‘Great Expectations’ is a novel about an orphan boy named Pip. He is brought up by his sister as a commoner, although, as he grows older he becomes increasingly desperate to loose his lower class ways and become a gentleman, so that he can have the girl he loves, Estella, as his wife.
Abel Magwitch is introduced in the first scene as an escaped convict. As a favour, Pip collects him food and a file. Magwitch is very grateful for this and is willing to return the act of kindness. Later on in life Pip is offered the opportunity to become a gentleman, which he accepts. However, Pip does not know that this opportunity is the doing of Magwitch.
‘Great expectations’ is set in early Victorian England. During this time there would have been a lot of orphans, this is mainly due to poor medial facilities and a lower life expectancy. This resulted in lower class children being left without a family or a home. Also during this period in time there were many convicts like Magwitch due to the strictness of the law and the fact that there were not many jobs to bring in money for general living expenses such as food and clothes. There was such a great amount of convicts and because there was such small amount of prison space, they where forever full. This resulted in them giving out many death penalties or keeping them on board a ship until eventually sending the offenders to Australia.
As a teenager Dickens was split up from his true love because her parents didn’t think he was good enough for her. I think his views on marriage are portrayed though Pip and Estella in the novel as he thinks if they love each other, they should not be broken up or brainwashed by other people and should be left to make up there own mind.
Charles Dickens has purposely chosen the name Abel Magwitch because it represents his characteristics and personality. The name Abel can relate to the Cain and Abel story. In the Cain and Abel story, Abel was murdered by Cain because he was jealous of him being preferred by God. Magwitch had to do more time in prison than Compeyson, just because he was of a lower class and Compeyson did nothing about this. Here a compassion can be made because both Magwitch and Abel were let down by their friends. Charles Dickens could possibly used ‘Mag’ from the word magpie because it makes you believe that he steals things. ‘Witch’ has been used because we know that witches are bad and evil.
Chapter one has been set in an overgrown graveyard. This has been done to create fear and cautiousness for the reader. He has done this by creating a dark and gloomy atmosphere. Charles Dickens creates such fear by adding lines including ‘at such a time I found out for certain, that this bleak place overgrown with nettles was a churchyard…’ This produces a picture of an old abandoned graveyard into your head. It is set in a graveyard because we associate it with the dead, and we think of it as a fearful place. Pip is alone in the graveyard and so this worries the reader because he looks vulnerable.
The weather and distressing atmosphere reflects the rest of the chapter. Charles Dickens has built up an uneasy atmosphere to worry the readers and make them feel tense. He has done this to put them ‘on the edge of their seats’ so that he can build up the story towards an unexpected occurrence, which make the readers frightened and anxious. Here, Magwitch is used to create such a happening.
Magwitch enters the story in a sudden, dramatic way, ”’Hold your noise!” cried a terrible voice’, this makes you jump and immediately gives you the impression that Magwitch is an evil character. Dickens uses a description that scares the readers and makes them feel sorry for Pip. He says things like ‘A fearful man, all course in grey, with a great iron on his leg.’ The reader then becomes anxious due to this description.
The way in which Magwitch enters the story in chapter one is similar in many ways to how he enters in chapter thirty-nine. In both these scenes, the weather is stormy and it is dark and gloomy. In chapter one Magwitch’s sudden arrival confuses Pip and he isn’t quite sure what to do. This is similar to chapter thirty-nine as although Magwitch’s entry is not as sudden as before, it still leaves Pip not knowing what to do and again confuses him. In chapter thirty-nine, Dickens has extended the time that it takes for Magwitch to appear and so this causes tension for the audience, whereas in chapter one he makes Pip look peaceful and vulnerable and so the dramatic entry of Magwitch scares the readers.
Magwitch and Pip are similar in the way that they are both lonely people: Magwitch has been left by his friend, Compeyson, and Pips has no family because they have all died. This helps you remember him because although Pip is different in many ways to Compeyson they have some similarities.
Many things about Magwitch’s unique appearance make him memorable and stay in your head. ‘A man with no hat, and broken shoes.’ In those days all gentleman wore hats and so this implies that Magwitch has not got much money and he isn’t a proper gentleman. His broken shoes tell us that that he has had a rough time with them and he cannot afford a new pair. This again provides more evidence that he hasn’t got much money.
‘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’
Charles Dickens has described Magwitch in such a way, showing readers that Magwitch has had a hard time and he has had to travel a long way to get to where he is now. When he describes Magwitch as having ‘a great iron on his leg.’ it is describing a piece of metal around his leg that would have been put there to stop him escaping. This consequently tells us that he is an escaped convict.
Dickens has made Magwitch seem as if he is big and powerful and therefore he has made Pip look as if he is helpless and inferior to him. He adds things such as ‘His eyes looked most powerfully down into mine, and mine looked most helplessly up onto his.’ This makes you feel sorry for Pip.
Dickens has chosen to present Magwitch in a way that makes the readers remember him. This is so that when he brings Magwitch back into the story the readers will recognise him. From chapter one through to chapter thirty-nine, Dickens keeps Magwitch’s distinctive characteristics the same, such as his strange personality and some aspects of his appearance.
In both chapters Dickens describes Magwitch as if he had been ‘weathered’. For example in chapter thirty-nine it says Magwitch has been ‘browned and hardened by exposure to weather.’ In chapter one, Magwitch is described as being soaked due to the rain. Also in both chapters Magwitch is described as wearing clothes that were either old and rough, or weathered.
In chapter one, Pip reacts to Magwitch in a way that makes him easily remembered. He is very violent and he deliberately tries to scare Pip. He throws him upside down in order to find what he had hidden in his pockets. He also talks to him in a vicious way ‘keep still, you vicious devil, or I’ll cut your throat!’ It makes Pip think of Magwitch as a bad, evil person. Magwitch scares Pip so that he will feel threatened and consequently do what he says.
In part of chapter one, Magwitch asks Pip where his mother is, and when he points and says ‘There, Sir’ Magwitch begins to run before realising that Pip was just pointing towards a gravestone. This tells the audience that he is not as fearless as he was first was made out to be. When Pip tells Magwitch that he lives with a blacksmith, an idea comes into his head to blackmail Pip: ‘You get me a file.’ Due to the fact Pip feels threatened and fears for his life, he agrees. This also shows that Magwitch is reasonably clever and cunning.
In chapter thirty-nine, the way Pip reacts to Magwitch, makes him seem very mysterious to the audience. Charles Dickens has done this by extending the time he has described Magwitch coming up the stairs and into the view of Pip. He has also used a dark setting and stormy weather to make the audience cautious. Magwitch confuses Pip in chapter thirty-nine because, although he seems to recognise him from somewhere, he cannot recall where he has seen him before. This also helps cause tension as the readers are not allowed to know who he is either.
In chapter one Magwitch uses alarming dialect to scare Pip and make him feel threatened so that he can blackmail him. Having such a scary character so early in the story is important, this is because it makes the reader remember the character throughout the rest of the novel.
Magwitch has a strong southern accent which signifies that he is not from around where Pip lives. He says things such as ‘Pint out the Place’ which you would not hear someone from Pips area say. This makes Pip think of him as a stranger.
The way Magwitch speaks to Pip dramatically changes in Chapter thirty-nine. Instead of talking to him in an aggressive way, as if he is inferior to him, he speaks to him as if he is of a much lower class. He calls him ‘Master’ which you would call someone you worked for, so it is like Pip owns him. The reason he begins to talk to him like this is because he has put all his savings into Pip to try and turn him into a gentleman. This is in return of the good deed Pip did in chapter one of fetching him food and a file. After all that time away in Australia Magwitch still has his southern accent.
Dickens creates many memorable characters in different ways. Firstly he gives them original names, that you would not usually here, that stick in your mind and have meanings that reflect the characters personality. Jaggers is an example of this because it makes you think of daggers. He gives them very extreme personalities which are made to scare you, make you feel unhappy, happy etc. The emotions that these characters give you make them memorable.
The unique appearances of his characters help you create a vivid picture of them. ‘He had iron grey hair’ this makes you think of a worn down man with silvery, tough hair. It is unique because you wouldn’t expect anyone to have such a description of hair. He gives them broad accents and makes them speak strange dialects so that you do not forget them.
The character Magwitch is very memorable, and Dickens makes you feel as if he is going to be a horrible character and that he is going to be part of an evil plot. But after chapter thirty-nine you begin to realise that he was a desperate individual that had no choice but to threaten and blackmail Pip. He shows that Magwitch has a good side to him when he returned the favour to Pip by being his secret benefactor. You also learn that it is not all Magwitch’s fault for the crime that he committed, because Compeyson played a big part in it too.