How do you think Dickens wants the reader to respond to Magwitch?at the beginning: negatively at the end: positively

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I am not too sure I agree entirely with #2. We need to remember that throughout this novel there are two Pips who narrate: the younger Pip, and then the older Pip who writes looking back on his experiences with greater maturity and wisdom. Even in the first chapter, I believe it is possible that the older Pip is presenting Magwitch as a pitiful figure who is worthy of our sympathy. Note the following quote and how it presents Magwitch initially through the eyes of the young Pip, and then moves on to a more mature reflection on his state:

A fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg. A man with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his head. A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; who limped, and shivered, and glared, and growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin.

Yes, through Pip's eyes as a child, we can see how Magwitch is presented as a terrifying figure who bullies him into stealing for him, but at the same time we must not be blind to how Dickens presents Magwitch as a pitiful figure who is worthy of our sympathy. Note the repetition of "and... and..." to reinforce this. There is far more evidence in this quote to present Magwitch as a figure who we should feel sorry for than a figure of terror.

vangoghfan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Here are some links that may be useful in showing how people have in fact responded to Magwitch:
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Consulting these discussions may help you generate some further ideas of your own and may also lead you in the direction of still further discussions.


mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As a social reformer, Dickens portrays Magwitch as a victim of society.  Really,there is little that is meant to be negative about Magwitch.  In fact, Dickens's use of such a paradoxical name suggests that there is something more to his character as he first appears on the marsh.  Intrinsically, Magwitch is a good person:  He apologizes to Joe for having stolen the meat pie; he becomes choked up by Pip's gratuitous kindness to him ("something clicked in his throat") when he has been treated like a "warmit" all his life.  He repays Pip's kindness a hundred fold as he saves his money in New South Wales so that Pip can become a gentleman and escape the misery that he himself has experienced.  The love that permeates every action and word of Magwitch is what causes Pip to finally recognize the goodness in the man and pity him his miserable life.

Magwitch exemplifies the injustice of the Victorian society as the rich man who is truly evil, Compeyson, has received less of a sentence than the poor, exploited man, Magwitch.  Indeed, Magwitch is a character through which Dickens castigates the judicial system of his country.

Karen P.L. Hardison eNotes educator| Certified Educator

There is much in Dickens' portrayal of Magwich that inspires compassion. This is in sympathy with Dickens' general stance of compassion and sympathy toward any who lived life in such a way as to make them worthy of the redemption symbolized in Dickens' works by deportation to any one of the colonies. Magwich is a fearful sight to Pip as a boy but, still, Pip's response is one that combine terror with kindness and help.

In another vein, Dickens sets Magwich up as an object lesson and a moral lesson. His way of life made the fertile the ground upon which Miss Havisham raised Estella to her particularly deadly bloom. As Dickens is a moralist, one intention is that readers respond to Magwich as they would to any moral lesson in life: "I shall do better than was previously done."

litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator
I think Dickens wants us to confront our stereotypes and prejudices. I don't think that he necessarily wants us to negatively respond at the beginning, although his cartoonishly violent portrayal of Magwitch would seem tow revolt the reader. I think he expects us to respond negatively. By demonstrating all that Magwitch does for Pip, and the hardships and bad luck he's had though he has a generous and good nature, we realize that things are not always as they seem. We should not judge people harshly based on only a small amount of information.
kiwi eNotes educator| Certified Educator

We follow Pip's assertions of Magwitch as we see him through Pip's eyes. Initially he is a rough character, but with an air of vulnerability. He is the menacing convict on the marshes, threatening yet desperate. We assume, like Pip, that Magwitch is unlikely to have anything to offer Pip, and he is not even considered as the benefactor. We learn the painful truth about our prejudicial class assumptions along with Pip: that Magwitch is as likely as anyone to want to care for someone who has helped them in a time of need.

pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Yes, I believe that that is exactly how Dickens is trying to get us to respond to Magwitch.  I think that he portrays Magwitch in a negative way at first because he wants us to have no idea that Magwitch could be the benefactor and because he wants to make the benefactor be someone who is in no way respectable.  Then, by the end, Dickens wants us to see Magwitch in a positive light because he wants to show us that even people who are from a very poor background can actually be good people.

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Great Expectations

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