Character sketch of Abel Magwitch
A Professional Convict : Abel Magwitch is a professional Convict. Abel is his Christian name. We meet him in the very first chapter of the novel when he suddenly pounces upon Pip in the Churchyard and orders him to bring some food and file. Otherwise his heart and liver will be eaten by a certain young man. At this time, he is described as a ‘fearful man’ with no hat, with broken shoes, with an old Rag tied round his head. He has been imprisoned in the prison-ship but he runs away and enters into the marshes near Pip’s home village. He is terribly hungry. He is a man who had been soaked in water and smothered in mud and Lambed by stones and cut by flincts and stung by nettles and torn by briars, who limped and shivered and glared and glowled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin.”
His grim Sense of Humour : Magwitch has a grim sense of humour. He orders Pip to bring food and file. At the same time he tells Pip of a young man who has a Peculiar way of catching hold of small children in order to eat their hearts and livers. Again, when he gets food from Pip, he eats it in humorous Manner. Pip describes, “I had often watched a large dog of our’s eating his food and I now noticed a decided similarity between the dog’s way of eating and the man’s. The man took strong, sharp, sudden bites just like the dog. He swallowed, or rather snapped up, every mouthful, too soon and too fast; and he looked sideways here and there will wild he ate, as if he thought there was danger in every direction of somebody’s coming to take the pic away.”
A Revengeful person : Abel Magwitch is a revengeful person. A fellow convict of his, called Compeyson has ruined his life. He, too, has escape from prison-ship. When the police party searching him out to recapture Magwitch, he is found grappling with compeyson. He forgets that he himself is an escaped Prisoner and continuous to hold him in his grip. As a result of this, he gets compeyson arrested. But in doing so he too, is recaptured. His desire for some sort of Revenge upon compeyson proves stronger than his desire for his own freedom. He does not mind being arrested himself.
Kind and noble by heart : Though Magwitch is wicked by profession. He is a kind of noble by heart. He has great consideration for the poor. He is kind to those who are kind to him and cruel to those who are cruel to him. He is so nobel by heart that he runs away from the prison to the cometry in order to pay tribute to his parent,
His deep Affection for Pip : Magwitch’s love and affection for Pip is admirable. Pip bring him some food and file but he falsely declares to the soldiers that he has stolen food for the blacksmith;s house. He does so apparently to protect Pip. Later, he sends money to Pip. He also tells Pip that he has come back to London at the risk of his life, only to meet Pip. He has also saved a lot of money for Pip. Thus he has boundless affection for Pip. It is he who is real benefactor of the little boy. Estella, the would be wife of Pip, is his daughter. Here is the most striking fact that he plays an important part in changing Pip’s fortune. He has also decided to make a gentleman of Pip. He has paid a large amount of money to Mr. Jaggers to transform a village boy into a city gentleman.
His Crude and Clumsy Behaviour : Magwitch’s behaviour is crude and clumsy. When comes to London from Australia, he is shabbily dressed. He is a strong and rough man of sixty. When Pip comes to know that he is his real benefactor, he regrets having met him and accepted gifts from him. Magwitch is not fit for the company of refined gentleman. But his boundless love for Pip changes his attitude towards him.
His past : When Magwitch meet Pip in London, he reveals his past history to Pip and Herbert. Speaking about himself-he tells Pip, that he became a criminal under compeyson’s influence more than of own accord. He writes,”Tramping, begging, thieving, sometimes when I could though wasn’t as often as you may think, till you put the question whether you would have been ever ready to give me work yourself a bit of a poacher, a bit of a labourer, a bit of a waggoner, a bit of a hay maker, a bit of hawker. A bit of most things that dont’s pay and lead to trouble. I got to be a man. A deserting soldier in a travelers rest, what lay hid up to the chin under a lot of tatters, learnt me to read and a travelling Giant what signed his name at a penny at time learnt me write. I was not locked up as often now as formerly. But I wore out my good share of key-metal still.”
A key figure : Magwitch plays an important role in the story. Without his presence, the novel would not have achieved its aim. His main role in the story is to show that money governs social life and without money no one can hope to progress his life. He is also a representative of the criminal section of the society. He gets aquainted with Compeyson whose business was swindling, handwriting, forging, stolen Bank note passing and such like. He shows that Cruel and unjust laws make hardened criminals like him. He also contributes to mystery, suspense and excitement of the story. He is a criminal but not out and out are as Compyson, Arthur and Orlick. It is here that we admit that his life is an indictment of cruel and unjust law. He extends financial help to Pip so as to make him a gentleman. This, again, justifies that Magwitch serves to show that money governs social life.
Object of Sympathy : In spite of almost wickedness, crudeness and clumsiness, Magwitch wins our sympathy. He is a person who first appears before us an and escaped Convict. But gradually he begins to gain our sympathy. He falsely declares to the soldiers that he has stolen food and file from the blacksmith’s house, in order to protect Pip from punishment. It is he who changes the fortunes of Pip who was, in the beginning, of blacksmith’s apprentice in a small village. He pays a big amount of money to Jaggers for Pip’s education and training in a big city. He is the real benefactor of Pip confess that his past life has been that of a criminal. He has certain good qualities of heart and mind. He is a brave man. First he gets Compeyson arrested without minding his own arrest with him. Again when he feels that his life is in risk in London, he starts for some other country. At the port he happens to meet compeyson. He pounces upon him and kills him to himself is wounded. Thus he wins the sympathy of the readers.
Thus Magwitch, a hard-core criminal has an important role to play in the story. He carries the message of gratefulness through words and deeds. He is an example of a good well wisher and benefactor. Sympathy and affection for a poor child is the main theme of the novel, which is displayed in the character of Magwitch.