The introduction of Magwitch is both sudden and violent. He appears from among the graves and shouts ‘Hold your noise! ‘ in a ‘terrible voice’. He then threatens, ‘Keep still… or I’ll cut your throat! ‘ The language used here is explicit and violent and is said in a ‘terrible voice’ allowing the reader to create their own interpretation of what this would sound like. More importantly you now fear for Pip’s life as this menacing character has suddenly appeared without warning, threatening to cut Pip’s throat. He is described as a ‘Fearful man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg.
‘ From this we gather that he is an escaped convict, still with chains around his legs. It goes on to say how he has been soaked in water, smothered in mud, cut by flints, stung by nettles and how he limped and shivered. Pip pleads with him ‘O! Don’t cut my throat , sir,’ He is now completely terrified yet even in the midst of panic and confusion he still speaks very politely to a man who has just threatened to slit his throat. This shows his kind and innocent nature even in the face of adversity. We soon learn this ‘man’ to be un-educated judging from his speech, such as when he says ‘Tell us your name’ and ‘Pint out the place!
‘ He also seems to be suffering along with Pip as he is muddy, injured and his ‘teeth chattered in his head’. Now we realise he is actually quite a pathetic character, yet to young Pip he is still very intimidating. He asks Pip where he lives and he points out the village. Young Pip’s willingness to provide information about where he lives, albeit out of fear, reflects his natural giving nature. Magwitch then turns him upside down to empty his pockets and finds a piece of bread, which he eats ‘ravenously’. This shows just how hungry and desperate he is, and again, emphasises his own vulnerability.
The turning upside down of Pip could also be a symbolic moment in his life; after meeting this man his whole world is turned upside down. Magwitch then asks for Pip to bring him a file, so he can sever his chains, and wittles as he is starving. He threatens to cut his ‘heart and liver out’ if he doesn’t. As the reader we now know these to be mere tactics to scare Pip, as Magwitch gradually becomes less menacing as the chapter develops. However, Pip is no less terrified and this is almost amusing has the reader has insight into Magwitch’s plan, especially when he threatens him with the ‘young man’ who will ‘creep his way and tear him open’.
He has simply invented this character to scare Pip and force him to be of assistance. The fact that Pip does believe this man really will hunt him down if he says anything is endearing to the reader and depicts his pure naivety. Dickens manages to present this supposedly frightful and menacing character in a way in which he is likeable and even humorous at times, such as when he says ‘You young dog, what fat cheeks you ha’ got’. The thought of him even considering eating Pip is laughable and he seems totally harmless. You even question whether he really should be in prison or if he was imprisoned wrongly.
This was common in Victorian times as the legal system favoured the rich extensively and the poor often had very little or no defence in a trial. Magwitch also appears to be quite a pathetic and desperate character, as it seems even nature has turned against him when it describes how he has been ‘soaked in water, smothered in mud, lamed by stones, cut by flints, stung my nettles, and torn by briars… ‘ The chapter ends with Pip describing his surroundings as he makes his way home. He mentions a ‘gibbet’ which is where criminals were hung publicly.
This makes the reader think that if Magwitch was to be re-captured, would he be executed? This would provoke different reactions, the most obvious being sympathy towards Magwitch, himself. This fits in with the theme of death and how Pip describes the ‘hands of dead people stretching up… to get a twist upon his ankle and pull him in. ‘ This sounds almost as if he is escaping death and that he should return to where he belongs – in the ground with the dead. Chapter 8 begins with Pip arriving at Satis House, accompanied by Mr. Pumblechook, as a request from the owner, Miss Havisham, to interact with her adopted daughter Estella.
At first sight Pip describes the manor house to be of ‘old brick’ and ‘dismal’ and ‘a great many iron bars to it. ‘ Of the windows which did remain ‘all the lower were rustily barred’, along with a court-yard which was also ‘barred’. From this first impression the reader instantly creates a vivid image of this fortress like manor, almost shielding itself from the outside world. Dickens shows the exterior of the house using the desolate, melancholy mood and powerful adjectives. The use of language, such as ‘old’, ‘dismal’ and ‘rustily’ give a strong idea that the house is dilapidated and that there are no welcoming features to it.
The extensive defences that the manor possesses show that the inhabitants intend for nobody to enter and attempt to distance themselves from the outside world. This isolation could be a sign that the owner has very high regards for themselves and that they are superior to others. This fits in with the theme of social class and also the manor’s name, Satis, which means ‘enough’ and reflects the emptiness of possessions. Pip and Mr. Pumblechook are ‘greeted’ at the gate by a young lady, ‘who was very pretty and seemed very proud’ according to Pip.
The young lady, Estella, speaks very formally and confidently to Mr.Pumblechook, somebody much older than herself, such as when she says ‘Ah… but you see she don’t. ‘ She says this in a way which shows an overwhelming sense of her own importance, despite her incorrect grammar. As they pass through the court-yard Pip describes how ‘grass was growing in every crevice’ and the old brewery which is now ‘disused’. The grass protruding from the pavestones tells us the manor is neglected and unkempt and that they hire no gardeners or other servants, which was uncommon for a household of such wealth. Pip also mentions how the ‘cold wind seemed to blow colder here.
‘ This is a metaphor for the immediate impact the manor has had on him and also the substantial differences between the world he has just left and the one he has just entered. The contrast in social position between Estella and Pip is also reflected in their language. Pip’s language is very humble and respectful, always referring to Estella as ‘miss’. In contrast, Estella uses language to belittle Pip and often mocks him for being a ‘labouring boy’. She almost always calls him ‘boy’ even though they are of the same age, which depicts her arrogance and sense of her own importance.
Estella actually means ‘star’ and from the beginning she is depicted as being cold, distant and unobtainable. There is obvious symbolism in the way she carries a lighted about the gloomy house like a ‘star’ and moves around the brewery’s disused galleries ‘as if she were going out into the sky’. She shines down upon little Pip and holds the light to guide his way. But, even though light is associated with good, Estella makes Pip feel bad about himself and uses humiliating intimidation towards him, such as when she says ‘what coarse hands and think boots’.
She speaks bluntly and abruptly, her words spacing a social difference between herself and Pip. She stubbornly belittles him frequently, revealing her obstinate, spiteful attitude and scornful, intimidating character. As Pip enters Miss Havisham’s room he finds himself in a ‘large room, well lighted with wax candles’, yet there was not a glimpse of daylight to be seen. He then describes a woman sat in an armchair as ‘the strangest lady I have ever seen, or shall ever see.
‘ Pip tells us this before any description of Miss Havisham, which enables the reader to use their imagination and conjure up their own interpretation of what this woman may look like, causing intrigue and also the desire to find out who she is. The next paragraph is dedicated to describing her surroundings and the many strange features of the room. Firstly, we discover that this lady has obvious wealth as she is ‘dressed in rich materials’ and ‘some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and hands. ‘ Also, she is wearing, what appears to be a wedding dress, ‘long white veil… bridal flowers in her hair.
‘ Dickens never confirms that she has been jilted; he simply leaves the reader to come to their own conclusions. We also discover the woman to be old as it says ‘but her hair was white. ‘ The vivid image of an old, grey lady dressed in her wedding outfit seems unnatural and distorted and you begin to wonder how long she has been wearing it. Pip continues to describe how she only had one shoe on and how she had no quite finished dressing yet. He then mentions how everything that ‘ought to be white’ was ‘now faded and yellow’ which tells us she has been sat there for many years since the day her life was destroyed, the day her fiance abandoned her.
She has not changed a thing since that day, a reflection of her solemn mood and state of mind. She was prepared to get married, and instead, was left feeling humiliated and devastated. She had even stopped her watch at twenty minutes to nine, and that ‘a clock in the room had stopped at twenty minutes to nine. ‘ The time when the news reached her. Dickens uses cold, dark, metaphors for the evil, dismal gloom trapping Satis house and all inside it, for example, ‘waxwork and skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved and looked at me. ‘ The strange world is also shown through powerful descriptive setting.
Droves of creatures inhabit her long forgotten, rather despised and discarded wedding cake which was left abandoned, ‘speckle-legged spiders with blotchy bodies ran to and from the cobwebbed centre piece of the table. ‘ The whole house was dead. Stopped. Smothered in cobwebs and sour hatred. Like Estella, Miss Havisham also has an intimidating nature, captured when she wants him to understand her grief and says, ‘What I touch here, is my heart… Broken! Dickens cleverly captures her vengeful personality through her dialogue, when she says ‘Does she grow prettier and prettier Pip?
‘ Miss Havisham wants Estella to break Pip’s heart, and so she does, by her often changing moods that are hard to understand. She has instilled her own bitterness in Estella, and is using her to get revenge because of her own sour hatred towards men. Characterisation is an extremely important aspect of ‘Great Expectations’ and Dickens develops the characters unique personalities, attitudes and motivations masterfully. The 4 main characters of these chapters – Pip, Magwitch, Estella and Miss Havisham are all shown to have no control over their own destiny.
For example Estella is an orphan and was adopted by Miss Havisham, and even she, herself, could not change the heartbreaking outcome of her wedding day. He shows their vulnerability by placing them in environments which expose their weaknesses. Such as Magwitch in the marshes, when he is covered in wet, mud and cut and stung. Through dialogue, descriptive setting, atmosphere and first person narrative, Charles Dickens manages to create unique, intriguing characters which compel the reader and heighten the impact of the plot massively.