Throughout the novel Great Expectations the reader will find that Magwitch plays a significant role to the plot of story. Not only does Dickens use Magwitch to form the main foundation of the story he also uses the character to convey Dickens’s view on important themes such as crime, punishment, social status and betrayal. In this presentation I will explore the ways in which Magwitch is presented and talk about and his significance in the novel. We are first introduced to Magwitch in chapter one.
The reader becomes familiar with the character Pip; we learn he is a child who is alone in the graveyard and is mourning over the death of his family. The reader knows that not only would this upset Pip, it could make him feel frightened because as a child you are dependant on your family members to keep you safe. He makes it sound as if Pip was recalling what it felt like to be a child, like when we get the impression that he could have been exaggerating about wilderness and so on before him.
An image is described, such as ‘the low leaden line beyond’ and this then is revealed as what it actually is; the river.
This gives the effect that not only Pip is confused and lost by his surroundings but also and therefore scared and intimidated by them. Dickens delivers Pip’s emotions cleverly because there is no direct reference to how he is feeling at first. This is very good building up to the shock of first meeting Magwitch. The writer uses direct speech for his first words, which come out suddenly, at no particular starting point and with impression that they are loud! He says ‘Hold your noise. ‘ which sounds at first so abrupt it could be almost like he is trying to save Pip, that he fears for Pip too.
We then read on to see how Magwitch is presented physically. He is wet and muddy, and is described as being stung by nettles, so he obviously does not look after himself properly. He is shivering and limping, so he may be unwell as well as cold. His shoes are broken and he has no hat or proper clothes which shows he cannot afford them. He has a very informal way of speaking, and is eager to see the scrap of food he finds on Pip, so this also shows that he is poor and working class. This could be because, or the results of being a criminal. The first chapter is important; we now know exactly what Magwitch looks like and how he is presented.
As mentioned in the introduction, Magwitch is significant in the plot. The fact that he appears in the very first chapter makes us assume he is a main character, even though he does not reappear until later in the book when the reader either has completely forgotten about him or thinks it is very unlikely that he will appear again with the current story line, especially as at the end of chapter three it says ‘the last I ever heard of him. ‘ When he does make his unexpected reappearance in Chapter thirty-nine, he reveals news that causes him to become the centre of almost every aspect of the story line.
By the end of Chapter fifty-four and when mysteries are revealed and loose ends tied we come to realise that Magwitch is somehow connected to every character. Pip, obviously because of the money he gives that cause him to become wealthy and middle-class. His lost past with Molly and Estella, his daughter, who was adopted by Miss Haversham. Also he is connected to Joe because it was his whittles and file he used to set him free. Perhaps he is connected to Mrs Joe because he murdered her. When Magwitch dies during chapter fifty-six, it impacts the plot and the characters, especially Pip.
Magwitch influences other characters, especially Pip and sometimes they influence him too. Had it not been for Magwitch the way people behaved may have been very different! We do not know much about Pip before he meets Magwitch, but afterwards we find him to be cautious, for example how nervous he was when he meets Miss Haversham. This could have been a lasting effect from his fears upon first meeting Magwitch. Pip may have been so shocked by the way that the poor lived that he becomes even more determined to become a gentleman. It gave him an insight to the lives of the very poor.
In chapter three Magwitch seems to wait all night just for the food Pip has brought him. Pip may have recognised his determination and perhaps used this will when he is seeking Estella as his wife later during the book. Magwitch may have been so grateful towards Pip that it made him feel like he should try and become a better person. Both Pip and Magwitch taught each other that you should not always be judgmental. For Pip, it was that he was at first very afraid of Magwitch and thought he was going to be scary. Later on he realises that he only was behaving in a threatening way because he was hungry and desperate for food.