Analysis of a Scene From Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
Length: 1827 words (5.2 double-spaced pages)
I have chosen to look at how the relationship of Pip and Magwitch develops during the novel. I have chosen 3 key scenes in which Magwitch and pip meet and I will look at how each is portrayed in terms of character, development, setting and the messages or morals that dickens is trying to convey.
Magwitch first meets pip at the graveyard on the marshes, from this we see that pip is a lonely child, who has lost his mother and father. Magwitch threatens to kill pip and " rip out his heart and liver" unless pip obeys Magwitch's orders to bring him some "wittles" and drink for him. The relationship as it first blossomed is full of fear and terror and we pick up immediately that Magwitch is in control of the situation, yet there is still the fear lingering over him being seen or handed over to the authorities if Magwitch made any mistake to be seen by anyone else, or if pip told somebody else where he was. Pip and Magwitch's first meeting place is highly ironic, because pip is visiting his parents graves and then ironically Magwitch turns up, who will later be pips benefactor and will act and play the role of Pip's surrogate farther. Pathetic fallacy is used in this graveyard scene as it is set in the marshes at the dead of night with " the cold air whipping" around them, to resemble the scary emotions that pip feels when he is being threatened by Magwitch pip passes a gibbet on the marshes which is also ironic as when Magwitch comes back to see pip later on it the novel there is the fear that he might be hanged. It also sets the setting to resemble death. The night black sky also will resemble death and deep dark fears. The graveyard is a " bleak over grown place, with nettles" the description makes the scene scarier, and the overgrown weeds could be where others are hiding. The setting is very gothic, in true Victorian style and when contemanoray readers read this they were automatically prepared for something unpleasant to happen. When Magwitch orders pip to get him some food and a drink for him from where he lived or where he could, pip could take the advantage of this situation, and tell the authorities or tell his guardians, but he doesn't.
Dickens's disproved off capital punishment and felt that the homeless and hungry as Magwitch had been as a child) should be cared for, not punished. Pip then risks getting himself punished and steals the pork pie and gets the drink and the file that Magwitch has asked for, he does this purely out of fear for what Magwitch might do to him if he doesn't. When he goes to meet Magwitch back up at the marshes to give him his food Magwithch takes this gesture of obeying his orders as a gesture of loyalty and kindness. When pip is running through the cow fields to get to the marshes, he has hallucinations that the cows are talking to him and shouting " thief" at him. This scene breaks up the scary atmosphere of the marshes and Magwitch to a slightly comedic scene. However the tension is brought back when pip enters the graveyard and bumps into Compeyson ( the man who Magwitch had threatened would do so much more harm to pip than Magwitch ever could) this is another threat and another reason why pip obeyed Magwitch. When pip gives Magwitch the food we see that he drops to the floor and eats it and grovels the food like a dog, further gaining pips revulsion but also pity. This pity is further enhanced by the scene in which Magwitch is arrested and owns up ( to protect pip) to having stolen the pie and file . Joe is moved to say : " your welcome to it we wouldn't have you starve to death for it, poor miserable fellow creature" Joe is really speaking as a mouthpiece for dickens beliefs here.
When Magwitch gets taken away by the authorities he wants to repay pip for his kindness. This is why he sacrifices everything he has later on so that pip can benefit from Magwitch's fortune because of pips kind and loyal gestures towards him .
Later on the novel Pip and Magwitch meet again ( in chapter 39) at Pips flat in London. Although this meeting is in a different location dickens links the two together stylistically by the use of pathetic fallacy. " wretched weather, stormy and wet mud, mud,mud" the repetition of the word is helping to create a gothic setting again to make us think back to the scene at the marshes and jump to conclusion that something unpleasant might happen when they meet again, also makes us think about Magwitch.
When Magwitch arrives all pip has to light his passage way was a "reading lamp" this is also reminding us back to the marshes as he cannot
see properly and he is looking through the darkness and fog to try and see Magwitch, as he was doing in the graveyard. When pip first see's Magwitch he does not recognise him for being the same convict that he met years ago, and then when he does not see his reason for being there " pray what is your business". Pip doesn't make the effort to Magwitch feel at home, and feels quite intimidated and scared by his presence. When Magwitch takes Pips hands as a symbol of gratitude Pip "laid a hand upon his breast and put him away," showing no sign of sympathy or understandings of his presence. Magwhich ignores Pip's obvious feelings of disapproval and resentment " will u have a drink before you leave" and continues to ask pip personal questions of how he has made his fortune. After pip tells him in brief that he had been so fortunate to inherit a small fortune. Magwitch continues to ask Pip questions that he already iknows that answer to, so that pip will find out that Magwitch is his benefactor. Infront of every question in which Magwitch asks pip he says, " might a mere warmint ask " this is Magwitch's sign of showing respect for pip, by calling himself a "mere warmint". Magwitch finishes all his questions and when pip realises that Magwitch is his benefactor he finds himself disappointed that he was not destined to be with Estella has he had wished and he realises the " disappointments, dangers, disgrace, consequences of all kinds" of finding out that this "substantially dressed" convict had made him the gentlemen who he was today. Magwicth repulses pip and when " he laid his hand on my shoulder I shuddered at the thought that for anything I knew, his hand might be stained with blood." Pip is very stunned and scared of his thoughts and feelings towards Magwitch, " oh that he had never come" however when pip finds out that Magwitch has risked the death sentence just to come and see his " dear boy" pips feeling we see change slightly and we sense that he feels more sympathy yet worry for Magwitch, he feels as though it his now his duty to help his benefactor as he helped in so much, so he feeds him and lets him sleep in Herbets bed for the night, assuring him that no one will see him , he "was to close the shutter, so that no light might have been scene from without" . Pip's heart however is broken as he realises that he was not destined to marry Estella atall, not now he knows that Magwitch his is benefactor. Pip is terrified of his new situation that is his responsibility and Pip looks in on the convict, who is sleeping with a gun on his pillow for safety and his own protection, and then locks the doors and falls asleep in his own room. Throughout the whole of this scene Magwitch refers to pip as " dear boy" this is an affectionate sign , Magwicth alos tells pip " im your second father and you're my son" this shows us how much Magwitch really does care for pip. We learn that pip also begins to respect and appreciate Magwitch and his actions.
The last scene that I have chosen is the scene in which Magwicth is lying on his death bed in prison very injures and he "had broken two ribs, they had wounded one of his lungs, he breathed with great pain and difficulty". This makes us feel sorry for this convict who has risked everything to come and see pip and tell him of his good news, and he has now been sentenced to death. Pip says his last few words to him with a lump in his throat. Throughout this chapter we see Magwitch become weaker and weaker. As Magwitch's trial becomes nearer, we see that pip really does care for Magwitch and when he speaks to Magwitch he shows that he enjoys being there " yes, not to lose a moment of the time" this being the time in which the prison allows pip to spend with Magwicth. On the tenth visit, pip notices a large physical change in Magwitch , a change which defiantly wasn't good. Pip see's this noticeable change and seizes his opportunity to tell Magwitch what he had wanted to tell him for a long time. Pip tells him about Estella being his long lost daughter and the woman who pip loves. Magwitch does not say anything for pip to realise that he is understanding everything, instead he lies there gently, but applies " gentle pressure on my hand" indicating that he his understanding and attentively listening to pip. That last words that pip would have ever said to Magwitch about Estella was " I love her" this would have filled Magwitch's heart, and we see that even though he is in pain and is in jail, that he has died with a smile of happiness in his heart. " O lord, be merciful to him, a sinner" this is pip praying to god for him to see the good points of Magwicth instead of punishing him, as dickens did not believe in punishing the needy, instead he believed in caring for them. This shows us how pip is a mouthpiece for dickens. And if we may have disliked pip for being a "snob" and abandoning his uncle Jo , and not seeing Magwitch's good intentions at first, we now feel like he is an understanding and charming man.