Chapter 55 (Volume 3, Chapter 16) (Instalment 34):

Herbert leaves me for the east / Wemmick married

Synopsis of Chapter 55 (Volume 3, Chapter 16) (Instalment 34)

Magwitch appears in court but the full trial has to wait until he has been formally identified. Mr. Jaggers does what he can for Magwitch at this stage, but there is no hope of acquittal. He is angry that Pip has let the money slip, and wants to see if any of it can be rescued. Compeyson's body is eventually found with a list of some of Magwitch's property on him, which is presumed to be what he hopes for as a reward for naming Magwitch to the authorities. Eventually the formal witness to Magwitch's identity arrives and the trial is set.

Herbert tells Pip that he must leave for Cairo to take up a new post, and proposes that Pip should join him there as a clerk. Herbert agrees to keep the offer open for three months. Clara will stay behind to care for her father and when he dies will marry Herbert and join him in Cairo. Herbert is glad that he is marrying someone of whom his mother, with her social aspirations, would so thoroughly disapprove.

Pip meets Wemmick, who invites him to visit Walworth in a few days' time. When the day arrives, the castle and its occupants seem slightly different, and Pip soon realizes that Wemmick is going to marry Miss Skiffins. They have a splendid wedding breakfast, and when Pip leaves, Wemmick asks him to say nothing to Mr. Jaggers about the day's events.

Commentary on Chapter 55 (Volume 3, Chapter 16) (Instalment 34)

First, my mind was too preoccupied … the end of this slight narrative Dickens maintains the narrative interest with a hint of further revelations, and also complicates the narrative viewpoint by moving between the elder and younger Pip.

I do not think … don't you see? These legal distinctions are Wemmick's daily business. He leads a hard life in a hard profession, surrounded by desperate and usually inadequate clients for whom he has to do what he can. To let money go as if it were unimportant is hard for him to accept.

Investigating Chapter 55 (Volume 3, Chapter 16) (Instalment 34)
  • What do you think is the significance of the fishing rod for Wemmick?
    • Why do you think Dickens adds this detail?
  • What do you think are the effects of placing this episode at this point in the novel?
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