"A warmint, dear boy" is the answer that Magwitch gives Pip when asked what he was brought up to be (305; ch. 40). This is what any person would expect from a man who has lived a life of crime. With further exploration, however, one will see that it is deeper than petty theft and prison. By using a character such as Magwitch, Dickens suggests the implications of using the Australian penal colonies as a way of rehabilitation for criminals. It is quite possible that Dickens has portrayed a view of penal colonies in a very positive way. After all, Magwitch is a successful, even famous, ex-convict who is responsible for Pip's wealth. By exploring the character Magwitch, one will have a better understanding of Dickens' views on Australian penal colonies.
Magwitch has lived the life of crime. It wasn't until he meets Pip, that he begins to change. The reason Magwitch was sent to the Botany Bay penal colony was for "putting stolen notes in circulation" (323; ch. 42). His companion, Compeyson, and chief engineer of the project was given a lesser sentence due to his education and wealthy appearance. Magwitch was not so lucky and was forced to endure the trials and tribulations of servitude in the penal colonies. Not much is mentioned in Great Expectations regarding the actual colonies. It is interesting, however, that Dickens would chose to include a character that is not simply killed but transported to vicious and cruel servitude that turned his life around. Magwitch's past criminal record would have fit the normal stereotype of criminals sent to the colonies. He had a past record before being tried on felony charges and would have been deemed un...
... middle of paper ...
...eturning from the penal colonies, Magwitch wants to start anew and chooses Pip as his benefactor.
Hence, the reader will see that the intentions of Dickens to portray a successful ex-convict of the penal system illuminates the idea that the penal colonies were a successful way of rehabilitating the trash of England. After all, Magwitch was rehabilitated, made an honest living, and tried to support a child who had helped him long ago. Dickens creates a character that could have possibly been used as a device to positively portray the Australian penal colonies.
Coles, Robert. "Charles Dickens and the Law." Virginia Quarterly Review 59 (1983): 564-586.
Collins, Phillip. Dickens and Crime. New York: St. Martin's, 1962.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Ed. Janice Carlisle. New York: St. Martin's P, 1996.
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