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Great Expectations - Why is Magwitch an Important Character in the novel?

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Introduction

Great Expectations Why is Magwitch an Important Character in the novel? The character Magwitch is the first character the narrator Pip meets in the novel. The first meeting is not altogether very friendly, vivid ideas about the character are created by Dickens's description. Magwitch plays the part of a convict imprisoned most likely because of debt. The convict persona is later altered and modified by Dickens in the novel as he presents the ideas that Magwitch is affectionate, caring and does not deserve his earlier hardships. The idea of the character being a convict may cause readers who have strong opinions already developed to be bias against him. Dickens still expresses his views on injustice and the drawbacks of the social system effectively. In the first chapter of 'Great Expectations', Pip (the first person narrator) has a confrontation with the convict Magwitch in a graveyard on the marshes. The chapter is set on a marshy area by a river in a churchyard: "ours was the marsh country, down by the river"; "was the churchyard" show this. The narrative describes the churchyard being a "bleak place overgrown with nettles" and explains, "The distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea". The churchyard scene gives a, cold and dark impression, somewhere most readers would probably not like to be on a cold day or night. The actual confrontation with Pip and the convict is sudden and is quite shocking."' ...read more.

Middle

The other convict explains, "He tried to murder me. I should have been a dead man if had not come" which opposes the first idea that Magwitch had done a good deed. The soldiers later ignore this chance that maybe Magwitch has redeemed himself "'Enough of this parley,' said the sergeant". Although not very significant it presents the idea that the Magwitch is not given any chances by the justice system and is considered forever a convict. The conflict with the other convict suggests that Magwitch is a murderer, again raising suspicions and opinions that he is still a very savage person. When Pip sees that it is the convict he met he tries to make out that he did not lead the party of soldiers to him "I might try to assure him of my innocence". When Magwitch sees Pip's expression he realizes it was not Pip's doing. He later confesses to the sergeant that he stole some things from the blacksmith (Joe) "A man can't starve; at least I can't. I took some wittles, up at the village over yonder......... From the blacksmith's". This is actually not true because Pip brought him the things. Here Dickens is presenting Magwitch as protective towards Pip and that he appreciates what he did for him. The overall idea shown by this section is that Magwitch may not be such a bad character and may have feelings himself. He takes the blame for Pip's actions, something that is quite responsible to do. ...read more.

Conclusion

The change makes the contrast even more obvious. As Magwitch is about to die Pip tells him about Estella "She lived and found powerful friends. She is living now. She is a lady and very beautiful. And I love her!". "he raised my hand to his lips"; "no better words that I could say beside his bed, than 'O Lord, be merciful to him a sinner!". These acts and words show the deep affection they both have for each other. Magwitch seems to find comfort in the fact that his daughter is well and is for filled with the bond Pip has with her, maybe the ending he would have liked. This is the summit of their friendship. In the novel, at first, we are repelled by Magwitch's coarse appearance and rough habits but as we learn of his awful brutal life we become more sympathetic towards him. His pride in the gentleman he has created in Pip is touching. Later in the plot Pip notices that his character softens and he forms a strong affection for the convict. Magwitch feels that Pip is a replacement for the child he lost. Moving scenes such as the one were Pip tells Magwitch that his daughter (Estella) is alive and a beautiful lady increasingly alters reader's first opinions of the convict that was on the marshes. The character is in many ways a metaphor for Charles Dickens's feelings and thoughts of his own father in real life; who was a victim of the justice system being imprisoned for debt. By Obadiah Morrissey ...read more.

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