Abel Magwitch is a fictional character in Charles Dickens' 1861 novel, Great Expectations.
Role in Great Expectations
Set in the 1800's, Abel Magwitch meets a future friend, Compeyson, at an Epsom Race. Compeyson had been brought up at boarding school, but was a good-looking gentleman. At the same time, Magwitch began a relationship with an unstable woman, Molly, who would soon stand trial for murder. Jaggers, her attorney, would argue that she was too weak to strangle a woman, and would convince the jury. Molly was acquitted, and, though unknown to Magwitch, would later serve as Jaggers' maidservant. Molly told Magwitch that she had destroyed the child, and that his child would die.
As the novel advances, Magwitch and Compeyson are accused of felony, being charged with putting stolen notes in circulation. Compeyson convinces Magwitch that they should have separate defence attorneys and no communication. At the day of the trial, Compeyson appears as a gentleman, while Magwitch had to sell his clothes to pay for Jaggers. He realizes that Compeyson had intended to scapegoat him, should they get caught, as the prosecution places most of the blame towards Magwitch.
Ultimately, Magwitch and Compeyson were sentenced to fourteen and seven years respectively imprisonment. Magwitch and Compeyson are sent to the same prison ship. After landing a punch on an inmate, he is taken to a solitary confinement cell, but escapes the cell around Christmas of 1812.
"[a] fearful man, all in coarse gray, with a great iron on his leg. A man with no hat, and with broken shoes, and with an old rag tied round his head. A man who had been soaked in water, and smothered in mud, and lamed by stones, and cut by flints, and stung by nettles, and torn by briars; who limped and shivered, and glared and growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin."
- ↑ Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Barnes and Noble Classics 2003. pp 4.