Study Guide

Great Expectations Chapter 56

By Charles Dickens

Chapter 56

  • Magwitch is really sick. Two of his ribs are broken and his lung is punctured. He can't breathe well and he can't speak.
  • Pip visits him every day, and every day Magwitch looks worse and worse.
  • Jaggers tries to postpone Magwitch's trial but to no avail.
  • The trial comes, and Pip is allowed to stand next to Magwitch and to hold his hand.
  • He's totally freaked out by the trial, because it feels like a show or a spectacle. Over thirty convicts and criminals who are to receive the death penalty stand in the courtroom while lots of onlookers gather in the rows and in the balconies.
  • Each person's death sentence is read. Magwitch's death sentence is really long, because he's been convicted of so much in his life.
  • Pip is outraged and tries to petition to overrule the death sentence, but no politician responds to his letters.
  • Between his visits to Magwitch's jail cell, Pip wanders the London streets in the April weather, trying to figure out how he can acquit his good friend.
  • But it's no good. In the end, Magwitch is dying—but before he does, Pip tells Magwitch that his daughter is alive, that she's a beautiful lady, and that she's loved by Pip.
  • Magwitch kisses Pip's hand, a peaceful look washes over him, and he passes away.
  • Upon realizing he's dead, Pip utters, "O Lord, be merciful to him a sinner!" (4.56.35).