"Great Expectations": Magwitch

The following example essay on “Great Expectations: Magwitch” is an analysis of the literary work of Charles Dickens. The work reveals the plot and the image of the hero of the story Magwitch.

Dickens uses of short, descriptive sentences help to achieve these visions. Magwitch is a colourful, cunning and manipulative character, yet he loosens up his anger slightly towards Pip, when he learns that he is an orphan. It may show that Magwitch is an orphan too, and so shows slight sympathy towards him.

Dickens may also be implying that Magwitch was provoked to turn to crime, as a result of becoming an orphan- fending for his self.

This signifies a (very) subtle change in a relationship that was full of fear and intimidation, to one with a form of dependence, and some sympathy attached alongside it too. Pip agrees to follow the commands of Magwitch-a criminal, and therefore despite not really knowing, performing a noble act. In chapter 2, Dickens delves deeper into investigating the life of a typical orphan; in the era.

We learn more about the harsh realities of life for an orphan.

If you weren’t killed by the numerous epidemics around, then you were considered ‘lucky’. Ironically, the situation is written about quite comically to lessen the impact of the powerful opening chapter. Pip lives with his abrupt, and shrewish sister, Mrs Joe Gargery-who now ‘looks after him’, and her husband, Joe Gargery, who is a blacksmith. Pip is regularly the victim of angry beatings delivered by his sister, who has established a reputation by bringing Pip up ‘by hand’.

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“… Knowing her to have a heavy hand and to be much in the habit of laying it upon her husband as well as upon me, I suppose that Joe Gargery and I were brought up by hand”.

The channelling of problems faced in childhood evokes feelings of sympathy from the reader towards Pip- Dickens successfully does this to make the reader see that society was unjust, he explores this further through out the story. Mrs Joe isn’t afraid to let Pip know that she thinks of his as a burden, and so uses him as a ‘cannonball’, she regrets looking after him. “If it wasn’t for me you’d have been to the churchyard long ago, and stayed there. Who brought you up by hand? And why I did it, I should like to know…I’d never do it again! I know that”. Mrs Joe believes that Pip should be grateful to her for what she has done for him.

She is also quick to say that she is ashamed of her situation. “It is bad enough to be a blacksmith’s wife (and him a Gargery), without being your mother”. This shows that Mrs Joe feels burdened by her position-‘looking after’ Pip, she is continuously working. Pip and Joe are in understanding of each others situations and so try to make the best of their situation. Joe tries to protect Pip, rather than lashing out on him too. When Pip hides some bread for Magwitch, Joe thinks that he has been bolting (swallowing without chewing).

Mrs Joe makes both Pip and Joe drink repulsive tar-water (disinfectant mixture-wood & tar); the cruel conditions of childhood are again depicted. In Dickens’ view of childhood, he felt that children have certain needs: guidance in a nurturing home, to be free from emotional and physical abuse, to have a good education, and to be allowed to be ‘happy’.

Lack of parental love and support; in these circumstances have inclined Pip to long for a better future for himself, thinking it be possible if he can become a gentleman, he tries to pursue this ambition. Firing from the Hulks announces the escape of another convict. At dawn he steals food and a file, and hurries to meet the convict, despite his conscious questioning him-he feels that this is a criminal act, although he still carries it out. Chapter 3 opens to a ‘rimy’ (frosty), miserable morning, where key events are about to occur. Pip’s guilty conscience is exposed, he thinks that his surroundings are talking to him, ‘everything seemed to run at me’ and accusing him of crime. ”

The gates and the dykes and banks came bursting at me…’A boy with somebody-else’s ‘pork pie’! Stop him…The Cattle came upon me with like sadness…’Holloa young thief!” Dickens shows through the narrative, that he knew how children thought, and so the reader is able to enter Pip’s mind and see the world through the eyes of a child. Pip sees another convict in the dangerous fog and escapes from him, assuming that he is the murderous young man Magwitch mentioned was with him.

The first convict-Magwitch is waiting for Pip. He devours the food with animal relish, and works to remove the leg iron with the file. He shows a different side of emotions when Pip comes back to meet him, and gives him food, “something clicked in his throat as if he had works like a clock, and was going to strike”.

The usage of a metaphor tries to convey the fact that his burst of ‘softer emotions’ is surprising, as he has presented his intense, and angry side, the narrative suggests that his presence is not human like, more like a machine. Alliteration helps to pinpoint this “And he smeared his ragged rough sleeve over his eyes”. Pip’s fear of him is mixed with pity, “pitying his desolation, and watching him as he gradually settled down”. The convict had obviously invented the young man to frighten Pip.

Their relationship has shifted at this point-it’s a ‘landmark’. Magwitch doesn’t act violently towards Pip (although he when he hears about another convict he gets angry-suggesting a mysterious connection between them), although the element of violence is still mentioned. “He shivered all the while so violently” and ” He was already handling mincemeat down his throat…more like a man putting it away somewhere in a violent hurry, than a man eating it”. This shows us that Magwitch has indecisive violent qualities.

Magwitch’s almost ‘unsettled’ state is highlighted again. His manners are compared to that of dogs. The politeness of Pip’s sympathetic conversation with the convict is an attempt to normalise an abnormal situation, but also, as recognition of the convict as a fellow human being. He is becoming somewhat comfortable with the situation now. Pip: “I was glad you enjoyed it” (the food Pip bought for Magwitch).

Magwitch even thanks Pip, thus creating a noticeable change in their relationship-it is significant. Pip’s initial referral to Magwitch as ‘my convict’ shows that an emotional bond/relationship between them is felt and has formed incomparison to previous fear. Pip leaves Magwitch to work on his leg-iron with the file, whilst he runs back home (for Christmas). In Chapter 4, at the forge an abundant dinner is held. Pip has got a guilty conscious, and is feeling terrified that his theft will be discovered.

The tar-water that Pip substituted for the stolen brandy is drunk, and the pork pie can’t be found. When Pip finally runs for the door but is met by a soldier bearing a pair of handcuffs. We are faced with the worrying question ‘will Pip be arrested for his act?’ This end on a note of suspense reminds us that Dickens was writing to please a wide audience. In chapters 5-6, we learn that Joe is asked to repair the broken handcuffs.

Everyone is forced to follow the soldiers on the search for the convicts, although Pip is reluctant-and worried about what Magwitch will think. “Would he believe that I was both imp and hound in treacherous earnest, and had betrayed him?” Pip is clearly feeling anxious and guilty about the situation, he is unsure about what may happen to both himself and Magwitch. The convicts are eventually found. Our curiosity about the convicts is aroused when one of them is called a ‘gentleman’-a topic that is at the core of the story is questioned. We see Joe’s humanity when he recognises Magwitch as a ‘poor miserable fellow-creatur’.

Joe says “We don’t know what you’ve done, but we can’t have you starve to death for it…Could we Pip?” to Magwitch. The reader learns that Pip gains his good morals and humanity from Joe, and his teachings. Dickens tries to bring into view of the audience that many convicts like Magwitch) weren’t necessarily bad people, you should consider that they may have been driven to commit crimes. Before being rearrested and taken back to the Hulks, Magwitch admits that he has stolen food from the forge, but doesn’t reveal that Pip helped him; this public spew of protection shows gratitude and reassurance between the pair.

Their relationship is still developing, and there has been a rapid shift since their first encounter the previous day, where a whirlwind of violence, and tension was displayed. Since the morning their relationship and attitude has turned into something more meaningful-loyalty has been conjured up; Proving that Magwitch must have been really touched when he was shown kindness from Pip. Criminals like Magwitch were pushed to the bottom of society.

It was rare to see any affection shown towards them, as they were treated so badly. Magwitch shows emotion when kindness is shown to him from Pip and Joe. “The something I had noticed before, clicked in the man’s throat again, and he turned his back”. Magwitch’s turn around implies that he doesn’t really want to show his ‘softer’ emotions, this may be because criminals were believed to be ‘hard’ and their emotions weren’t taken into consideration, as if they lacked them. Pip decides not to confide in Joe about his own part in the theft either; this signifies the start of a break between them.

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"Great Expectations": Magwitch. (2019, Dec 07). Retrieved from https://paperap.com/paper-on-7517-magwitch-a-criminal/

"Great Expectations": Magwitch
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