Great Expectations

Great Expectations

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Great Expectations Book 3, Chapter 42 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
At breakfast the next day, Pip and Herbert ask Provis to recount his past. Provis grew up as an orphan on the streets, committing petty crimes for survival. Twenty years ago, he met a rich, educated, gentleman named Compeyson, who was in fact a forger and counterfeiter, and was the man Pip saw Provis wrestling with in the marshes. Compeyson eventually employed Provis in his crimes, overworking and underpaying him. Compeyson and his other partner, a man with the last name of Arthur, had schemed a large amount of money off a rich woman in the past, but Compeyson had squandered it all gambling.
Provis' story raises questions about the relationship between social class, crime, and justice. Provis first became a criminal simply to survive on the streets as a neglected orphan. Compeyson, meanwhile, was educated and seemed like a gentleman, but he used these traits to commit crime by choice.
Themes
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When Provis met him, Arthur was sick and terrified by hallucinations of an angry, broken-hearted woman all in white threatening to cover him in a shroud. Compeyson unsympathetically reminded Arthur that "she" had a "living body." Arthur died screaming at hallucinations of the woman.
Arthur's guilty conscience haunts him through his visions. The woman Arthur hallucinates is presumably the woman that Compeyson schemed out of her money.
Themes
Justice Theme Icon
When Provis and Compeyson were both eventually arrested for counterfeiting, Compeyson insisted on "separate defenses, no communication" and Provis sold everything to hire Mr. Jaggers. In court, Compeyson's lawyer contrasted his gentility and good upbringing with Provis' rough, lower-class background and record of petty crimes. Compeyson received the lighter sentence "on account of good character and bad company."
Justice is supposed to be blind, but Compeyson used people's class prejudice to earn a lesser sentence for himself, to make it seem like he committed crime only because he was influenced too by the "evil" lower class Provis.
Themes
Social Class Theme Icon
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On the prison ships, Provis managed to strike Compeyson before escaping. Compeyson escaped too, thinking he was running away from Provis without realizing Provis was already on shore. After hearing of "the other man" from Pip, Provis found Compeyson and beat him up, determined to drag him back to prison at the expense of his own freedom. Provis doesn't know whether Compeyson is still alive now.
Provis' revenge on Compeyson must occur outside of the official legal justice system, which proved corrupt and tainted by class prejudice. Provis gives up his own freedom to ensure that Compeyson is caught—a strange kind of integrity, but integrity nonetheless.
Themes
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Herbert passes Pip a note telling him that Miss Havisham's brother's name was Arthur and that her devious fiancée was named Compeyson.
The woman in Arthur's hallucinations must have been Miss Havisham!
Themes
Justice Theme Icon