Discuss the role played by Magwitch in the life of Pip in Great Expectations.

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Magwitch, the “convict, ” plays a key role in Great Expectations, both thematically and plot-wise.  Magwitch is a simple and kind man in some ways, but is always on the wrong side of the law.  When Pip finds him and helps him, Magwitch is eternally grateful.  All he can think is that Pip has a good heart, and helped him when no one else would.  He is sentenced to go to Australia, where he actually does quite well for himself.

He makes a fortune that he sends home to Pip.  Everything he earns goes to making Pip a gentleman.  He sets Jaggers up to watch out for Pip, and swears him not to tell where the money comes from.  Pip assumes that Miss Havisham is setting him up to marry Estella.  Ironically, Estealla is Magwitch’s daughter.

Magwitch is pleased that Pip has become a gentleman.  He does not really see how miserable Pip seems to be.  He has fulfilled his life’s wish.  Returning to London is a huge risk, and if he returns he will be sentenced to death.  Instead, he is wounded in the attempted escape and dies of his injuries.  This incident gives Pip a chance to redeem his character.  When he first learns that Magwitch is his benefactor, Pip is revolted.  Yet he soon accepts it and actually begins to care for Magwitch.  This is the first step in Pip’s realizing that being a true gentleman has more to do with character than money.

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