Abel Magwitch Essay

Abel Magwitch

Character Analysis

Magwitch—the thief with a heart of gold—never had a chance. His first memory is of stealing turnips (which is just sad—not only does he have to steal food as a kind, but he has to steal turnips), and it never really gets better. He has a rap sheet a mile long; he's been in and out of juvie; and eventually he gets shipped off to Australia, where England used to send its convicts. It's no surprise to anyone that he ends up dying in jail.

But what happens in between—well, that is a little surprising. Because he makes a fortune—and he gives it all to the little boy who brought him food years ago on the marsh.

Self-Made Man

Let's get this out of the way. Magwitch is gross. He's dirty, sloppy, and rude, eating "in a ravenous way that was very disagreeable, and all his actions were uncouth, noisy, and greedy" (40.46). He's missing some teeth, and even in the clothes of a "prosperous farmer" he looks like a "Prisoner, Felon, Bondsman" (40.107).

But—and bear with us—we have to admire him. He teaches himself to read and write, and, unlike any other wealthy character in the book, he's a self-made man. He gets rich through hard work and "living rough" (and probably a little bit of good luck, too). And everything he gets, he gives to Pip.

Daddy Magwitch

He even thinks of Pip as a son, or as "more to me nor any son" (39.67). We get the first hint that he might be more than a hardened criminal at the very beginning of the novel, on the marsh, when he thanks Pip for bringing him food and "smear[s] his ragged rough sleeve over his eyes" (21).

But no matter what, Magwitch isn't a gentleman—partly because he still believes that gentlemanliness is something that can be bought. He tells Pip that "If I ain't a gentleman, nor yet ain't got no learning, I'm the owner of such. All on you owns stock and land; which on you owns a brought-up London gentleman?" (39.78). In other words, Magwitch thinks of Pip as "his" gentleman, just as Pip thinks of Magwitch as "his" convict.

Only, here's the thing: if Magwitch had never revealed himself to Pip, wouldn't that be more or less true? Pip would never know that his fortune came from a criminal, and he really would be a gentleman. It's almost like a money laundering scheme: by pouring his wealth into Pip, Magwitch would be cleaning up his money and leaving a gentlemanly legacy.

The dirty little secret is that a lot of so-called "gentlemen" in the nineteenth century really did come from less-than-savory ancestors; that's part of a long history of the word "gentleman" coming to mean someone who acts a certain way rather than someone who belongs to a certain class. Magwitch is doing just what any other socially mobile hard-working man would do—trying to make sure his son just a little better educated and little classier than he is.

He may be an uncouth criminal, but he really is like a father to Pip, and he really does make Pip into a gentleman. In some ways, he's an even better father than Joe. And he really is a father, too: one of the book's big surprises is that Magwitch is Estella's dad. Whoa!

Great Expectations - Miss Havisham and Abel Magwitch are Living through Others

1084 Words5 Pages

Great Expectations - Miss Havisham and Abel Magwitch are Living through Others

In the work Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens, two characters live their lives through someone else. Miss Havisham and Abel Magwitch are both elderly and though someone else are able to obtain their goals that they are not able to complete themselves. Abel Magwitch lives his life through the protagonist Pip while Miss Havisham lives her life through the character Estella. Miss Havisham is an aged, mysterious lady who has much anger. This anger derives from her fiancée leaving the day of the wedding. This is the moment when she
"stopped living" and decides to turn to a life of making other men miserable, just as her ex-fiancée had made her…show more content…

Pip is unable to comprehend that Miss Havisham is desperate to destroy men's lives and Estella cannot change the way she is. It is also apparent that Miss Havisham uses Estella to break men's hearts when Miss Havisham asks Estella about how many hearts she has broken. Many times Estella tries to explain to Pip that she is incapable of loving him. One time she says, "We have no choice, you and I, but to obey our instructions. We are not free to follow our own devices, you and I." (266). Estella comprehends that she is a puppet in what is considered a "greater plan." She is not free to do what she pleases because she is under Miss Havisham's influence and her instructions to break hearts and not to care about the feelings and pain she brings. Hence, Miss Havisham lived through Estella in order to hurt as many men as possible.

In Great Expectations, the male character, by the name of Abel
Magwitch, also lives his life through someone else. The character he lives his life through is Pip. When Pip first receives word that he has great expectations to be a gentleman, his guardian is completely unknown until Pip is twenty-three and Abel Magwitch tells his protégé that he, the convict Pip met at the marshes, is the man who gave Pip the opportunity to become a gentleman. When Magwitch first tells Pip he is his benefactor he

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