Essay on Charles Dickens' Great Expectations

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Charles Dickens' Great Expectations

In the novel of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, one of the pivotal characters is a man named Abel Magwitch. To answer the question of whether this man is a criminal or a victim of society, we must first establish what a criminal is and what a victim of society is. A criminal is someone who knowingly breaks the law for self-gratification. A victim of society is someone who is subjected to outside influences, and is generally mistreated by society. In the context of this novel, a victim of society is also someone who has never been given a chance in life, and has no control over events that occur involving them. Therefore I am going to try and decide which of these two ‘categories’
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This means that at the beginning of the book, it looks as if Magwitch should be classed as a criminal.

However, he obviously takes a strange liking to Pip, saying that he is
‘much of your [Pips] opinion’. However, this may be down to Pip being the first person to show Magwitch compassion in a long time. It may also be an omen of what is to come later in the story. Overall in the first three chapters, Magwitch is presented to us as a criminal.
However, chapter 5 proceeds in confusing matters slightly. In this chapter we hear Magwitch talk cryptically of the other convict, who we learn later on is his former partner Compeyson, and how he was willing to be recaptured if it meant that Compeyson didn’t escape, so that
Magwitch could not be made a tool of his again. This provides information that suggests he may not be a criminal of his own making after all. He also proceeds in confirming his liking of Pip by apologising to Joe for stealing the pie. He does this in such a polite manner, saying that he is ‘sorry to say, I [Magwitch] have eaten your pie’, that we cannot help wondering if there is more to this man than first meets the eye, and if he is not a miscreant after all. Therefore this suggests that actually, he may not be the criminal we took him for, so he may not necessarily deserve the label of criminal.

We hear no more of Magwitch until chapter 39, where we

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