Critical Analysis of the Character of Magwitch in Dickens’ Novel Great Expectations
Write a critical analysis of the character of Magwitch in Dickens’ novel Great Expectations. Why does Magwitch become Pip’s benefactor? Great Expectations is a novel written by Charles Dickens. The first publication of the novel was in 1861. The major themes are a social class, criminality, guilt, love, growth from childhood to adulthood, the desire for self-improvement, becoming a gentleman. Dickens uses very interesting way to represent the ideals of mid-nineteenth century to the reader. His tone is critical, satirical, dramatic and even comic.
The novel is from the genre called bildungsroman. This term is established by Goethe and depicts a process of maturation and self-improvement of the protagonist throughout his life. We can find many autobiographical elements in Great Expectations. The story is about a young orphaned boy named Pip who is living with his sister and her husband in the marshes of Kent, England. One day when he is in the cemetery, he encounters an escaped convict who grabs Pip and orders him to bring a food and a file for his chains. Pip is afraid and helps to the convict, but he is soon captured anyway.
The little boy is send to the house of Miss Havisham. She is wealthy spinster and has an adopted daughter named Estella. She takes Pip for Estella’s companion. The young boy falls in love with Estella although she is cruel to him. There are series of events which lead to the moment when Pip understands that he has got a secret benefactor. Pip must leave for London immediately where he is supposed to become a gentleman. Pip believes that Miss Havisham is his benefactor and visit her and Estella, who has returned from studying on the Continent. Later in the novel Pip’s true benefactor is revealed.
Abel Magwitch – the convict who Pip helped – became very wealthy after he was transported to Australia. Later in the novel many important things are revealed like that Magwitch is Estella’s father. Abel is killed while he is trying to escape from the authority. There are two ends of the Great Expectations: at the first end Pip meets Estella on the street, who has remarried after his husband’s death, and the young gentleman remains single. At the revised ending Pip meets Estella in the ruins of Satis House with the suggestion that they will marry.
Our first encounter with the character of Abel Magwitch is in the very beginning of the novel. The author represents him as “a fearful man” with “broken shoes”, a rag tied round his head and big, and heavy iron around his leg. We don’t know anything else about The Convict’s past. We have only this description about this character. Pip’s first encounter with Magwitch is in the first chapter. He is at the cemetery staring at the tombstones of his parents, brothers and sisters when suddenly a horrific man, growling and dressed in dirty rags with chained legs seizes Pip.
After that there is a dialog between them. Pip is very scared, the Convict orders to the young boy to bring him food and file for the chains. This horrific man escapes his prison ship and looks for help. The Convict is desperate and hungry, he tricks the boy by telling him that he knows a man who will kill him if he does not offer help. Pip helps Magwitch because he is very scared. However, Abel is captured and transported to Australia. But he never forgets the young boy’s kindness. This is the main reason why Magwitch becomes Pip’s benefactor.
Pip thinks that his secret benefactor is Miss Havisham, but when he realizes that the Convict is his true benefactor, he is very angry and confused. Why someone like Magwitch helping him? Why does he give money to him? According to Pip, he is just a cruel prisoner. But later the young boy will know the truth about Magwitch and his destiny. The truth is that Abel is a victim to a “friend”. He and his “friend” Compeyson are accused of serious felony, being charged with putting stolen notes in circulation.
I said a “friend” because, Compeyson convinces Magwitch that they should have separate defences and no communications. But at the trial Abel’s “friend” appeared as a gentleman, while Magwitch had to sell his clothes ti be able to pay for the lawyer. Magwitch is condemned to imprisonment for fourteen years, having been used as a scapegoat by Compeyson. And Compeyson is given only seven years. After being deported to New South Wales for life, Magwitch have got a number of jobs in his new home, including a sheep farmer and a stock breeder.
Soon he becomes rich and decides to send a large amount of money to Pip. One of his wishes is to remain anonymous. However, after Pip and the reader know the true story of the “Convict”, that horrific man from the very beginning of the novel, now is gone. Many secrets are revealed. One of them is that Magwitch is Estella’s father. The other is that Abel, actually, is very kind and loyal. Because of him Pip becomes an gentleman. But the most important thing is that Magwitch’s kindness and loyalty transforms Pip into a responsible adult, who values integrity over wealth.