Quotation said by Abel Magwitch to Pip. The convict Abel Magwitch returns to England after being transported to Australia for his crimes. Magwitch is not supposed to return to the country and in this quote explains to Pip that he was sent there for life, and has risked death by coming to see him.
He laid his hand on my shoulder. I shuddered at the thought that for anything I knew, his hand might be stained with blood.
“It warn’t easy, Pip, for me to leave them parts, nor yet it warn’t safe. But I held to it, and the harder it was, the stronger I held, for I was determined, and my mind firm made up. At last I done it. Dear boy, I done it!”
I tried to collect my thoughts, but I was stunned. Throughout, I had seemed to myself to attend more to the wind and the rain than to him; even now, I could not separate his voice from those voices, though those were loud and his was silent.
“Where will you put me?” he asked, presently. “I must be put somewheres, dear boy.”
“To sleep?” said I.
“Yes. And to sleep long and sound,” he answered; “for I’ve been sea-tossed and sea-washed, months and months.”
“My friend and companion,” said I, rising from the sofa, “is absent; you must have his room.”
“He won’t come back to-morrow; will he?”
“No,” said I, answering almost mechanically, in spite of my utmost efforts; “not to-morrow.”
“Because, look’ee here, dear boy,” he said, dropping his voice, and laying a long finger on my breast in an impressive manner, “caution is necessary.”
“How do you mean? Caution?”
“By G——, it’s Death!”
‘I was sent for life. It’s death to come back. There’s been overmuch coming back of late years, and I should of a certainty be hanged if took.”
Nothing was needed but this; the wretched man, after loading wretched me with his gold and silver chains for years, had risked his life to come to me, and I held it there in my keeping! If I had loved him instead of abhorring him; if I had been attracted to him by the strongest admiration and affection, instead of shrinking from him with the strongest repugnance; it could have been no worse. On the contrary, it would have been better, for his preservation would then have naturally and tenderly addressed my heart.
Like Pip, the convict Abel Magwitch is a character who follows a rags-to-riches story within Great Expectations. Originally incarcerated for his part in a plot to defraud Miss Havisham we first meet Magwitch after he escapes from a prison hulk and terrifies the young Pip whilst visiting the graves of his family in Kent churchyard. Magwitch is pursuing Compeyson, his accomplice in the fraud and who is treated more leniently. Pip aids Magwitch with food and tools, a gesture Magwitch will later handsomely repay. Magwitch is deported to Australia where he makes a fortune as a sheep farmer before returning, secretly, to England under the name Provis. In later life, Magwitch is revealed as a kinder man who has been helping Pip achieve his great expectations.
- In screen adaptations of Great Expectations, the character of Abel Magwitch has been played by such actors as James Mason (1974 TV movie), Anthony Hopkins (1989 TV mini-series), Bernard Hill (1999 TV movie) and Ralph Fiennes (2012 film).
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