Chapter 56 (Volume 3, Chapter 17) (Instalment 34):

He is tried and sentenced

Synopsis of Chapter 56 (Volume 3, Chapter 17) (Instalment 34)

Magwitch is resigned about his injuries and his fate. Pip visits him each day and notices a decline in his health; he also notices signs that Magwitch thinks he would have been a better man if he had had better luck in his early life. Mr. Jaggers tries to get the trial postponed, knowing that Magwitch will not live long, but this is refused. In court, Pip is allowed to sit near Magwitch and hold his hand. Magwitch is found guilty and condemned to death.

Pip hopes that Magwitch will die before his execution, but busies himself with working for a reprieve. He continues his daily visits to Magwitch and tells him that his much-loved daughter is alive, and is a beautiful woman, whom Pip loves. Magwitch dies a happy man.

Watch Chapter 56

Accompanying teaching resources

Commentary on Chapter 56 (Volume 3, Chapter 17) (Instalment 34)

But, he was ever ready to listen to me … what I knew he ought to hear While Magwitch is dying Pip instructs him in Christian belief and uses the Bible as something other than a weapon used to terrify people into silence or agreement (See Ch. 40; Vol. 2,Ch. 1).

A smile crossed his face then … as when I was a little child Pip is reminded of his innocent and instinctive pity for the convict, even at their first terrifying meeting

My Lord … but I bow to yours' Magwitch interrupts the Judge, but his dignity and resignation to the will of God contrast strongly with the voyeuristic onlookers.

In this unreasonable … where I had left the petitions Pip recognises that at this stage he is to some extent deranged.

‘Thank'ee, dear boy, thank'ee. God bless you! …'I had once meant to desert him Pip still feels some guilt towards Magwitch: see Ch. 41; Vol. 2, Ch. 2.

Mindful then of what we had read together … ‘…

be merciful to him, a sinner!' The ‘Temple' here refers to the one in Jerusalem: see Luke 18:10-13. One of the two men thanks God he is not a sinner like other men, and smugly reminds God of his virtues; the other knows he is a sinner, bows his head and asks for God's pardon. Pip knows that this reading does not just refer to Magwitch also but also to himself: once he was like the proud man; now he knows he is a sinner.

Investigating Chapter 56 (Volume 3, Chapter 17) (Instalment 34)
  • How does Dickens go about creating the scene in the courtroom?
  • What are the differences between the official view of Magwitch and what the reader knows of his character and history?
  • How does Pip behave during the trial?
    • How does it compare with his earlier attitude towards Magwitch?
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