Pip's sense of complicity with lawbreakers grows out of his theft for Magwitch. The leg manacle, severed by the stolen file, provides the weapon with which Orlick bludgeons Mrs. Gargery; and this deed prepared in turn for the great scene at the lime kiln when he confronts his alter ego. Dickens draws attention to the care with which he has laid the train of events by a fable, derived from Tales of Genji, which occurs at the end of Chapter 38 immediately after Pip has at last seen Estella in her true colors and just before Magwitch returns to make a mockery of his expectations:

In the Eastern story, the heavy slab that was to fall on the bed of state in the flush of conquest was slowly wrought out in the quarry, the tunnel for the rope to hold it in its place was slowly carried through the leagues of rock, the slab was slowly raised and fitted in the roof, the rope was rove to it and slowly taken through the miles of hollow to the great iron ring. All being made ready with much labour, and the hour come, the sultan was roused in the dead of night, and the sharpened axe that was to sever the rope from the great iron ring was put into his hand, and he struck with it, and the rope parted and rushed away, and the ceiling fell. So, in my case; all the work, near and afar, that tended to the end, had been accomplished; and in an instant the blow was struck; and the roof of my strong hold dropped upon me. [p. 109]


Johnson, E.D.H. . Charles Dickens: An Introduction to His Novels. New York: Random House, 1969. [complete text]

Last Modified 23 October 2002