What are differences between Miss Havisham and Magwitch in Great Expectations?

Miss Havisham comes from a much more socially respectable family than Magwitch. Though somewhat eccentric, Miss Havisham is highly regarded on account of her wealth and social position; nothing could be further from the truth for Magwitch. He's a convict who can never truly take his place in respectable society, but if he can't, then he's determined that Pip will. That's why he makes the young man such a generous bequest, which enables him to pursue the life of a gentleman about town in London.

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Miss Havisham comes from a much more socially respectable family than Magwitch. Though somewhat eccentric, Miss Havisham is highly regarded on account of her wealth and social position; nothing could be further from the truth for Magwitch. He's a convict who can never truly take his place in respectable society,...

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Miss Havisham comes from a much more socially respectable family than Magwitch. Though somewhat eccentric, Miss Havisham is highly regarded on account of her wealth and social position; nothing could be further from the truth for Magwitch. He's a convict who can never truly take his place in respectable society, but if he can't, then he's determined that Pip will. That's why he makes the young man such a generous bequest, which enables him to pursue the life of a gentleman about town in London.

Even though Magwitch himself becomes rich and successful after he emigrates to Australia, he's still an outsider, someone who doesn't really belong in contemporary English society. Somewhat ironically, Miss Havisham does belong, despite the fact that she's locked herself away from society all these years since she was cruelly jilted on her wedding day. Although society may be changing, it seems that blood and breeding still matter. This gives Miss Havisham a pass to indulge in devious, manipulative behavior, whereas Magwitch, the hardened ex-convict, shows himself to be much more open, honest, and decent, despite his past criminal actions.

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In many ways, Magwitch and Miss Havisham are similar. They are both patrons to a young person. Miss Havisham raises the beautiful Estella as her protégé, and Magwitch is Pip's secret benefactor. They want to instill in their protégés the qualities they never had but always wanted—Miss Havisham wants Estella to be a powerful seductress, while Magwitch wants Pip to be a gentleman.

However, Magwitch is a convict who comes from a very low social status and a humble background, while Miss Havisham is a wealthy and pampered woman. In addition, Magwitch, despite his criminal past, wants the best for Pip and is a true friend, while Miss Havisham does not care for Pip and is not on his side. Pip at first believes that Miss Havisham is his benefactor until he learns that it is really the convict Magwitch who has given him a fortune.

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These characters actually have a great deal of similarities in their role as substitute parents: both "adopt" a child in the form of Estella and Pip, and both do so for their own selfish purposes. Both do this because of the ways in which they have been hurt by others in the past. Both are characters who are therefore, if not necessarily evil, at least morally dubious in terms of their motives. However, at the same time, it is clear that they are very different in terms of their background and experience. Miss Havisham, for example, has always known great wealth and was born into a position of high class and fortune that she has enjoyed all of her life. Magwitch, by contrast, when the reader first confronts him, has sunk as low as he can possibly go, as an escaped convict. Note how Pip describes him in Chapter 1:

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. 

What is so interesting about this description is that it captures the fear that Magwitch inspired in Pip, but it also shows the more adult Pip, looking back at what he saw as a child, through the later description of Magwitch as rather a pitiful man. The later sentences evoke pity and sympathy rather than fear and loathing. Thus one of the key differences between these two characters is their background, and the poverty and hardship that Magwitch has experienced, which is completely different to that of Miss Havisham. 

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