Pip meets Magwitch once again, and although he looks down on him at first, he gradually begins to see that status is not all that matters. After Magwitch if mortally injured and sentenced to death, Pip visits him every day in the infirmary. Pip decides that after all Magwitch’s kindness, that “when I took my place by Magwitch’s side, I felt that that was my place henceforth while he lived.” After the stress of the past few weeks, Pip falls very ill. “The late stress upon me had enabled me to put off illness, but not to put it away; I knew that it was coming on me now, and I knew very little else” Pip is ill for many weeks, and Joe comes to London to look after him.
Whilst Pip is ill, Joe no longer thinks of him as a gentleman, but as the old Pip with whom he had “such larks!”. Pip realises how badly he treated Joe, and pleads him not to let him off so lightly. He tells Joe to “Look angry at me, Joe. Strike me, Joe. Tell me of my ingratitude. Don’t be so good to me!”. Joe, however, being such a kind character, will not harm Pip in any way, verbally or physically. He has paid all of Pip’s debts, and Pip knows that he cannot repay him.
Pip goes through the greatest change of all at this point, and finally realises that he is still the blacksmith’s apprentice he always was. But as Pip returns to health, Joe begins to see him as a gentleman again. This causes him to become uneasy once more, and although Pip tries everything to stop him, Joe continues to call him “Sir”. Joe leaves before Pip can have a deep discussion with him and it seems that Joe will always treat Pip this way.
Another major change that Pip goes through is in his thoughts of Estella. After many years, he realises that he can never have Estella. He also realises that she told the truth when she said, “I have no softness … no – sympathy – sentiment – nonsense”. Pip finally realises that Estella is the source of all his problems. Had he never met her, he would never become a gentleman, and would have lived happily as a blacksmith, like Joe.
Although Pip has treated so many people so badly, he always seems to realise soon afterwards, and also admits that it is out of his control. This helplessness is a good device with which Pip keeps the reader’s sympathy. The fact that the book is written in first person perspective also helps, as we can see from Pip’s point of view, from which all of his decisions seem more rational. We are presented with his reasoning, and although we may not agree with it, it shows that he does not intend to do harm to anyone. One example of this is given when Pip stays at the Blue Boar, rather than with Joe. He says that he “began to invent reasons and make excuses for putting up at the Blue Boar”, showing that he knows he is welcome with Joe, and knows that he has no good reason not to stay with him.
The ending of “Great Expectations” is left open, with Pip in his thirties, speaking to Estella in the churchyard. Estella has been greatly changed by her unhappy marriage to Drummle, and she finally shows signs of “softness”, “sympathy” and “sentiment”. The end of the book takes place in the churchyard where the whole story began. This is very effective, as it is metaphorical of the changes in Pip. Of all the places he lived, and all of the changes he went through, he ended up back home wishing that he had never changed; wishing that he had grown up as a blacksmith; wishing that he could relive his life from this small village, thirty years ago.