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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Barron's Booknotes
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CHAPTERS 49 & 50

Returning to Satis House, Pip sees it in a new light, as though
he really is done with it. The old monastery with its monkish
ghosts, the cathedral chimes and pealing organ, the cawing
rooks, cast a funereal hush over the town, and Pip associates
this with his dead dream of Estella. Estella's been replaced with
a nondescript old woman at the gate of Satis House. Miss
Havisham sits staring into an ashy fire (not a glowing fire, like
Joe's). She's pitiful, shaky and vague. Ever since Pip's last visit,
she has been brooding, blaming herself for his unhappiness.
Pip, however, seems to have grown beyond her. He has other
worries on his mind (Magwitch, no doubt), and he can freely
forgive Miss Havisham now. In an amazing turnabout, Miss
Havisham-who's always held power over Pip-kneels at his
feet weeping. (Remember, Dickens has told us before that tears
cleanse the soul.)

Pip shows surprising maturity in judging Miss Havisham.
Rising above his own hurt, he concentrates on what she did to
Estella, but he tries to see it in a sympathetic light. He notes
that solitude is dangerous; only by becoming involved with
other people can we get past our own vanities. If you think
about it, Pip has just learned this lesson himself.

Miss Havisham's still a melodramatic figure, wailing "What
have I done!" Pip acts like a practical man, giving her advice
and asking about Estella's past. Having done what he planned-
to help Herbert, to solve Estella's mystery-Pip leaves, knowing
he can't be of any use in calming her.

But Pip hasn't turned into a dry realist. He's still romantic
enough to wander around the grounds. He imagines Miss
Havisham hanging from the beam again; instinct makes him go
back to check if she's all right. He looks in her room; she bends
over the fire, whoosh! she magically erupts into flame, as
though all the stunted passion of her life has burst out.

Pip acts decisively, flinging his cloak over her. Then, in an
ironic enactment of his old fairy-tale goals, he clears away the
decaying bridal feast, but for a practical reason: so he can
smother the fire with the tablecloth. Miss Havisham ends up, as
she predicted, lying on the dining room table, covered in a
white sheet. Although she lives, like Mrs. Joe she becomes
dead for all intents and purposes once her spectacular energy is

It isn't until the next chapter that Pip tells us how badly he was
burned; he doesn't think his own injuries are so important.
Herbert, like a good friend, changes Pip's bandages, doing it as
tactfully as he once corrected Pip's manners. Herbert agrees
with Pip that Magwitch gets nicer every day. Chatting to pass
the time, Herbert tells Pip another part of Magwitch's story-
about that woman he couldn't talk about before. Notice that this
scene is straight dialogue, as if Pip is too tense to comment;
only Herbert's remarks show us how agitated Pip is. Pip does
ask brief, to-the-point questions, like a shrewd detective. We,
knowing what we do, can follow his reasoning. This story is
Molly's case, to the letter. Magwitch, then, was the man she
killed over, the man she wanted to hurt by murdering his child.
So, since Molly is Estella's mother-Magwitch must be her
father. The most shining image of Pip's heart is mixed up with
his deepest fears and shame.

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Great Expectations by Charles Dickens - Barron's Booknotes

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