In this essay I will discuss in detail how both Pip (the main protagonist of the novel) and Abel Magwitch (the convict) experience changes, and how this relates to the setting. They both change drastically in the story, as their personalities mature when placed in different situations.
In chapter one, in the face of danger, Pip still shows gentility and politeness towards someone who seems extremely demanding and insolent. When he is confronted by Magwitch, he speaks to him as if he has authority. He refers to him several times as ‘sir’ which shows that Pip is a well mannered boy. The convict says threateningly ”I’ll have you liver and heart out” (pg.5), this shows the convict is wild, and has no regard for a young boys safety as long as he gets what he wants. The convict is so barbaric because under the circumstances (he has escaped from prison, and is starving), he seems to have lost his sense of morality – he seems to not know what is right or wrong, which is a basic human skill. The language used by Dickens in the conversation between Pip and Magwitch is delivered with short simple sentences; ”’tell us your name!” said the man ”quick” ”Pip sir” ”once more” ”give it mouth!”'(pg. 4), this shows that there is a tense, unwelcoming atmosphere and is a fast paced conversation. The convict could be trying to frighten Pip, giving out forceful orders, ‘tell us your name’ and ‘give it mouth’, to stop Pip from reporting him.
In chapter 39, Pip’s attitude changes from gracious/polite to ‘snobby’ and obsessed with social class. This is a total contrast from in chapter one. ‘The abhorrence in which I held for the man’ referring to Pips hatred of Magwitch, shows a drastic change from the young Pip who had a certain respect for him (hence referring to him as sir), even though as Pip refers to him as sir, it is really only to save himself. He may be a boy who always tries to see the best in people, rather than judging someone by their appearance (like the saying; don’t judge a book by its cover). This shows that Pip’s personality isn’t that of what you would expect from a gentleman.
He even tries to pay Magwitch to leave him be, ‘you must let me pay them back. You can put them to some other poor boy’s use’, which shows money can buy your power/respect in those times. But as Pip gets more arrogant and pompous, Magwitch gets more affectionate towards Pip. He says; ‘my dear boy’ and it says; ‘he grasped them heartily, raised them to his lips, kissed them and till held them’ which shows us that he isn’t the aggressive, desperate man he used to be. He is proud that Pip has become a gentleman, because Pip was the one who basically saved his life in chapter one, when he had escaped from prison. Pip brought him food to survive and a file, so he could escape the bindings of his prison chains. He wanted to repay him for his generosity when he was young lad. He says ‘I wish to come in master’ which is a case of role-reversal as Magwitch is referring to Pip as the superior instead of the other way around as in chapter one.
Both Pip and Magwitch have emptiness in there lives. This is reflected in the language used to describe the setting in Pip’s case in chapter one. Pip has lost both his parents and doesn’t have a reliable, loving relationship with his sister. Dickens describes the setting as; ‘a raw afternoon’ and ‘overgrown with nettles’, this shows a sense of neglect which closely relates to Pip’s dispirited life. This is a case of sympathetic background, where the setting relates to a character. We find out later that Magwitch has lost his daughter, so he passively ‘adopts’ Pip – without Pip knowing. Magwitch eagerly says ‘lookee here pip, I’m your second father – you’re my son!’ This shows a real intimacy Magwitch feels for Pip which isn’t mutual. This new found affection is a real contrast from the convicted man who was threatening to kill Pip in chapter one. It almost seems as if the convict has obsessed over Pip’s role in his personal salvation.
Dickens tried to get the point across that not all convicted people were bad people, as his father was imprisoned for debting, which Dickens believed wasn’t fair. He portrays this in his writing by making the convicts situation relate to Dickens’ father’s situation.
In chapter one, the convict is portrayed as being a very intemperate, in-humane character. Dickens uses powerful verbs such as ‘glared’ and ‘growled’ to secure the stereotypical views that convicts are vehement, vicious people. Dickens uses animal imagery such as ‘teeth chattered’, ‘glared’, and ‘growled’ to imply the convict is more beast than man – as he seems to have lost his sense of human morality. However, ‘a fearful man in coarse grey’ implies that the convict is masculine, which is a contrast from him being described as an animal who’s ‘teeth chatter’. This contrast was set up to make the reader think – is this ‘man’ capable of good or bad? Initially, the impression is given off that the answer to this question is bad; however in chapter thirty-nine, we are shown differently. Also, dickens uses a list form to describe the convict; ‘a man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints…’ to emphasise the harshness of his escape. This list is an ordered way of describing the convict, which is a contrast from the convict’s actual life – which is totally unordered. He is really deprived of basic survival items like food and water, and will resort to threatening to kill Pip in order to get some food – which further backs up the claims of him acting like an animal.
The convict changes from a desperate man to a sophisticated man from chapter 1 to chapter 39. As he is portrayed as being a stereotypical convict in chapter 1 by the way dickens describes him. But in chapter 39, as he enters Pip’s abode he is wearing a hat – which in the 19th century is regarded as a ‘classy’ item that you would expect from a gentleman rather then a convict. Which again shows the point dickens is trying to make – that convicts aren’t all bad and that they can change.
The way the setting is described in chapter 1 when the convict is about to appear is a case of sympathetic background. We know the convict is portrayed as an aggressive character, and the setting is also. ‘Distant savage lair’ makes the reader think of a monsters habitat, and in this case the convict is Pips monster – because the convict is described as an animal, this backs it up by making it seem as if this ‘lair’ is the convicts habitat. ‘The wind was rushing ‘is personification, which gives the setting human characteristics, and emphasises the harshness of the weather, and in turn the harshness of the convicts escape from prison. As well as being harsh/sinister, the weather is also described as being desolate/dull, ‘the marshes were just a long black horizontal line then, as I stopped to look after him; and the river was just another horizontal line… and the sky was just a row of angry red lines’ implies dullness as lines are quite dull, and the personification used (‘the sky was just a row of angry red lines’) emphasises the lifelessness of the location.
In both chapter 1 and 39, the weather turns more vicious/harsh when the convict is about to make an appearance. In chapter 1 the weather is quite powerful; the wind is described as ‘rushing’. And in chapter 39, just before we meet the convict again, the weather is also describes as being powerful. ‘It was wretched weather; stormy and wet, stormy and wet; and mud, mud, mud, deep in all the streets’, the repetition used emphasises the extremes of the weather. ‘So furious had been the gusts, that high buildings had had the lead stripped of their roofs; and in the country, trees had been torn up, and sails of windmills carried away; and gloomy accounts had come in from the coast, of shipwreck and death’ is a long complex sentence, which was a common technique in 19th century writing – it also includes many powerful words (furious, stripped, gloomy, torn up, death) so further emphasise the savagery of the weather. But also this sentence is written in a list form with punctuation to break it up, much like the way the convict is described in chapter 1.
‘Violent blasts of rain had accompanied these rages of wind, and the day just closed as I sat down to read had been the worst of all’ again uses powerful adjectives (violent, rages) to emphasise the force of the weather. Dickens uses a simile, ‘… and the wind rushing up the river shook the house that night, like discharges of cannon’ to try to involve and put a picture in the readers head of what the weather was like. Dickens uses some personification ‘smoke came rolling down the chimney as tough it could not bear to go out into such a night’ and ‘in the teeth of such wind and rain’ (pg. 309) to further describe the already distressing weather and give it a sense of humanism.
The way the setting is described is very much like in chapter 1, which gives the reader clues that the convict might be making another appearance – Dickens often added little clues like this into his writing. When someone appears at Pip’s door, the conversation which takes place involves short snappy responses, ‘There is someone down there is there not? I called out, looking down. ”Yes” ”what floor do you want” ”the top, Mr Pip” ”That is my name- there is nothing the matter?” ”nothing the matter”’ which is like the conversation that takes place in chapter 1 (”tell me your name” ”pip sir”), which is another clue this character might be the convict. Finally the convict is described as having ‘iron-grey’ hair, which can be linked to chapter 1’s description.
In conclusion, both characters partake in major changes throughout the novel. Magwitch’s being for the good (i.e. changing from aggressive (threatening Pip) to responsible (having a job, providing for Pip)), whilst Pip’s being for the worst (turning into a self-centred gentleman from a well mannered boy).