Explore the ways Dickens presents the relationship between Pip and Magwitch, with particular reference to Chapters 39 (2.10) and 54 (3.15)

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Joyce Chan

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Explore the ways Dickens presents the relationship between Pip and Magwitch, with particular reference to Chapters 39 (2.10) and 54 (3.15)

In Charles Dickens’ “Great Expectations”, Magwitch is a very important figure in Pip’s life as his secret benefactor, who is responsible for Pip’s life as a gentleman and essentially his “great expectations”. His role in the novel has great significance both at the very beginning, as the terrifying convict, as well as later on in the novel as Pip’s benefactor and eventual friend. During Magwitch’s later appearances in the novel, he is portrayed as a character who is only full of affection for Pip, in stark contrast to the cruel convict that he is in the beginning, however Pip who is still left with the terrifying childhood memories, responds to his kindness only with initial horror.

Throughout the whole novel, Dickens cleverly uses the weather and setting as a pathetic fallacy to represent as well as reflect the feelings of Pip towards Magwitch during his appearances. The sensation of disaster striking and a warning that pandemonium is approaching is created by the “wretched weather; stormy and wet, stormy and wet” which sets the scene for Magwitch’s arrival in Chapter 39 and the complete disgust that Pip is expecting. However, it is clear to see that the setting is much changed in Chapter 54 as the stormy scene is replaced with a much more favourable scenery where “sun shines hot and the wind blows cold” where its “summer in light, winter in shade” as they prepare to collect Magwitch on their planned escape. This pathetic fallacy is representative of Pip’s now softened feelings towards his benefactor, with the sunshine giving off impressions of a more positive atmosphere where Pip has now warmed to Magwitch and has a much gentler approach to him. The cold on the other hand helps to understand the worry and concern that Pip has for Magwitch’s safety over the course of the escape and is symbolic of the danger that Pip knows they will face.

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Primarily, the relationship between Magwitch and Pip is presented as one which is unrequited, where Pip rejects and despises the sheer affection that his benefactor expresses towards him, parallel to Pip’s unrequited love for Estella. His arrival is one which is horrifying to Pip and he makes it his every effort to dismiss “my convict” - a phrase which is possessive and relatable to child-like speech as it accurately reflects how Pip recalls the childhood memories of Magwitch’s torture in Chapter 1. Thus Pip feels a great repulsion towards him and comes across as having an impolite attitude towards Magwitch. ...

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