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In Chapter 56, the scene about the death sentencing is set in the month of April....

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sandydd | Student, Grade 9 | (Level 1) Honors

Posted December 21, 2008 at 4:44 AM via web

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In Chapter 56, the scene about the death sentencing is set in the month of April. Explain the irony in Dicken's choice.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted December 21, 2008 at 11:44 AM (Answer #1)

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Spring has historically, geologically, and figuratively always been the season of birth, rebirth, youth, and life, not death.  Ironically,in Chapter 56 of "Great Expectations," Magwitch dies in April after moments of "sun striking in at the great windows of the court through the gliterring drops of rain...." This observation of Pip's about the weather is, however, symbolic of Magwitch's life.  That is, for the most part, his was a life of gloom and being rained upon by a society that Charles Dickens himself perceived as a prison.  Because he was common, Magwitch was given the more stringent sentence although Compeyson, the son of a gentleman was far more culpable as the instigator of the crime of stealing from Miss Havisham whom he also falsely seduced. 

Neverthelss, the sun striking in the great windows was able to "Make a broad shaft of life."  For Magwitch the "shaft of life" in his miserable existence was the little orphan boy who reminded him of himself, the boy whom he endowed with his fortune for a simple act of kindness years ago.  On his death bed, Magwitch tells Pip, 

 You've been more comfortable alonger me since I was under a dark cloud than when the sun shone.  That's best of all.

On another visit, Magwitch looks at Pip and says, "I don't compain none, dear boy."  These are his last words as Magwitch dies, yet, ironically, by dying the old prisoner is finally freed, the rejected of society is finally loved and accepted.

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