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Chapter 40: A Lurker on the Stairs... Notes from Great Expectations

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Great Expectations Chapter 40: A Lurker on the Stairs...

Pip awakes from his nap filled with anxiety about hiding the convict. In fact, these logistical details keep Pip from thinking too hard about his own situation, about the completely new spin his life has taken as a result of the convict's news. In the midst of his preparations, Pip bumps into what he thinks is a man on the dark stairs and runs off to get the night watchman, who says that the convict did indeed arrive with company. If this was the man on the stairs, however, he has disappeared into the stormy darkness. When questioned, the convict is vague about whether he did or did not come alone.

At breakfast, the convict ravages his food and generally acts like a man who's lived in jail all his life. As Pip watches in horror, the convict, who says his name is Provis, or Magwitch, also says that he intends to stay with Pip for good. He'll disguise himself and do whatever is necessary to live out his days with the fine gentleman he's created with his hard-earned money. It's decided that Pip will, at least temporarily, pretend that Provis is his uncle.

Topic Tracking: Identity 9

Pip leaves Provis with strict instructions to stay inside and goes out, first to find Provis a room at a boarding house and then to see Jaggers. The lawyer seems to sense Pip's news immediately, though he works very hard to keep it unspoken. Provis, because of his criminal record, is not supposed to enter England again (he can be hung for it), so Jaggers talks as if Magwitch is still in "New South Wales." The lawyer does make it clear, however, that Magwitch's story is true, that the convict really is Pip's benefactor.

Pip orders new and dignified clothes for the convict, but the jailbird shines through these new feathers, and Pip is certain he'll be discovered. He's terrible, in many ways, for Pip to look at:

" The imaginary student pursued by the misshapen creature he had impiously made, was not more wretched than I, pursued by the creature who had made me, and recoiling from him with a stronger repulsion, the more he admired me and the fonder he was of me." Chapter 40, pg. 392

Worse yet, Herbert is due to return from his business and after five days pass, he walks through the door. Pip introduces Provis as "a visitor," and Provis immediately produces his grimy pocket Bible, and demands that Herbert swear on it. Herbert alone can be told the full and true story.

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