Upon discovering that Magwitch is his secret benefactor, Pip feels far from ecstatic. For many years, he tried desperately to forget the disgraceful acts he committed as a youth by aiding the convict in the marshes, and his conscience almost seems clear when Magwitch once again makes an unexpected appearance in Pip's life. Although Pip's becoming a gentleman may never have been possible without Magwitch's generosity, he almost appears offended by the common, and vulgar behavior of his benefactor. Magwitch, on the other hand, is delighted to have finally had the opportunity to reveal himself to Pip, and cannot control his emotions, exclaiming,

Look'ee here, Pip. I'm your second father. You're my son — more to me nor any son. I've put away money, only for you to spend. When I was hired-out shepherd in a solitary hut, not seeing no faces but faces of sheep till I half forgot wot men's and women's faces was like, I see yourn. I drops my knife many a time in that hut when I was a eating my dinner or my supper, and I says, “Here's the boy again, a looking at me whiles I eats and drinks!" I see you there a many times as plain as ever I see you on them misty marshes. “Lord strike me dead!" I says each time — and I goes out in the open air to say it under the open heavens — “but wot, if I gets liberty and money, I'll make that boy a gentleman!" And I done it. Why, look at you, dear boy! Look at these here lodgings of yourn, fit for a lord! A lord? Ah! You shall show money with lords for wagers, and beat 'em! [286-287; Place within the complete text of the novel]

The terms that Magwitch uses in addressing Pip make it quite obvious that he considers Pip kin, the son he never had. He has worked hard and escaped, risking his life to better that of Pip- the only real friend we know of in his past. Learning the identity of his benefactor leaves Pip disappointed for a number reasons. For one, if Magwitch is, indeed, his benefactor, then what shall become of his relationship with Estella? If, as Pip had assumed, Miss Havisham was his secret benefactor, he surely would have married Estella eventually, or so he believes. Now not only is there no guarantee, but this news sheds an unfavorable light upon Pip's existing relationships with both Estella and Miss Havisham in that they appear to be using him just as they use all other men to accomplish Miss Havisham's personal vengeance. However, most of Pip's frustration stems from the ruination of his relationship with Joe caused by this newfound prosperity.

But, sharpest and deepest pain of all — it was for the convict, guilty of I knew not what crimes and liable to be taken of those rooms where I sat thinking, and hanged at the Old Bailey door, that I had deserted Joe. [290]

Throughout the most impressionable years of his childhood, Pip looked up to Joe as a fatherly figure. In direct contrast to the relationship between Pip and his sister, Pip and Joe were the best of friends and confidants. Pip admired Joe, despite the fact that he was certainly not a gentleman, for his honest work and kind heart. At this point in the novel, Pip comes to the realization that he has abandoned and erased poor Joe from his life in order to achieve his own selfish dreams of a life of luxury among the upper class. As a consequence, Magwitch fills the void of father figure, though much against Pip's will.

Questions

1. Compare the relationship of Pip and Magwitch to that of Mr. Rochester and Ad¸le in Jane Eyre. Which figure is more of a father figure, if any? Why?

2. Was it common for adolescents of this time period to be taken under the wing of a secret benefactor? What are the most credible sources that could be used to find an answer for this question?

3. As he has done throughout the novel, Dickens continues to alter the language of Magwitch in this scene, creating a more colloquial tone for his character. Why is this particularly significant at this point in the novel? How does this play a role in the characterization of Pip?

4. Why was Pip so sure that Miss Havisham was his benefactor? How will this news change his relationship with both Estella and Miss Havisham? Do Pip and Estella really have a future together, or even a relationship to grow from as a couple- or is Pip's sole motivation to become a gentleman now defeated?


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens Great Expectations

Last modified 23 February 2008