Pip hopes to prove to Magwitch that he was not involved with his capture. Pip is concerned with being loyal, even to a criminal. Their eye contact foreshadows an impending relationship, but also suggests that this is Pip's first experience of acquiring true and focused attention. Pip narrates with great significance his lack of understanding, and hopes for the reader to understand the later implications of this encounter. This interaction is important when considering the education and development of Pip's character. During this early meeting Pip is unaware of the gaze's meaning, and throughout the novel becomes more astute concerning his relations and interactions with other people. Presently, however, Pip demonstrates his heightened emotional awareness in recognizing that there was some meaning, regardless of whether or not he understood the gaze's specific intent:

As one of the soldiers, who carried a basket in lieu of a gun, went down on his knee to open it, my convict looked round him for the first time, and saw me. I had alighted from Joe's back on the brink of the ditch when we came up, and had not moved since. I looked at him eagerly when he looked at me, and slightly moved my hands and shook my head. I had been waiting for him to see me, that I might try to assure him of my innocence. It was not at all expressed to me that he even comprehended my intention, for he gave me a look that I did not understand, and it all passed in a moment. But if he had looked at me for an hour or for a day, I could not have remembered his face ever afterwards, as having been more attentive.

The soldier with the basket soon got a light, and lighted three or four torches, and took one himself and distributed the others. It had been almost dark before, but now it seemed quite dark, and soon afterwards very dark. Before we departed from that spot, for us soldiers standing in a ring, fired twice into the air. Presently we say other torches kindled at some distance behind us, and the others on the marshes on the opposite bank of the river. “All right, “ said the sergeant. “March." [pp. 34-35]

Questions

Magwitch initially enters Pip's life for only a brief period of time. What is the significance of Pip remembering his “attentive gaze"?

What does such a moment demonstrate about Pip's ideals of loyalty, especially concerning loyalty to a criminal?

Pip is still able to draw significance from a gaze “that I did not understand, andŠpassed in a moment." He is, however, able to relate the importance of such an interaction to his audience. Why is this important?

Why does Pip want Magwitch to know that he had nothing to do with his arrest? Does Pip want Magwitch to know of his innocence to quiet his own conscious or to let Magwitch know that Pip is loyal and true to his word? What is the difference?

References

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Ed. Edgar Rosenberg. New York: W.W. Norton, 1999.


Last modified 16 February 2004

Last modified 8 June 2007