In this essay, I will be studying the characters of Miss Haversham and Magwitch. I intend to examine the language and techniques used by Dickens to depict them to the reader. I also plan to observe to observe the atmosphere created around these characters and examine how the character of Pip reacts to them.
The way in which Dickens presents Pip and his family situation is that, at the beginning Pip is in a graveyard looking at his families’ graves. Both his parents are dead; the reason for this is not explained and unknown as we are only told, ‘as I never saw my father and mother, and never saw any likeness in either of them, (for their days were long before the days of photographs). Also, as for any brothers and sisters that Pip had; they have also departed life on earth. Their reason for doing so is they, ‘gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle.’ This implies that they stopped scavenging for food and water and slowly disintegrated. This is all supposed to make us feel sorry for him as he has no family and he, as far as we know, is unhappy as Pip is a poor orphaned child with his main family dead with the exception of his sister who is married to a blacksmith which indicates that she is also working class. All of this establishes Pip as a poor unhappy, but also loving child.
The way in which Magwitch is first introduced is when he attacks Pip aggressively in the graveyard; in which Pip was looking at his families’ graves. The way that Magwitch attacks Pip is that he appeared from out of the graves and held a knife to Pips throat and threatened him by saying, ‘keep still, you little devil, or I’ll cut your throat!’ this illustrates that he is either desperate or dangerous. Where it then explains what he is wearing, it shows that he has travelled a long way as it lists that he ‘had 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; and who’s teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin.
This is supposed to make us feel both scared but also perhaps sorry for him as he has gone through a lot evidently to get as far as where pip is destination wise.
The character of Magwitch is speaks very aggressively and dangerously to Pip as he threatens to cut Pips throat. He also forces Pip to reveal his name and residence in quite an angry tone. This is made even worse by the phrase that he says, “you young dog.” What fat cheeks you ha’ got.’
This would all imply to us that he is very dangerous he is very unsafe and also not a very pleasant character at this point from what we have seen so far so we do not appreciate him as much! The way in which Pip reacts to Magwitch is that he sounds very scared timid as he says, ‘there, sir.’ It explains that he is scared by telling us he says this timidly. So Pip is very uneasy about this individual who encourages our thoughts that he is a fierce character so far; and that we should think of him as scary and frightening.
Magwitch is described as ‘substantially dressed, but roughly, like a voyager we are told also that he was browned by exposure to weather. This shows that he has been away somewhere. This is meant to present him to us as; he is not a gentleman but is substantially dressed so he is respected a little.
The way that Magwitch acts towards Pip is very loving and affectionate by the gesture of arms being held out to embrace Pip whereas Pip, on the other hand, is very snobbish stuck-up and disgusted by Magwitch as, at this point, he still does not know it is Magwitch standing before him with his arms outstretched. He shows this by saying, ‘do you wish to come in?’ hospitably. This means that he does not want to associate with the stranger before him or have anything to do with him.
Magwitch’s dialogue reveals that his emotions are completely different to when he and Pip first met. The first obvious sign of this is that he has his hands outstretched in the attempt to hold Pip whereas the only gesture to Pip in their last encounter was being tipped upside down and a knife to his throat! Also his dialogue is different; as he now makes an effort to speak the standard of English to Pip in which he speaks in. Whereas before his voice was rough and menacing to Pip.
The reaction of Pip is meant to affect the readers interpretation of Magwitch because as we do not know who the stranger is still at this point in the book, and Pip’s reaction to the stranger’s reaction to the stranger increases our curiosity of him, because he asks, ”Do you wish to come in?’ in a very resentful and inhospitably way. And as we are already affectionate to Pip in a way already; as he doesn’t agree with the stranger then we would feel a similar dislike towards Magwitch.
The reaction of Pip at this point compared to the start reaction of Pip at the start of the novel when he was a little boy is very different in the way that, at the start he was very scared of Magwitch and feared him because of his cruelty. Whereas now; Pip seems to have become more snobbish and unaffectionate to others, especially strangers. It is as if he has inherited Magwitch’s cruelty from the start of the book. Although he is a gentleman now so he looks down on people who are subordinate to him as if they are filth.
Miss Haversham’s appearance is presented in many ways but they all represent the same person. The first way in which she is described and compared to is that she has been withered like the dress and like the flowers she had no brightness apart from her sunken eyes.’ This implies that she is old and perhaps fragile. Also this could imply that the dress she has on is her wedding dress and also there are flowers but as it says it has yellowed this would imply that this is from a long time ago.
Another example of her appearance being presented by showing that it is from a long time ago. ‘The dress had been put upon the rounded figure of a young woman, and that the figure upon which it now hung loose, had shrunk to skin and bone the dress. The reference to the dress hanging loose off of her body gives us the image that it definitely no longer fits her. Also the image that her figure was now skin and bone is quite disturbing, and encourages us to conclude our theory that the dress is indeed old and long past its usage.
This last example of her appearance being presented to the reader is when she is compared to waxwork and a skeleton by saying, “I had been taken to see some ghastly waxwork at the fair, representing i know not what impossible personage lying in state.’ and ‘Once, i had been taken to one of our old marsh churches to see a skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress, that had been dug out of a vault under the church pavement.’ It is then combined by, ‘Now, waxwork and skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved and looked at me.’ With the phrase ghastly representing the waxwork; if Pip is describing Miss Haversham then he is also implying that she looks ghastly. As well as the skeleton; giving the impression that she is very thin!
As for her surroundings, well, there are a lot of them and they all seem to be half completed. For example, where it explains, ‘she had not quite finished dressing, for she had one shoe on – the other was on the table near her hand – her veil was but half arranged, her watch and chain were not put on, and some lace for her bosom lay with those trinkets, and with her handkerchief, and gloves, and some flowers, and a prayer-book, all confusedly heaped about the looking-glass.’ All of these objects have been evidently stopped from the tasks that Miss Haversham was supposed to complete, involving them. This could be evidence for the fact she was in the middle of doing something or something was happening/going to happen.
Also; anything that can tell the time has been stopped at twenty minutes to nine. This must be a significant time in her lifetime as something must have happened at this time.
The way that Miss Haversham speaks to Pip is sort of dazed and then fierce. For instance; when she first speaks to Pip she is rather airy and calm when she says, ‘Come nearer; let me look at you. Come close.’ But when she speaks of her heart she acts strange by ‘uttering the word with an eager look, and with strong emphasis, and with a weird smile that had a kind of boast in it.’ This maybe considers that she is proud of her heart being broken?
Pip’s reaction to Miss Haversham is that he must think that she is a little disorientated which is why he avoids her eyes. And I do not think that he likes her that much.
In conclusion , I have analysed the language and descriptions used by Dickens to depict Magwitch and Miss Haversham to the reader, as well as Pips reaction to them, and evaluated how these descriptions are intended to affect the reader and shape our opinions of the characters.