"Great Expectations" by Charles Dickens: Is Magwitch the most Unfortunate Character in the Novel?

Essay by jeromespitfireA+, March 2006

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Magwitch's background makes him a character to pity. He never received advantages and people constantly looked down upon him because of his poor speech and clothing. Having no other choice, Magwitch had to steal to survive. Working for the well-spoken Compeyson, Magwitch only followed orders. He is treated and described like an animal who is treated brutally:

"A man who has 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..."

"...he ate ravenously..."

Dickens uses this accumulation of verbs to give the reader a sense of sympathy for Magwitch to show the way he is being persecuted and suffering. The adverb "ravenously" and the verb "growled" reduces Magwitch to an animal.

"...he looked in my young eyes as if he were eluding the hands of the dead people..."

This quotation also promotes sympathy for Magwitch because it shows the way Pip sees him as if the hands of death were after him and how close to death he seemed.

"Something clicked in his throat, as if he had works in him like a clock, and was going to strike. And he smeared his ragged rough sleeve over his eyes"

Dickens uses the simile "like a clock" in this quotation to show how Magwitch's time is ticking away and also makes him sound like a mechanical object rather than a human.

"Thankee, my boy, I do."

This quotation shows that that even though Magwitch has been dehumanised in all these ways he from being in prison for so long, he is still human inside. Magwitch responds to Pip's kindness because Pip has been the only person who has been nice to him in his life.