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The second convict that Pip has seen on the marsh, Compeyson, exemplifies the corruption of the judicial system in Victorian England at his and Abel Magwitch's trial.
He is described by Magwitch in Chapter XLII of Great Expectations, a chapter in which Magwitch gives Pip and Herbert Pocket his past history. At Epsom races, the poor Magwitch met Compeyson:
He set up fur a gentleman, this Compeyson, and he'd been to a public boarding-school and had learning. He was a smooth one to talk, and was a dab at the ways of gentlefolks. He was good-looking too.
A swindler, forger, and trickster, Compeyson makes Magwitch his partner. Magwitch describes him further to Pip and Herbert,
All sorts of traps as Compeyson could set with his head, and let another man in for, was Compeyson's business. He'd no more heart than a iron file, he was as cold as death, and he had the head of the Devil.
Magwitch tells the young men that Miss Havisham's supposed fiance Arthur becomes mad after having extorted money from her and having planned the scam of Compeyson's pretending to marry her. But, the cold Compeyson "took it easy as a good riddance for both sides." Magwitch and Compeyson were busy as he got the old convict into "such nets" and made Magwitch "his slave." Then, Magwitch tells his listeners how Compeyson appeared to be such a gentleman while he was in rags when they were both put on trial. The old convict relates,
When the prosecution opened, I noticed how heavy it all bore on me, and how light on him. When the evidence was giv in the box, I noticed how it was always me that had come for'ard, and could be swore to, how it was always me....Bur when the defense come on, then I see the plain plainer; for, says the counselor for Compeyson, 'My lord and gentlemen, here you have afore you, side by side, two persons as your eyes can separate wide; one well brought up, one ill brought up.'
Exemplifying the injustice of the Victorian courts and how society itself is a prison for the poorer classes, the verdict against Compeyson, the gentleman, is half that dealt to Magwitch.
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