Why has the convict made Pip a gentleman?This question is for chapter XXXIX of Great Expectations

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In his novella, The Secret Sharer, Joseph Conrad's narrator declares that "meaning depends upon sharing."  Certainly, in the case of Magwitch, a gamin of the streets of London, a thief and an accomplice of Compeyson, a man without anyone to love him, a man with no home, a convict so forlorn that when a little boy commiserates with him about his chills, he clings to this caring thought and holds it as much more meaningful than it is.  So, when he has the good fortune of being given a sheep rancher's wealth, Magwitch wishes to share it with the one person in his life who has shown him some kindness.  For, to share this wealth lends it meaning.  To groom a poor boy not too unlike himself, lends something worthwhile to Magwitch's tragic life. 

Yes, Pip, dear boy, I've made a gentleman on you! It's me wot has done it! I swore that time, sure as ever I earned a guinea, that guinea should go to you. I swore arterwards, sure as ever I spec'lated and got rich, you should get rich. I lived rough, that you should live smooth; I worked hard that you should be above work. What odds, dear boy? Do I tell it fur you to feel a obligation? Not a bit. I tell it, fur you to know as that there hunted dunghill dog wot you kep life in, got his head so high that he could make a gentleman—and, Pip, you're him!”

That he, a lowly "dunghill dog" of the streets of London could be responsible for a young gentleman's success somehow vindicates Magwitch and gives him some pride and sense of self-worth.  For, he feels that he must be worth something since a gentleman is the product of his sponsorship.  Having Pip as a gentleman vindicates Magwitch; this situation gives him something to be proud of, and it gives him something to live for as Pip becomes the son he has never had.

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Great Expectations

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