What kind of lawyer is Jaggers?Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, Mr. Jaggers is modeled after a notoriously unscrupulous lawyer for whom Dickens worked that was also rude and abrupt.  In Chapter XI of the novel, Mr. Jaggers is described by Pip,

He was a burly man of an exceedingly dark complexion, with an exceedingly large head.  He took my chin in his large hand and turned up my face to have a look at me by the light of the candle....His eyes were set very deep in his head, and were disagreeably sharp and suspicious.....

"Boy of the neighborhood? Hey?" said he.

"....How do you come here?"

"Miss havisham sent for me, sir," I explained.

"Well! Behave yourself.  I have a pretty large experience of boys, and you're a bad set of fellows.  Now mind!" said he, biting the side of his great forefinger, as he frowned at me, "you behave yourself!"

Later, when Jaggers comes to tell Pip that he is to have "great expectations," he is quite abrupt in his announcements.  When he asks Pip if he has any objections to the stipulations of his good fortune such as keeping the name of Pip and Pip replies that he does not, Mr. Jaggers snaps, "I should think not!" and rudely tells Pip before Joe,

Well, Mr. Pip, I think the sooner you leave her, the better...You can take a hackney coach...in London, and come straight to me.

Then, in Chapter XXXVI when Pip is called to Mr. Jaggers's office, Pip asks Jaggers to convey his gratitude to his benefactor, but Jaggers says, "I am not paid to carry your words to anyone." 

That he is unscrupulous is apparent in his conversation with Pip in Chapter XL when Pip confronts him about Magwitch's being his benefactor.  When Pip declares that he is not so unreasonable as to hold Mr. Jaggers responsible for his misconception that Miss Haisham has been his benefactor, Jaggers retorts,

Not a particle of evidence, Pip....Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence.  There's no better rule.

As Pip continues to inquire about Magwitch, Jaggers tells him to "be careful" and not to "commit anyone."  And, when Pip mentions Magwitch's name, Jaggers insists each time, "This is the man in New South Wales" because if he admits that Magwitch is in London, then he must report this fact to authorities.  Also, when Pip says he wants to verify what he has been told, Jaggers says without looking at Pip,

"But did you say 'told' or 'informed'?  Told would seem to imply verbal communication. You can't have verbal conversation with a man in New South Wales, you know."


pohnpei397 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

If you want to get a lot about Jaggers in just one place, you should look at Chapter XX of the book.  You can find out a great deal about Jaggers in that chapter.

I guess the most obvious thing to say about Jaggers is that he is a criminal lawyer -- not a lawyer who is concerned with contracts and wills and such.  A second thing to say is that he is seen by many of the criminals of London as the best lawyer that they can possibly hope to have.  A quote from Chapter XX:

There was a knot of three men and two women standing at a corner, and one of the women was crying on her dirty shawl, and the other comforted her by saying, as she pulled her own shawl over her shoulders, "Jaggers is for him, 'Melia, and what more could you have?"

The last thing I would say is that Jaggers does not seem to be a kind-hearted man.  He does not seem to really sympathize with his clients.  You can see this in Chapter XX in the way that he treats the "two secret men."

"Very well; then you may go. Now, I won't have it!" said Mr Jaggers, waving his hand at them to put them behind him. "If you say a word to me, I'll throw up the case."

You can see here how he treats them arrogantly...

So, you can say he is a very successful criminal lawyer who kind of looks down on his clients.

lit24 | Student

Jaggers is an 'attorney' -  this designation was abolished by the Judicature Act of 1873, by which all 'attorneys' came to be known as 'solicitors.' In Ch. 48  when Wemmick describes to Pip how Jaggers saved Molly from being hanged it is implied that he can act as an advocate only in the lower courts.

As a 'legal eagle' Jaggers is cold, clinical and professional. His skill as a resourceful and intelligent lawyer is best seen in Ch.18 when he humiliates the pompous Mr.Wopsle and exposes his stupidity.

He is a sort of a folk hero who enjoys tremendous respect and fear among the London underworld. More than anything else he is an absolutely reliable person which can be seen from the fact that both Magwitch and Miss Havisham are completely dependent on him when it comes to handling their legal matters.

Read the study guide:
Great Expectations

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question