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Brewer Burns

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Being a Public Defender, Great Expectations and Other Things

Okay, I've finished another project in my absence. Twinkle Toes from Knitty, made from Hempathy in a sea green color. I used one whole skein to make one pair (I even had to cannibalize my swatch to finish them.) Pictures when the mood strikes me. Same with the pictures of the Vintage Pink Cardigan.

I re-read Great Expectations over the past couple of weeks. I've read it before but I have to say that I think I skimmed pretty much the whole book because I didn't remember any of it really. And, I didn't even notice the last time that I read the book, but Mr. Jaggers (Pip's "guardian") is a criminal defense lawyer. It was fascinating to read the book, and especially the passages which deal with Mr. Jaggers, Mr. Wemmick as Jaggers' clerk, the passage where Pip visits Newgate Prison with Mr. Wemmick, and the portions where Magwitch's trial is ongoing. Dickens wrote Great Expectations in the latter half of the 19th century in England and yet there were striking similarities between the criminal justice system, the judges, attorneys, and prisoners.

One of the most interesting things about the character of Pip is the course that his coming into adulthood and maturity takes. As a teenager, he is ashamed of his associations with stepfather, Joe, and the people of his village, and he throws them off so that he can become a gentleman and worthy of Estella. But it's not until he learns that the source of his means is a convict himself and that Magwitch is a human being deserving of compassion, and fellowship that Pip truly sees his own shortcomings and becomes a responsible adult. Pip ultimately risks himself to attempt to save Magwitch's life (by getting him out of the country undetected.) When he fails and it is clear that Magwitch will die, either from the injuries he suffered, or barring that, by execution, Pip nurses him and even more is his constant companion until his death.

Great Expectations is really an inverted fairy tale. Pip's fairy godmother is not Miss Havisham as he has often believed, but Magwitch, a man whom Pip has nothing but contemp for. The princess, Estella, has, in the words of Miss Havisham, block of ice instead of a heart. Pip's fortunes are not made when he receives the unexpected windfall from Magwitch, but when he loses it all, through his own dissipation and Magwitch's folly in returning to England. Only then does he become a respectable adult. It's not surprising really, since Great Expectations is the second to last novel that Dickens finished. It was written by a man who was older, wiser, and had suffered disappointments in his own life.

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