Great Expectations

Great Expectations

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Great Expectations Book 3, Chapter 56 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
In the prison infirmary, Provis lies sick and wounded but uncomplaining. Pip stays by his side as long as he is allowed to each day. In court, Provis is swiftly found guilty of having run away from his sentence in New South Wales.
Provis may be legally guilty of escaping from New South Wales but, because he escaped out of love for Pip, he is morally innocent.
Themes
Integrity and Reputation Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Court procedure entails announcing all the death sentences together on one day. In court, Pip and a large audience of onlookers watch Provis stand among thirty-two other men and women condemned to death. The judge singles out Provis, describing him as one who "almost from his infancy had been an offender against the laws." Provis—described as "the prisoner"—responds, "My Lord, I have received my sentence of death from the Almighty, but I bow to yours." After the sentencing, the audience rises to leave and rearranges their clothes, "as they might at church or elsewhere."
Provis was "almost from infancy" an offender against the laws, because he had no other way to survive. The law seems like it was almost designed to force Provis, who Pip now knows as a good-hearted and kind man, to become a criminal. The people in the court watch the death sentences—the end of a man's life—with the same response they might give to the weekly sermon at church, or any other experience. The law, it is clear, does not have a conscience.
Themes
Justice Theme Icon
Pip writes petitions to every authority he can think of to appeal Provis' sentence, and hopes that Provis will die on his own before he is hanged. The prison officer and other prisoners are kind to Provis and nurse him. Provis dies ten days later with Pip at his side. He is calm, and grateful for Pip's loyalty even in hard times. His last words: "I don't complain of [pain], dear boy." Just before he dies, Pip whispers in Provis' ear that his daughter is alive with powerful friends and that Pip loves her. Provis kisses Pip's hand and dies in peace. Pip thinks of the parable of the two men at the Temple and prays for heavenly mercy for Provis.
The parable Pip thinks of contrasts self-righteousness and self-importance with humility and admitting one's own sins. The parable points out the virtues of the latter, virtues Provis himself possesses. Provis, though he never becomes a gentleman, does die peacefully as himself (as opposed to getting hanged publicly and painfully as a criminal), and is, in a sense, reunited with his daughter through Pip's generosity.
Themes
Integrity and Reputation Theme Icon
Justice Theme Icon
Generosity Theme Icon