Discovering Dickens - A Community Reading Project

Discovering Dickens

Community Reading Project

Charles Dickens

Great Expectations

Historical Context



<i>Great Expectations</i>

Notes on the Novel
• Maps and Illustrations
• Key to Allusions
• Glossary of Historical Things and Conditions

Download Download pdf 1 pdf 27 and Download pdf 2 pdf 28

Previously, in Great Expectations...

Last time, we saw Pip making arrangements for the safety of his benefactor, Abel Magwitch. On the first night, Pip -- making sure the premises were safe for Magwitch -- fell over a man on the stairs, who eluded him in the dark. Impressed with the need for a better hiding place, Pip took rooms for his "Uncle Provis" in a lodging near his own. Pip and Herbert developed a reputable disguise for "Provis," but determined that the only way of insuring his safety was to get him out of the country. He must escape, and Pip must go with him.

Also in the last issue, Magwitch told his life story: The first thing he could remember was stealing turnips for his living; he was called a "hardened" criminal while still a child; and he had been in and out of lock-ups all his life. He had had no education beyond that offered by a deserting soldier, who had taught him to read. When still a young man, he'd met a gentleman named Compeyson at the races, and went to work with him (Compeyson's business was forging, stealing, etc.). Compeyson had had another partner named Arthur, who, dying of alcohol poisoning, raved continually about a woman in white. Compeyson's wife had tended Arthur until he died, and Magwitch and Compeyson continued their criminal activities. Eventually, however, they were caught. At the trial, Compeyson's defense exploited Magwitch, using his criminal history and his social status against him. This earned Magwitch a harder sentence, and incurred his abiding wrath for Compeyson.

Compeyson was the "young man" whom Pip, as a child, had seen fighting with Magwitch on the marshes. Moreover -- as Herbert conveyed to Pip when Magwitch had told his tale -- Compeyson was the name of Miss Havisham's lover, and Arthur was the name of her brother!


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