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How does Dickens present Magwitch in the opening of Great Expectations?

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Introduction

How does Dickens present Magwitch in the opening of "Great Expectations"? Great Expectations is a semi-autobiographical novel written by Charles Dickens (1812 - 1870). It was first published in a magazine named All Year Round in the years 1860 - 1861. The action of the story takes place from Christmas Eve of 1812 to the winter of 1840. Great Expectations is an example of bildungsroman, it tells us about the early moral, psychological and intellectual development of the protagonist, Pip who represents Dickens. At the age of 12, Dickens' father was imprisoned for debt; this may have been Dickens' inspiration for the character Magwitch, an escaped convict. The first chapter is set in the graveyard where Pip is mourning the death of his parents and siblings, this creates a sad atmosphere. The setting also makes us sympathise for Pip as he is an orphan however it also make the reader wary of his surroundings. The description 'wilderness beyond the churchyard' suggests the graveyard is lonely and abandoned in the middle of nowhere. It gives the impression that beyond the graveyard there is a dark, open space where anything could be lurking in the shadows. ...read more.

Middle

However in this situation Pip is the one with power, he is the one who is choosing to provide food and a file for Magwitch yet he doesn't have to. This is an example of irony. At the end of the chapter Dickens creates an atmosphere that makes the reader feel sympathy for Magwitch. The quote 'clasping himself, as if to hold himself together' makes the reader feel sympathy for Magwitch as he is walking away, the words 'holding himself together' make Magwitch seem as though he is going to drop down dead any minute, it makes Pip and the reader feel sympathy towards Magwitch. It shows that Magwitch is deceiving as at first he was described as a controlling and powerful character however this description shows that Magwitch is a vulnerable and weak character. The adjectives 'numbed and stiff' contrast with the start of chapter one because Magwitch is portrayed as a powerful and strong character in the beginning of the novel through his threatening tone; however at the end of chapter one Magwitch is shown as a vulnerable and helpless character through his physical appearance. ...read more.

Conclusion

Dickens was influenced by his father to include Magwitch in Great Expectations; he also uses Magwitch to explore the relationship between morals and money. Dickens used the theme of social class well, as he shows Pip as a working class man who swiftly proceeds to become an upper class gentleman. Also Dickens shows Magwitch as a lower class convict who makes a lot of money. The readers feelings change because we sympathise for Pip at first because he is a helpless young boy whereas towards the end of the novel we see Pip feeling as though he is too good for the Blacksmith when he comes to visit, therefore the reader may feel as though Pip has changed into a man who looks down on people. Dickens also used the criminal theme well, we see Magwitch as a criminal who we think is a harmful character however the readers' feelings change because towards the end of the novel when we find out Magwitch is Pips benefactor, we see that Magwitch is a kind and thankful character. Dickens achieves the affect of bildungsroman too, as throughout the novel we saw Pip, the protagonist grow and develop socially, intellectually and psychologically. - 1 - ...read more.

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