Although both of Pip’s parents are dead, two important characters in the novel play the roles of shadow parents, mainly the roles of Miss Havisham and Magwitch. Magwitch is an escaped convict which Pip meets in the first chapter of the novel on the misty Kent marshes, and Miss Havisham is another strange character who we first meet in Chapter 8. This essay will explore the links with both these characters, and how they aid Pip in becoming a gentleman. Pip has been brought up, “by hand”, and the BBC serialization of Great Expectations demonstrates this.
We see how Pip is brought up very roughly by Mrs Joe Gargory. The BBC production also gives us a good idea of the setting, on how eerie and deserted the marshes are, and the fact that this is a truly rural area. The first meeting between Pip and Magwitch in Chapter 1 is a crucial milestone for their relationship. Magwitch, an escaped convict (who we discover is working with another criminal, Compeyson) demands food and a file off Pip, and is surprised when Pip actually meets his requests. Sympathy and concern develops between the couple.
Pip and Magwitch’s relationship gets off to an intimidating start, and Dickens portrays in his writing that Pip is a weak and uninfluenced boy, hence the name, Pip. A pip is something which starts off very small, but will grow into something big and majestic. Pip also goes to his parents’ grave, whom he never knew and he also sees his brothers’ grave as well. Tears come into Pip’s eyes, just as the rain starts, showing Pip’s emotion, and how weak and perhaps how sensitive he is. Pip then gains his, “first and most vivid broad impression of the identity of things”; this comes in the form of Magwitch, the convict.
When Magwitch turns Pip upside down (to see if there is anything in Pip’s pockets), Dickens talks about how Pip saw the church go round and turn upside down. This is a way of showing that this first meeting between Pip and Magwitch has had such an impression that it has turned Pip’s whole moral system upside down. He never told anyone about the meetings with Magwitch, and mentions in Chapter 15 how the secret had become part of him, and that it was too hard to tell anyone. Magwitch’s effect on Pip that first day was both one of mental and physical impact.
Magwitch tells Pip about the young man who is dying to rip his heart out and eat it and Pip, after meeting with Magwitch starts seeing things, like the dead pirate hanging from the gallows and hands coming out of the graves. The meeting between Pip and Magwitch has been a trigger on Pip to start thinking in a different way and start seeing life differently. Magwitch also has a big physical impact on Pip as he tilts him over the grave stone showing that he is in control. This can be linked with his funding – he is almost in control of Pip’s whole life, because he is the one who gives him the money Pip needs to survive.