Importance of Magwitch in "Great expectations"

In Great Expectations, magwitch is not always nice. He is described by pip as “a convict”, and as a “violent man” He speaks rudely to Pip “Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat!” and yet the readers like him. His character is mean yet in someway sensitive and nice. He is violent and mean to Pip yet doesn’t do anything to harm him physically. Dickens is ever so clever in the way he keeps us on Magwitch’s side right from the begging of the novel, even though Magwitch s clearly presented as the villan at first.

Dickens had been very poor when he was young, and had even spent time in a workhouse, his father was also imprisoned, so he knew people like Magwitch very well and he knew that sometimes a person could be driven to do bad things, but still have ‘a heart of gold’. Even though the play is written in the 1st person, magwitch shares the leading role with Pip and gradually becomes the favourite character when he is presented again in chapter 39.

His presentation in chapter 1 is vivid and his character is memorable and when he re-appears in chapter 39, the readers realise that it is actually ‘my convict’ who enables pip to achieve his great Expectations.

Magwitch plays a major role in this story, and as it goes on, he starts to become the main character. Although pip is narrating this story, he somehow bases the story around magwitch on his last days and this enables the audience to know him much better.

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This makes the audience feel sympathy towards Magwitch as they feel they have misjudged him right from the start. Dickens is clever in the way he does this because on Magwitch’s and pip’s 1st encounter, nobody would have thought he could have turned out to be the person he is in chapter 39. He completely alters the reader’s expectations. Through his characterisation, Dickens shows the audience that criminals like magwitch do the things they do for a reason and deep inside they are actually ‘noble’ people.

Through magwitch, the readers can see that crime was dealt with very harshly during Victorian times. Although Magwitch’s crime is rarely mentioned in the novel, we get an Idea of it because of the brutality of his punishment. He is sent to prison and when he escapes, is given no chances and straight away sent to the hulks. Hulks are prison-ships, right ‘cross th’ meshes.” Explains Mrs. Jo to Pip. The hulks were old ships used for prisons. Magwitch was sent to Australia. ‘No one seemed surprised to see him’ as he entered in what looked like the ‘wicked Noah’s ark’ which meant that his life of crime was known by many and people were used to the type of person he was. He is slowly and calmly taken away by the ‘massive rusty’ ship and in no time dis-appears into the darkness ‘as if it were all over with him’.

Pip narrates this with no concern in his voice which shows that in England at that time, everyone knew the punishment they would get if they did a crime. He doesn’t in the time he explains of the hulks stop and say to himself how harsh or brutal ‘my’ convict was being treated which shows just how used to it every one was. It is however not the same for the reader who is at this moment starting to feel sorry for Magwitch as he shows no signs of struggle or regret which shows just how innocent he is. He is taken off to Australia. Australia’s role in the novel is minimal and is simply there so the character of Magwitch has somewhere to go and make a big and surprising entrance in chapter 39 just like he did in chapter 1. When magwitch sneaks back to England, he tells Pip that he’s there illegally. “I was sent for life. It’s death to come back.” This tells us that England was really harsh but criminals understood and accepted that law.

At the beginning of the novel, Magwitch is used to create tension and get the reader’s attention and get them interested in the story. His tone towards pip keeps the reader wanting to read on because they don’t know what is going to happen to pip on the next page if they close the book. “Hold your noise!” cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among the graves.” This keeps the readers reading on and wondering what will happen next. “Keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat!” this tone towards the little young boy instantly starts to create sympathy towards him and the readers instantly grow to love him.

‘A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg. A man with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his head. A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; who limped, and shivered, and glared and growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin.’ He says ‘a man’ constantly as he describes the stranger to emphasise that this is a ‘man’ he’s never met before and just knows him as ‘a man’ however by chapter 3, he’s already referring to him as ‘my convict’.

Also in chapter 4 when pip goes to take him the stolen food, the audience expect something terrible and mean from magwitch but instead he just takes the food and eats. At this point he begins to speak to Pip in a more affectionate way. Also he is taken away at the end of chapter 5 on the hulks and his last action is to lie for Pip saying that he stole the food and it wasn’t Pip. This sends a relief through the readers but the relief later wears off when magwitch is again revealed to pip in chapter 39. Like in chapter 1, pip is surrounded by darkness and slowly magwitch re-appears sending chills through the readers as they have no idea what he has come back for. Pip remembers him straight away “…for I had seen him with my childish eyes to be a desperately violent man…” and so do the readers. This comes as a surprise and the readers is forced to quickly remember Magwitch’s character as it had been more than 10 years before his and pip’s encounter. Dickens did this as he knew the readers would want to know what happens next to pip and they would want to find out why magwitch is back.

Right from the start, Magwitch was not seen as a gentleman, but instead a convict. His actions in chapter 1 also prove him to be the least gentleman like person in the story. He is impatient “Tell us your name …Quick!” His language is ungentle man like. “You bring ’em both to me…Or I’ll have your heart and liver out.” This causes the readers to judge him as not a gentleman but a convict and they have very little expectations that he will change otherwise. This is because a gentle man was seen as a man who behaved properly, a man of noble and gentle birth and Magwitch seemed to be the complete opposite to all this.

However they are surprised when they find out what magwitch has been up to in Australia. “I lived rough, that you should live smooth” His actions towards Pip in chapter 39 reveal to the readers and to Pip what it is to be a gentle man. At this point Magwitch seems to be more like a gentleman than Pip who has just spoken rudely to Joe for not acting like a gentle man. But now he sees that being a gentleman is not all about talking fancy, or being rich, it’s all about being polite, kind and loving to those close to you just like Magwitch. Magwitch teaches pip what it is to be a gentleman through his generosity and Pip realises that Joe had been a gentleman all along. “Guilty”…”that I had deserted Joe.” “I could never, never, undo what I had done.”

Pip is horrified to meet Magwitch at first. ‘A fearful man…started up from among the graves’. This shows what a fast judge he is towards people and also shows that even before he has met the man coming towards him, he straight away knows that this man is no good. Pip comes to love Magwitch and starts to see him as a good and noble man. The older and more mature Pip describes Magwitch as ‘my convict’ which shows that there is some sort of friendship between them in the future. Pip’s first encounter marks him thus, firstly as a convict and then through the cannibal references when he threatens to eat Pip’s ‘fat cheeks’ and threatens to have another convict eat his heart and liver. However Magwitch is trustworthy towards Pip and believes him when on their second of the very few encounters they have, pip says that he has brought no one with him, he believes him straight away. “Well,” said my convict, “I believe you” Although at the beginning Magwitch uses threatening and abusive language towards pip like “You young dog,”, “Lord strike you dead…!” He soon starts to see the innocence in pip and starts to relate to him as “my boy”. Their relationship furthers and Magwitch proves to be the perfect convict.

When he is discovered by the police whilst fighting another convict, magwitch defends pip from getting in trouble and takes the blame for all the food and goods pip had stolen from Mrs Joe. This shows that even though Magwitch gets caught, he knows in his heart that it was not Pip’s fault that he got caught and pip had been loyal to him all along. In chapter 39, Magwitch is again in Pip’s life after many years. Pip is alone and has no Idea that his convict is about to return to him.

This is an important part of the novel as there is no lights around Pip when Magwitch reappears ‘said a voice from the darkness beneath’ which takes the readers back to their first encounter when Pip was in the church graveyard ‘cried a terrible voice, as a man started up from among the graves’ and pip was alone and innocent and didn’t know what was lurking around him in the dark. Its ‘stormy and wet, stormy and wet; and mud, mud, mud, deep in all the streets, Pip uses a repetition of this words to emphasise the really bad weather that’s been going on and on. When Magwitch is up in Pip’s room he explains to Pip how he never forgot Pip’s kindness to him and decided to do something for the boy, in part because he reminded him of his lost daughter, who would have been about the same age as Pip. Magwitch sent money to Mr. Jaggers, who passed it to Pip and sought to make the boy a gentleman. Jaggers was not permitted to let Pip know who his benefactor was so pip was as surprised as the readers when magwitch revealed himself as pip’s benefactor. Up to this point of the novel, Pip and the readers are led to believe that Miss.

Haversham is Pip’s benefactor. She and Estella act superior to Pip and treat him badlyYou can break his heart, replied Miss Haversham. And after all this time, the readers begin to realize Miss Haversham only wants to see to see Pip being tantalized and tormented, just as she torments herself by clinging to the pain of her own rejection at the altar and that all the expectations of Miss Haversham were wrong, it is actually Magwitch who’s the gentleman…”Yes, Pip, dear boy, I’ve made a gentleman on you! It’s me wot has done it… I lived rough, that you should live smooth” straight away pip recognises him “when I saw him thus engaged, I saw my convict on the marshes at his meal again. It almost seemed to me as if he must stoop down presently, to file at his leg.”

And knows that ‘his convict’ is back. “I was sent for life. It’s death to come back.” Magwitch tells Pip and pip tells him that he’ll do whatever he can to save him, however magwitch gets hurt and as he lies dying in the prison infirmary, Magwitch appreciates the fact that Pip has been closer to him and more accepting of him in his fall than in his prosperity. Pip informs magwitch about his daughter Estella and tells him that he loves her. This marks a great moment as magwitch dies happily knowing that he really did make a gentleman out of pip. Dickens chooses to do this to show that no-matter all the crime Magwitch may have done in the past, he still has a loving heart and deserves someone to love him and take care of him just like he took care of Pip. This gives the novel a happy and satisfying ending. In my opinion, this novel is very well written. At first, the style of writing and language used was hard to adjust to at first but I soon got used to it. The story line was very interesting and kept the reader wanting to read on. I loved it.

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Importance of Magwitch in "Great expectations". (2018, Dec 15). Retrieved from

Importance of Magwitch in "Great expectations"
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