In Chapter 40, how does Magwitch's description of his behavior as "low" reveal about him?Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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“Look'ee here, Pip,” said he....I forgot myself half a minute ago. What I said was low; that's what it was; low. Look'ee here, Pip. Look over it. I ain't a going to be low.”

Abel Magwitch apologizes to Pip for having boasted that Pip will possess all the things that the owners in Australia have had, as well as those people who scorned him all his life from the judges "in their wigs," to the arrogant colonists.  Magwitch wishes for Pip to have wealth and be able to purchase whatever he likes for two reasons.  One reason is repayment for the young man's kindness so long ago.  Another reason is that through Pip, Abel Magwitch can be redeemed from merely being a vagabond.  By living vicariously through Pip, Abel Magwitch can feel that his pitiable life has not been so unworthy, after all.

Magwitch displays once again a sense of propriety that he exhibited so many years ago when he apologized to Joe for having eaten the family's meat pie.  Ironically, in some ways, Magwitch is himself a gentle man.  This is another of Dickens's methods of pointing to the frivolity of Pip's desire to be a gentleman when someone as lowly as Magwitch knows how to behave in a more gentlemanly fashion than Pip who neglects Joe and Biddy and, when he does see them, scolds Biddy.

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