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Great expectations- comparison of Pip and Magwitch

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Introduction

Great Expectations- Charles Dickens Question: - Compare Pip's first and second meetings with the convict Able Magwitch (Chapters 1 and 39). First published in 1861 as a weekly serial that gripped and exhilarated readers, "Great Expectations," (written by Charles Dickens) follows the life of Pip, a young orphan, boy living with his sister and her husband near the 'overgrown' and 'bleak' Kent marshes. The story follows Pip's rise into society as he becomes 'a well to do gentleman.' Aided by a mysterious benefactor, the tale tells a 'rags to riches' story of how Pip fulfils his 'Great Expectations' and begins a new life, in London's high society. Written and set in Victorian Britain, Dickens considers the workings of British society and subtly makes his feelings toward the injustices of the class system clear through Pip and his changing attitudes and behaviours, and the harsh crime and punishment system through Magwitch. "Great Expectations," often reminisces on Dickens' personal experiences, himself as a child deprived of a sufficient education, similar to Pip; Dickens rose up through society to become a wealthy man. Money and wealth play a major part in Dickens' work, possibly because, as a child his father was imprisoned for various debts, forcing the young Charles Dickens into early employment in a blacking warehouse. His father incarcerated and himself forced to work instead of being educated Dickens resented his parents; which may explain why he chose to make his child characters, such as Pip, orphans living an unhappy childhood. ...read more.

Middle

However, with his wealth he has gained an education and taken to a life of leisure, a gentleman in his grand home with the time to read in comfort. Very different from the generous young Pip whom is weak and fragile, Pip has in fact become snobbish. This is evident in his reaction when he recognises Magwitch and says to him "I hope you have shown your gratitude by mending your way of life." It is clear that at this point Pip believes he is obviously of higher class than Magwitch, he has the right to judge him and look down upon him as if he is inferior. His snobbery continues as upon finding out it was Magwitch that funded his rise to becoming a gentleman, his reaction is not one of gratitude but of great resentment and distaste. Although Pip seems to have lost all of his desirable characteristics from his youth, when Magwitch asks for lodgings, he begrudgingly shows some of the generosity evident from chapter 1as he produces his "gentlemen's linens" and serves rum and water before giving Magwitch shelter. Magwitch, although again initially described using empty colourless imagery of the "grey," and "out of the darkness," in chapter 39, is presented as a character full of love for Pip, a father figure with open arms, a huge contrast to the aggressive and violent bully portrayed in chapter 1. ...read more.

Conclusion

Dickens achieves this response in the line "the buildings in town had had the lead stripped of their roofs..." This line could be interpreted as being representative of something close to Pip being revealed to him. In the context of chapter 39, Pip discovers Magwitch to be his benefactor and could be considered as what is revealed to him or "stripped of their roofs." Dickens throughout the narrative considers Victorian society and its workings, especially in relation to two major themes in crime and punishment and social class, and it could be said that 'Great Expectations' is an exploration of his opinions and beliefs in relation to these matters. Dickens explores the crime and punishment element through Magwitch, a convicted criminal. Introduced in the opening chapter, only as Magwitch the convict, the reader immediately feel hostile and antipathy toward Magwitch based upon his situation and title branded upon him by society. However, in chapter 39, when Dickens presents Magwitch, the person. Warm, benign and generous. Immediately the reader's opinion of Magwitch reverses from one of distaste to that of being empathetic and affectionate. Nonetheless, Magwitch is still a criminal, his branding has not altered and this is where Dickens makes his point. The Victorian legal system generalised criminals, and a 'criminal' was either transported or hung, and even petty criminals were sentenced similarly to more serious offenders. Dickens, I feel, was trying to show how Victorian society labelled a criminal and not a person, they did not explore personal circumstance or motive, but only saw a criminal and punished a criminal. ...read more.

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