Great Expectations By Charles Dickens
Chapter one and chapter fifty-six in Great Expectations are in
contrast with each other, they focus on the beginning and the end of
Pip's relationship with Magwitch.
I am going to investigate the change in the relationship between
Magwitch and Pip, and the possible reasons behind them.
Great Expectations focuses on Pip and we view the narrative through
his eyes. In chapter one Pip, would have been about seven years of age
and Magwitch would have been in his late thirties. To Pip, Magwitch
seemed a 'being from another planet' and the way Dickens has used the
innocence of a child and the 'fearful' convict makes Pip's reaction to
Magwitch as a character much more frightening and so gives Magwitch a
memorable and aggressive entrance to the book. Moreover, even though
Pip is terrified of Magwitch, he still looks up to him as his adult
In Great Expectations, Dickens could use his own experience of life
and the law to contribute to the atmosphere. Dickens spent most of his
life in London where he routinely walked the city streets ten or
twenty miles at a time and he could apply his unique power of
observation to the city to grasp the sights, sounds, and smells of
London into his descriptions. When Dickens was twelve, his father was
imprisoned for debt and this made Dickens recognise the law as it was.
He was also forced to work in blacking warehouse and I do not think
that he ever forgot this humiliation of his father's imprisonment,
especially because of the way he describes the court in chapter
fifty-six of Great Expectations: 'I could scarcely believe, even as I
write these words, that I saw two and thirty men and women put before
the judge to receive that sentence together.' Dickens also became a
court stenographer, dealing with parliamentary debates for The Morning
Chronicle. Dickens from then developed a particular hatred for the
system and its immorality.
Dickens can also relate to the characters themselves. Pip, for example
is an orphan who grew up in a marshy area and fulfilled his dream of
becoming a wealthy gentleman. Dickens, although he was not orphaned,
faced the same sort of experiences as Pip when his father drew the
family into great debt. He also spent a few years of his life in
Rochester, Kent, so he experienced the same sort of marshy conditions
and he too, achieved fame and fortune through his writing, so had
life, both as a gentleman and as an unwealthy, working class child.
Although Dickens could not relate to Magwitch's character as such,
because Dickens' father was imprisoned, Dickens would have been
familiar with prisoners such as Magwitch, who are under tremendous
punishment from the law.
Great Expectations is a story of self-discovery through the eyes of
Pip. Chapters one and fifty-six are...