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. “’You look wet, and you look weary. Will you drink something before you go?’” is something Pip asks his convict which at first sounds very friendly and welcoming, but in actual fact the sympathetic-sounding phrase is Pip’s attempt to express “that I wished him gone.” Pip is completely overwhelmed with “abhorrence”, “dread” and “repugnance” for him, all of these powerful words Dickens uses to emphasise the utter horror that Pip has for the man. It highlights the true affect that Magwitch has had on Pip’s childhood and the significance that this character is having on Pip now, leaving the reader questioning the effect that he will have later on in the novel.
In comparison, as the novel progresses to chapter 54, Pip is touched by Magwitch’s fondness towards him, it is clear to see a great change in his feelings and attitude towards his convict. Instead, all indications of horror have been substituted for only sheer concern and care for the old convict as Pip is determined to be “wholly set on Provis’s safety”. The worry and dedication that Pip has is truly sincere with him showing apprehension at even the smallest of things which indicate that his benefactor is in danger as he exclaims “What was that ripple!” The extremes that Pip takes to protect Magwitch are almost reflective of how Magwitch had sacrificed so much for him and “put away money, only for you to spend”. His attitude towards Magwitch has developed and he uses a gentler approach as opposed to using barbaric imperatives as before: “Stay!” and “Keep off!” which may have been Pip’s way of expressing his higher class, he instead puts that aside and “begged him to remain in a sheltered place”, there is a great difference here as he has distinguished Magwitch as his priority and an evident change in his attitude can be seen.
During the course of Chapter 39, Magwitch is presented as a loving character to Pip who displays great consideration for the young man. As his benefactor, it is well known that Magwitch funded Pip’s education and rise to the higher social class as he expresses with great joy and pride “Yes, Pip, dear boy, I’ve made a gentleman on you! It’s me wot has don it!” Magwitch expresses a great excitement in this fact and filled with an “incomprehensible air being touched and pleased by the sight of me” as he admires the gentleman that he has created. Arguably, Magwitch is presented as a selfish character that has chosen to embed his own pride onto an innocent Pip but it can also be seen as Magwitch living his life again through Pip. Magwitch as a convict, realises that he is not worthy of becoming a gentleman and so decides to give the opportunity to “Noble, Pip.” His relationship and decision to do so is built from the gratefulness that he has for the young boy who fed him after his first escape in Chapter 1and now helping him to escape from danger, it appears as though Pip is always there in his hour of need. Magwitch clearly recognises this and expresses his gratification to the “Faithful dear boy, well done. Thankye, Thankye!” Throughout the rest of the novel, Magwitch presents himself very much as the father figure to Pip who is caring and compassionate as he “clap me on the shoulder… and that he was reassuring me” and “holding out both hands to me and put them to his lips” as to embrace is son. These actions all reinforce the idea that Magwitch believes that “I’m your second father” which is perhaps his opportunity to channel what he would do for his lost child onto Pip, who we later know to be Estella.
Dickens has constructed Magwitch to play an essential role in the novel as he not only acts as a benefactor for Pip but also to provoke a response to Magwitch’s adoration which assists Pip in his bildungsroman. It is Magwitch’s treating of Pip “affectionately, gratefully and generously towards me”, as well as his display of warmth for Pip which finally allows Pip to see “in him a much better man than I had been to Joe.” This is essentially, the moral message of Pip’s life, with Pip as the hero; “Great Expectations” is the bildungsroman which follows his long journey to learn the important message of appreciating and loving those around him. Magwitch is a very important part of this story as he helps Pip to realise this by displaying unconditional love to him thus making his character all the more significant.
In conclusion, Magwitch is certainly a very important character within “Great Expectations” who plays a crucial role in Pip’s social mobility as well as his bildungsroman. He is a hugely significant character who aids Pip’s journey back to his humble beginnings and Pip himself, grateful for all his sacrifice is eventually able to overcome the horror of the convict and to accept his affectionate benefactor.