Crime and punishment


Convicts appear at several key points in the novel:

  • Pip encounters Magwitch on the marshes in the first chapter
  • Magwitch and the other convict (later revealed to be Compeyson) are recaptured by the soldiers
  • a mysterious figure appears at the Three Jolly Bargemen, stirring his drink with the file Pip stole for Magwitch;
  • Pip overhears two convicts talking on the coach;
  • when he moves to London, Pip almost immediately sees Newgate prison;
  • Magwitch eventually reappears.

Crime and punishment

Parts of the plot depend on crimes committed in the past

  • Magwitch and Compeyson are both convicted for various kinds of fraud
  • Mollie, Jaggers' housekeeper has been acquitted of murder, although she is almost certainly guilty.

In more general terms, Pip's contacts with Wemmick and Jaggers and his visits to Newgate make him very aware of the consequences of crime, and of sentences that are often out of proportion with the crime committed.

At the end of the book, by planning to help Magwitch escape, Pip himself is in danger of punishment.

The law

The workings of the law do not come outwell from the action of the novel:

  • from his earliest contacts with Jaggers at his office, when Mike brings along an obviously false ‘witness' Pip becomes aware of how the law can be manipulated
  • the story of how Jaggers makes Mollie cover her strong wrists at her trial is another example of what a clever lawyer can do to make the guilty appear innocent
  • Magwitch's story of his trial and imprisonment makes it clear that the law is biased in favour of those who can present a good appearance and speak eloquently – that is to say, members of the educated middle and upper classes.


At a number of points in the novel, Pip speaks of his sense of guilt and this is often linked in his mind with his frequent encounters with examples of criminality.

In particular, he feels guilty about the attack on Mrs. Joe, associating it in his mind with the help he gave to the convict.

It could be said that one of the ways in which Pip develops in the course of the novel is that he learns to feel guilty about the right things, such as his treatment of Joe and Biddy and his initial repulsion from the returned Magwitch.

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