Defining Magwitch in Great Expectations Essay

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Defining Magwitch in Great Expectations

Great Expectations was written in the era of Queen Victoria;
ironically a time of great progress and prosperity. Sadly, this was
not the case for all. Education benefited the rich. As a result, there
was a huge gap between the rich and the poor. The justice system was
harsh, favouring the rich, two hundred men and women were put before
the judge to be sentenced to death every week. It is clear that
Dickens reflects on the society of the time, and shows the unjust,
class divided society Magwitch was a part of and the need to reform a
legal system which treated this man so unjustly.

Knowing Magwitch grew up in this brutal society, it isn't surprising
that our initial impressions are built around the fact he is a
bloodthirsty villain and not very trustworthy. Initially though, he's
a coward, threatening Pip "keep still or I'll cut your throat" which
gives us the impression that he is an aggressive individual who is
willing to pick on a harmless child. His animal characteristics prove
that he wasn't brought up very well and that he can't have been
treated very well over the years, "he glared and growled" which likens
him to a dog. He resorts to cruelty by saying another convict is
hiding with him and then he threatens to kill Pip, "I'll cut your
throat". When Magwitch is first described as a man "who had been
soaked in water, and smothered in mood," we feel a little sympathy
towards him because he is obviously in poor health.

Although Magwitch is portrayed as an unpleasant man throughout the
text, there is a hint of kindness in his cold character and our
feelings about him begin to change. U...

... middle of paper ...

much more of a gentleman and he became far more understanding of Joe
and his origins. This is hardly the behaviour of a criminal.

It is obvious to everyone that Magwitch is in fact a victim of
society. Dickens intended us to have pity on Magwitch and to grow to
feel sorry for him. If he had had a decent childhood, then he might
have had a chance in life. He had a purpose in life, he just didn't
fulfil it. He is a criminal because as an orphan he had to steal to
survive and with no education jobs were unavailable so a life of crime
became a necessity. However, he has a strong sense of loyalty, justice
and compassion. If society had cared there is no doubt that he would
have succeeded. It is when Magwitch is placed alongside Compeyson that
the reality becomes clear. Magwitch is the victim, Compeyson the

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