

Late at night, Pip receives a visitor, a rough man who looks around him with interest, pleasure and pride. Suddenly, Pip knows him for the convict from the marshes, and eventually realizes that here is his true benefactor. The convict explains that knowing Pip was to be a gentleman kept him going through the rigours and humiliations of his convict existence in Australia.

He explains that, as an illegally returned transported convict, he would be executed if he were recaptured. Pip is appalled, and while the convict sleeps, Pip revises all his assumptions about the source of his wealth. He knows now that he can never go back to Joe and Biddy because he feels that his conduct towards them has been unforgivable.

Commentary on Chapter 39 (Volume 2, Chapter 20) (Instalment 24)

‘Might a mere warmint ask whose property?' said he ‘Varmint' is an American dialect word for ‘vermin', pronounced here by the convict with the Cockney ‘w' instead of 'v'.

I swore that time … that guinea should go to you It is important that the convict's money should have been earned honestly.

O Estella, Estella! As soon as the convict confirms that he alone is the source of Pip's wealth, Pip realizes that all his assumptions about Miss Havisham are wrong, including his dream of marrying Estella.

‘They shall be yourn, dear boy, if money can buy 'em.' The convict believes that every happiness and advantage can be available to the moneyed.

O, that he had never come! … by comparison, happy! This is the first time that Pip regrets his expectations. He feels the source of his money is tainted, and is associated with the guilt he experienced after stealing the food for the convict.

it was for the convict … that I had deserted Joe Pip sums up his folly: he could not have known that his money came from a criminal, but he should not have treated Joe so badly.

Investigating Chapter 39 (Volume 2, Chapter 20) (Instalment 24)
  • Re-read the section beginning, ‘It was wretched weather' and ending ‘… and the day just closed as I sat down to read had been the worst of all.'
    • Consider the effects of Dickens's presentation of weather and place in the effects of this passage
  • How does the convict greet Pip, and how does Pip react?
  • What is the convict's idea of a gentleman?
  • How does Dickens make use of light and dark in this chapter?


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