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Postcolonial writers are interested in writing back to the Western discourse, for practising
imperialism by representing and constructing marginalized people and their cultures as
socially, culturally and morally inferior compared to the Empire. In their response to Victorian
authors, postcolonial writers have been concerned with the politics of representation and who
is allowed a voice. In this thesis paper, I examine Jack Maggs by Peter Carey, as a rewriting
and alterative version of the marginal character Magwitch who was transported to the penal
colony of Australia in Charles Dickenss Great Expectations. The method I approach first, is a
contrapuntal reading which is reading with an awareness of both the metropolis and the
marginal against which the dominant discourse acts. Secondly, psychoanalysis of the divided
self and how one imagines ones sense of belonging, and thirdly, a poststructuralist way of
how one interprets information and questions knowledge as truth. Placing Jack Maggs against
Great Expectations, I first examine Dickenss construction of Magwitch as both a sympathetic
and unsympathetic character in order to reveal Dickenss intention of displaying both emotions
and show that Magwitch played the role of reflecting the faults and cruelty of the juridical
system in England and as a reference to the colonial world, where Britain could project itself
against what Magwitch and Australia was not superior and sovereign. I then present how
Carey addresses these issues of inferior and negative representations of Magwitch and
Australia, by investigating the form and content of his rewriting. The results show an
ambivalence of colonial discourse in both form and content. At the level of form, Carey
imitates Dickenss style and language and reverses his narrative form in order to dismantle the
power of authority. At the level of content, Carey demonstrates the frustration of being trapped
between two cultures and finding a hybrid identity by combining the two cultures. Carey
suggests that the cause of the colonial subjects divided-self and frustration is a symptom of
how the colonial subject has been constructed as Other and inferior through colonialism.
Carey criticizes Dickens, in the character Oates, for blending fiction and historical accounts
about Australia, well knowing, that with Dickenss authoritative influence readers would
accept his account about Australia in his novels to be truth. Simultaneously stating that his
version of Magwitch is no more, but no less valid than Dickenss Magwitch. The significant of
Careys novel is that one should always question meaning and knowledge as holding any truth
everything is open for interpretation.


Introduction ............................................................................................................................................................................ 3
Theory ....................................................................................................................................................................................... 6
Methodology ........................................................................................................................................................................... 7

Theory .................................................................................................................................................................................... 10
Postcolonial Criticism ...................................................................................................................................................... 10
Australia as Terra nullius ............................................................................................................................................. 12
Cartography ......................................................................................................................................................................... 13
The Theoretical Framework of Edward Said ......................................................................................................... 13
The Theoretical Framework of Homi K.Bhabha ................................................................................................... 15
The Theoretical Framework of Benedict Anderson ............................................................................................ 18

How does Dickens generate sympathy for Magwitch in Great Expectations? .......................................... 19
How does Dickens make us withhold sympathy for Magwitch? .................................................................... 23

How does Carey criticize Dickens through Tobias Oates? ................................................................................ 27
The Level of Form and Content .................................................................................................................................... 27

Form ........................................................................................................................................................................................ 28
Mimesis: Jack Maggss mimicry of the colonizer .................................................................................................. 28
Mimicry: Careys pastiche of Dickenss style and language ............................................................................. 32

Content ................................................................................................................................................................................... 34
The relationship between Jack Maggs and Tobias Oates .................................................................................. 34
Jack Maggs and nation ..................................................................................................................................................... 38
Careys criticism of Dickens through Tobias Oates ............................................................................................. 46

CONCLUSION ....................................................................................................................................................................... 53

Bibliography ........................................................................................................................................................................ 55



A postcolonial approach of the rewriting of Peter Careys Jack Maggs (1997) to Charles Dickenss
Great Expectations (1861)
Postcolonial studies consist of a fairly new approach of re-readings of colonial and imperial
literature, thus examining the relation between the European nations the center and their former
colonies the margin as outlined by Said. At the height of the British Empire many Victorian
novelists, Thackeray, Eliot, Gaskell, Bronte and Dickens, to mention a few, favored this as a useful
narrative device. For the British public the access to textual descriptions of the margin were easier
to get a hold of than firsthand knowledge, as a result the marginal colonies and its marginalized
people were often established through literary representations than reality.
However, in modern times there have been an insistent and need for postcolonial authors to write
back to colonial writers of history, that have portrayed marginalized people as the Other as
savages and barbaric to the civilized and reasonable Self of the colonizer. Thus, it becomes
crucial for postcolonial writers to resist and correct the myths created by colonial writers. Some of
the recent examples of re-working of Victorian novels have been A Tempest (1969) to The Tempest
(1611),Things Fall Apart (1958) to Heart of Darkness (1902), Foe (1986) to Robinson Crusoe
(1719), and Wide Sargasso Sea (1966) to Jane Eyre (1847), which is perhaps the best known
example of re-writing to date. What is essential in works of re-writing is the emphasis displacing
the center to the margin, in order to dismantle authority. Thus, the notion of rewriting is a way of
writing back to use Salman Rushdies phrase The empire writes back with a vengeance.

Similarly, the novel chosen for this paper, a fairly recent example, address these questions with a
political agenda as well, that is Peter Careys Jack Maggs (1997) a re-writing of Charles Dickenss
Great Expectations. (1861) As the approach of this paper is postcolonial, focus is placed on Peter
Careys Jack Maggs, thus Great Expectations will function as a sub-text in relation to the
investigations of this paper.
While Great Expectations is a classic of the dominant ideas found within canonical texts by first-
person narration, the contemporary novelist Carey challenges this narrative structure. In Jack
Maggs Carey re-tells the story of the convict Magwitch by taking up the last part of Dickenss

Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Postcolonial Literature 3

novel. Careys novel begins when the convict, in the name of Jack Maggs, after having served his
time in Australia comes back to England, to see his adopted and financed son Henry Pipps. The
novel is thus the telling of why and how Maggs became a convict sent to Australia in Dickens Great
Expectations, thus giving him a voice and placing him at the center of the novel, like that of the
Englishman Pip.
Similar to Great Expectations in which Pips story is the coming-of-age, Jack Maggs is also a
bildungsroman, in that the hero Jack Maggs, frees himself from his emotional attachment and
relationship to his mother country, and conversely, accepts his home in Australia and embrace his
hybrid identity, which is the result of two cultures. Carey offers an alternative version rather than
provide it with a mere continuation as sequels usually do. Postcolonial re-writings challenge the
narrative authority and is thus able to challenge the power that was once synonymous with
colonialism - the metropolitan centre. Carey literally exemplifies this phenomenon by featuring a
dishonest novelist, Tobias Oates, in the allusion of Dickens, who gives the world an inaccurate view
of the convict in his fictional novel called The Death of Jack Maggs. By challenging the writing
process of authorship, Carey puts the source-text into perspective as one version of the truth
amongst possible others in order to make space for writings of alternative versions. In a very
postmodern matter, Peter Carey challenges any claim to the truth. He points to his readers that
(re)writing including his own, Jack Maggs, means producing another ideological discourse, nor
more but no less valid than the previous text.
Now, it seems obvious to ask why I have chosen to include Great Expectations as a sub-text to Jack
Maggs. Since Jack Maggs is an independent work, why not only focus on that work. However,
when we read Jack Maggs comparatively to Great Expectations, we are able to recognize the
cultural form by studying the power relation between the hegemony culture in Britain and the
subordinate culture in Australia. Thus, we see how Dickens construct and practice Western cultural
norms in Great Expectations, by presenting Australia negatively. This for one allows the reader to
imagine that a second chance in life for the lowest type of renegades is only possible in Australia.
Secondly, that it is a place where one can financially prosper. Thus, Australia is imagined as a place
of criminals and money, which does not make a good combination. However, when we read Jack
Maggs comparatively to Dickens story, we are told the stories which Dickens left out. The most
strikingly example is when Maggs accounts for his time in Australia, where he was whipped and
treated like a dog. The fact that Dickens left out this kind of information in his novel shows the

imperial domination through literature. What is worse is that when Dickens as an influential author
portrays Australia and Magwitch as subordinate and negative, readers will most likely take Dickens
information of Australia and their citizens as knowledge. Thus, maintaining the power relations
between the empire and its colony through imperial practice in literature. Equally, Careys rewriting
of Great Expectations is a resistance of an alternative way of conceiving human history. Thus,
this leads to the research question for this paper.

How and why does Peter Carey rewrite the history of Magwitch in J ack Maggs from
a postcolonial perspective?
In order to investigate this question we need to develop a set of sub-questions. First we need to
examine the character Magwitch from the pre-text Great Expectations. How does Dickens generate
sympathy for Magwitch in Great Expectations? How does Dickens make us withhold sympathy for
Magwitch? It is only in light of our understanding of Dickens Magwitch that one is able to fully
understand the psychological impacts of colonialism on the subject of Jack Maggs. Thus, how does
Carey criticize Dickens through Oates? The argument for this research paper is the following:
I n J ack Maggs, Carey rewrites the history of Magwitch by combining a form that
both mimics Dickenss style and subverts his authoritative narrative device in order to criticize
what Carey sees as the unscrupulous writing process of the colonial world by the Victorian
author, thereby expanding our sympathy for the former convict as part victim of Empire, in
relation to political enterprises.



In order to examine these questions a comprehensive study of postcolonial theories needs to be
explored, hence it is highly essential to outline the postcolonial concepts from The Empire Writes
Back: Theory and Practice in Postcolonial Literature (2ed. 2002) by Bill Aschroft, Gareth Griffiths
and Helen Tiffin, three Australian critics who have been leading academics in commonwealth
literary studies. The title of their book, as previously stated, is from a phrase by Rushdies comment
The Empire writes back to the centre. Their work is valuable in relation to discussions of
important questions that arise when reading and writing/rewriting postcolonial texts. Additionally, I
have incorporated other studies of these three Australian writers as well, that of The Post-Colonial
Studies Reader and Post-Colonial studies: Key Concepts, one being a collection of numerous post-
colonial critics and the latter, a great tool for theoretical concepts within postcolonial studies.
Secondly, the theoretical work of Edward Saids Culture and Imperialism (1993), which is a
response to the criticism he received from his first book Orientalism, because of his generalizing
claims about the West and East. However, in this work his message is that imperialism is not just a
moment in history, but that it is a continuing interdependent discourse between the subject people
and the dominant discourse of the empire. Similarly, Homi K.Bhabhas essay, Of mimicry and
Man: The ambivalence of colonial discourse, from The Location of Culture (1994), also engage
with the relationship between colonizer and colonized, though it is much more complex in that
Bhabha is concerned with psychoanalysis influenced by Freud and Lacan. Both Saids and
Bhabhas theory derive from post structuralism, thus the tools they offer draw attention to texts as
unstable and always shifting. Bhabhas psychoanalysis is highly concerned with the notion of
nations, much inspired by Benedict Andersons key concepts of Imagined Communities: Reflections
on The Origin and Spread of Nationalism (1983,) that all communities and nations are imagined,
because its members never actually perceive or meet each other because, however, they imagine the
same reality through readings of newspapers and participation in shared experiences.
Taking these aspects into consideration, a very valuable literary work is John Thiemes Post-
Colonial Con-Texts: Writing Back to the Canon (2004), in which he uses the con-texts as counter-
discourse and pre-texts for their canonical counter-parts. Thus, my discussion of the novel is partly
appreciative to Thiemes close analysis of the literary con-text and inter-text, Great Expectations
and Jack Maggs. Thiemes criticism is that he mentions the difficulty of claiming Dickens simply as

a colonialist because of his criticism on Victorian society. Thieme observes that in Jack Maggs the
novel focuses on writing against the negative representations of Australia. Furthermore, the work
of Grace Moores Dickens and Empire: Discourses of Class, Race and Colonialism in The Works of
Charles Dickens (2004), offers a useful tool in the discussion of transportation of convicts and
national identity from Dickens perspective. This can help understand Dickens attitude and
references to the colonial world in his novels.
Last but not least, two of Andreas Gailes works, the Cross/Cultures Readings in the
Post/Colonial Literatures in English, Volume 78: Fabulating Beauty: Perspectives on The Fiction
by Peter Carey(2005), a great comprehensive analysis discussion on the works of Peter Carey
literary works, with particular interest in Part III: Perspectives on Individual Fictions, of different
discussion on Jack Maggs by Annegret Maack, Barbara Schmidt-Haberkamp and Bruce Woodcock,
and the other Rewriting History: Peter Careys Fictional Biography of Australia(2010) These work
show Gailes long-standing interest in both Australian literature and the works of Peter Carey. Gaile
discusses in essays, the fictional text of Peter Carey from a postmodernist and postcolonial
perspective. The selection of discourses that are addressed in these essays undertake a theoretical
approach in that they discuss postmodern issues concerning historic, political, and cultural memory
of Australians, as both a penal colony and terra nullius (no mans land) and how these play a
crucial part within Australia literature. While also suggesting that approach to literature and
knowledge, such as history, politics, and sociology and even art, should be read together as part of a
larger interwoven narrative on nation and power.

Post colonialism, similar to feminism and post structuralism, encourages us to look at alternative
modes of question, explanation and interpretation. They challenge the traditional conceptions of
meaning knowledge truth and humanism. Post colonialism, like feminism, is predominantly
concerned with political discourses that struggle against oppression and injustice, thus the need to
reject the established hegemony culture.

The criticism of postcolonial studies is that they do not offer creative solutions for colonial subjects
or immigrants who are still struggling with the issue of colonial effects. Nor are postcolonial
disciplines providing a way to challenge the status quo. Said suggests how to read and examine the

Abrams and Harpham, A Glossary of Literary Terms 245-248,93

colonial practice within great English literature, Bhabha encourages us to realize that identity is a
complex matter that cannot be labeled or defined, and Anderson shows that our identity is
constructed through our imagining of nations, cultures and communities. Yet, one could ask how
these theoretical approaches can be put into practice for all those people who are in need for
creative solutions. Where are the concrete results of the words from these critics?
According to some critics, postcolonial criticism has two major approaches. Those who engage in
postcolonial criticism study ways in which the texts bears the traces of colonialisms ideology thus
interpret such texts as challenging or supporting the colonizers purposes and hegemony. In general,
those who engage in this type of criticism analyze canonical texts from colonizing countries.
Postcolonial theory on the other hand, moves beyond the limits of traditional literary studies and
investigates the social, political and economic concerns of the colonized and colonizer. Yet no
matter which approach one takes, what matters is whether or not a postcolonial theorist/critic has
been a colonial subject.
What distinguish the two forms of approach are fundamental questions concerning ones identity
and cultural heritage. Consequently the works of the colonized writer will usually be personal and
always political and ideological. The outcome of the writing as well as the reading of a postcolonial
text will often be painful and troubling, yet also enlightening. Whatever the result may be, a
postcolonial text is unquestionably a message sent back to the empire. Simply put, postcolonial
works are born out of colonized peoples frustrations and their personal cultural clashes with the
conquering culture and perhaps more importantly their fears, hopes and dreams about their future
and their own identities.

Saids theory functions both as a pre-historic element and a tool to understand the colonial process
in Great Expectations, with particular interest in the social construction of the character Magwitch,
in order to recognize him as the marginalized victim of Victorian England. Here, I would like to
emphasize that the term marginal, is used for those who have undergone any form of subjugation, in
relation to the center, other terms within postcolonial studies are Self/Other, colonizer/colonized,
victimizer/victim, which will be used in the analysis section, in order to help distinguish the power
relation that takes place, in both Dickenss novel and Careys novel. Since I will mostly be referring
to the terms colonizer and colonized, let me just briefly explain the terms in this context. When we

speak about colonization, we refer to the creation of two conflicting societies, the one of the
colonizer and the one of the colonized. The system of colonization is a system of oppression where
the colonized is barbarized and suppressed so the colonizer, with good consciousness, can take
everything from the oppressed. In relation to this paper, the colonizer and colonized will mostly
refer to how the colonizer controls and suppress the mind of the colonized and what the effect of
this form of conscious suppression has on the colonized.
Saids concept on imperialism helps to demonstrate that Dickens novel, when read
contrapuntally, which is a way of interpreting colonial texts by considering the perspective of
both the colonizer and the colonized. For instance, when Australia is shown as a penal colony for
the transportation of criminals, it reveals the process of maintaining a certain life style in England.
When having established the groundwork of postcolonial studies, we can move beyond Culture and
Imperialism and its political, social and economic effects. Thus, Bhabhas psychoanalysis helps
de-colonize the mind of the former colonized and understand Maggss divided self. Here, it is
important to consider three key concepts ambivalence, mimicry and hybridity - proposed by
Ambivalence is defined as a person who experiences opposing emotions and attitudes. I will use
this concept of ambivalence to analyze Jack Maggss mixed feelings towards mimicry. Mimicry is
when someone tries to copy someone else in some way that it almost becomes ridicules. The
concept of mimicry takes place on two levels. One is Careys mimicry of Dickenss style and
language. The other is Careys mimesis of Dickens novel, by reversing space, narrative form, and
identity. What emerges between mimicry and mimesis is the mode of representation for
postcolonial writing. Finally, the concept of hybridity is the blending of cultures and traditions and
a term of characterizing postcolonial writing in general, it is multi-voiced in that it balances
between the West and the non-West cultures as a result of the colonial encounter. Hybridity is
similar to ambivalence. In Jack Maggs, both Maggs and Oates, as the subjugated and the dominator,
need each other to reaffirm their identities. Tobias is driven by both fear and desire, in that he hates
Maggs because he is the colonized, thus different from him, but also desires him as the colonized
because Tobias needs Maggs to affirm his identity.
Together these concepts show how to read Jack Maggs as a textual resistance yet not showing
absolute opposition, to its pre-text, Great Expectations. Next, they demonstrate how the colonial
subject imagines and perceives the two cultures he feels trapped between, lives and acts in. The

identity of the nation plays a crucial role in the displacement of individuals of two cultures. Thus we
need a theoretical tool that helps to recognize and explain this sense of displacement and ones
identity in relation to how one imagines the nation. Here, Benedict Andersons concept of the
nation is relevant in order to understand how Maggs, both as British and Australian, imagines his
sense of belonging, and more important, sees the possibility of a successful future.
The reason for choosing the theoretical framework of Said, Bhabha and Anderson is because these
thinkers complement each other when we locate them with the colonial project in Western
discourse. In order to comprehend the full aspects of colonialism and in particular the construction
of the colonial subject in literature it is crucial to understand imperialism from both a macro and
micro level. The combining of Saids idea of colonialism from a worldview, Andersons key
notions on national level, and Bhabhas vision of the divided-self makes up an awareness of the
frustrations, hopes, dreams, future and identities of colonized people, which is the very source for
postcolonial writing.
Postcolonial Criticism

Edward Said states in Culture and Imperialism (1993,) that colonialism is mainly about the political
and economic relationships, some of which may or may not continue after independence. The
postcolonial period, however, is more about the intrusion and colonization of minds with ideas.
Thus, according to Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin, it covers the cultures affected by British
imperialism, also including other European powers, like France, Portugal and Spain, from the time
of colonization to present day.

The literatures of African, Caribbean and South Pacific Island countries, have all been placed within
postcolonial literatures, however, it was only until recently that literature from settler colonies, the
United States, Canada, Australia and New Zealand have been claimed as postcolonial, partly due to
their economic status, USA being a power nation today, but also due to the fact that these are white
The formation of English studies and the growth of Empire advanced from the same
ideological climate, thereby developing at the grounds of each other both using propaganda and

Ashcroft, Gareth and Tiffin, The Empire Writes Back: Theory and Practice in Postcolonial Literature 1
Ibid, 1-2, 131

constructing values, such as civilization, humanity etc. Literature was established as central to the
cultural enterprise of the Empire and thus denied the values of the marginal, peripheral and
uncanonized. If there were considered any aspect from the margin to be threatening the centre,
they were quickly dismissed. For instance, the desire to imitate the person in power or as Said notes,

[] conscious affiliation proceeding under the guise of filiations [] that is, mimicry
of the centre proceeding from a desire not only to be accepted but to be adopted and
absorbed. It caused those from the periphery to immerse themselves in the imported
culture, denying their origins in an attempt to become more English than the English.

According to these three authors, recent emerging of postcolonial literary theory comes from the
lack of ability of European theory to effectively treat the different cultural origins of postcolonial
writing, but also for the reason that European theories are based on false notions of the universal
thus calling out for a different approach which takes into account the differences within various
cultural traditions. In a way, one could compare this with when male writers dominated literature,
until early 20
century where women found themselves to be unjustly portrayed by men, thus
calling for womens need and insistent to portray themselves in literature. Postcolonial criticism is
merely a tool for showing how former colonizer and colonized can establish a mutually respectful
relationship in a postcolonial world. The important part of postcolonial criticism is to deconstruct
the racist and imperialist assumptions of colonial logic that still influence relations between nations
till this day.

In the area of postcolonial writing, the relationship between the colonizer and colonized relates to
the issue of political, imaginative and social control. Within this relationship, the question of the
possibility of decolonizing the culture becomes an important one, both what decolonizing implies
and how it should be achieved, as discussed heavily in postcolonial societies. While some critics
argue that colonization is just a passing historical feature, therefore the need to get back to pre-
colonial languages and cultures, others dismiss that fact because it is impossible and thus advocates
for cultural syncreticity for its strength as being both fruitful and characteristics for all
postcolonial societies. One of the elements of decolonization is the language that one chooses to
write in. For example, in some postcolonial countries, such as India, where there are alternatives to

Ibid, 3-5
Ibid, 4
Ibid, 10-12

English a request for writing exclusively in their pre-colonial languages have been recurring, thus
making it a powerful tool in self-assertion, the same is increasingly happening in African countries.

Australia as Terra nullius

In 1788
the indigenous people of Australia were denied existence as their land was rendered terra
nullius- a no peoples land. This painful and dark history still exists today and shakes the very
foundation Australia rests on. For Australians the declaring of Australia as terra nullius was nothing
but a legal fiction by Captain James Cook, who acquired the land for British territory. It was not
until recently, 3 June in 1992, in the case Mabo vs. Queensland,
that they had admitted that white
Australians had stolen the country from Aboriginals and that the time had come to hand it back to
According to Ashcroft and Salter, this judgment signifies a postmodern era of Australia.
Some historical scholars supported this change in attitude and even called for an Aboriginal
renaissance. Consequently, Australian history has been divided in two periods. The first half of the
twentieth century Aborigines were highlighted as the doomed race and written out of history
records and since Aborigines had no access to historical records it was possible for the discourse of
Western literature to historically silence the Aborigines. This case, according to Foucauldian and
Spivakian terms, illustrates epistemic violence, in that subjugated knowledge that were
disqualified as inadequate to their task or insufficiently elaborated: nave knowledge, located low
down on the hierarchy, beneath the required level of cognition or scientificity.

Carey himself expresses his feelings of Australian historical discourse as,
We told ourselves [the land] was not farmed, not being used. We told ourselves that
unlike the Maoris in New Zealand who famously resisted the Aboriginals didnt
fight at all. But of course they did; there were these fierce wars fought all over the
country. People of my age grew up in total ignorance of this.

Ibid, 28-30
Gaile, Chapter six: Dissecting the Lies of Terra Nullius. The Nightmare of Aboriginal History 108
Ibid, 109
Ibid, 108-111
Ibid, 113-114
Ibid, 108

From this point, Careys political agenda in his postmodern and postcolonial narratives differs from
that of many of the traditional views portrayed by his contemporaries. Thus, Carey seeks in his
novels to place responsibility and guilt of the nightmare the British have been responsible for.

Cartography is the map and mapping, both literally and metaphorically, of the dominant practice of
colonial cultures. The process of imperial control and discovery of foreign land, is the centrality of
constructions of maps, thus it becomes [] textualizing the spatial reality of the other, naming or,
in almost all cases, renaming, spaces in symbolic and literal act of mastery and control.
colonized lands were re-written to shape the ideology of the European cartographer and explorer.
This was one of the essentialist features of colonialism, yet it was not only restricted to unknown
territories. For instance, most of the native Irish, Gaelics, culture have literally been overwritten by
English imperialism. The blank space, referred as terra nullius (no mans land) or tabula rasa
(blank mind) accordingly becomes an open space for European imagination. Simultaneously, it also
encouraged cultural rewritings and drawings of the indigenous, as cannibals, savages, and monster-
like, thus prior knowledge, language and culture of indigenous people were almost completely
ignored and silenced by the cartographers.

The Theoretical Framework of Edward Said

Edward Said is one of the founding figures in postcolonial studies, and is perhaps best known for
his work Orientalism(1979). In his second work Culture and Imperialism (1993),which is a
response to the criticism from his first book, Said is concerned with the fact that much criticism
despite its theoretical approach does not engage with the authors structure of attitude and
to the colonial world in great English novels. Said emphasizes how much more
importance there is than the slight references to the colonial world in great literature. This is what
Said calls contrapuntal reading which is a way of reading texts of English literatures that reveal
their implications in imperialism and colonial process. As we look back at the cultural archive, we
begin to reread it not univocally, but contrapuntally, with a simultaneous awareness both of the

Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin, Key Concepts in Post-Colonial Studies 31
Ibid, 31-33
Said, Culture and Imperialism 95

metropolitan history that is narrated and those other histories against which (and together with
which) the dominating discourse acts.
For instance, when Dickens refers to sugar plantations or
transportation of criminals to the colonies, he is, implicitly, revealing the attitude and the process of
a certain life style in England. Thus, Said argues that the formation of the English society and
culture is very much grounded on the ideology of imperialism.

According to Said, influence is very much grounded in the history of ideas and the study of
cultures. In studying the relationship between the West and its dominating cultures, we not only
understand the unequal relationship, but also the construction and meaning of Western cultural
practice. Said argues that we need to take into account the inequality of power relations between
West and the non-West in order for us to understand cultural forms in novels, poems, historical
discourses or other works, where this inequality strives. Simultaneously, revealing how much the
stronger culture overlaps and also depends on the marginal culture.

With the developing of postcolonial studies, Westerners have realized that what they used to say
about the history and culture of the subordinate people are being challenged by those very people
themselves. Although this is not a generalizing critique of all westerners, in that there were, Said
points out, many efforts of great and stunning achievement made of the world outside Europe
known by Western scholars, historians, artists, philosophers and so on.
Nevertheless, with
postcolonial literature the Westerners have been confronted in seeing themselves not only as a
sovereign but also as a culture and race accused of crimes of violence and suppression. Resistance
therefore is an alternative way of conceiving human history.

Said suggest, If, for example, French and Algerian or Vietnamese history, Caribbean or African or
Indian and British history are studied separately rather than together, then the experience of
domination and being dominated remain artificially, and falsely, separated.
Thus, it is important
to examine the imperial domination, from one aspect, and resistance to it, from another aspect, as a
dual process towards de-colonization, and then independence.

Ibid, 51
Ibid, 43-97
Ibid, 191-209
Ibid, 195
Ibid, 206, 191-220
Ibid, 259
Ibid, 259

The Theoretical Framework of Homi K.Bhabha

Homi K. Bhabha is also one of the leading postcolonial theorists and critics. In The Location of
Culture (1994), Bhabha builds on Saids concept of the Other.However, he differs from Saids
strong focus on binary oppositions. Bhabha observes that the colonized person has two distinct
views of the world. One is the world of the colonizer and the other of the colonized subject
himself/herself. Thus, Bhabha questions which culture the colonized person belongs to. At first,
neither cultures feels like home, and it is this feeling of unhomeliness or uncanniness borrowed
from Freuds concept of unheimlich that Bhabha believes the colonized engages in, a sense of
double consciousness.
In Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse, an essay
from the same book, Bhabha refers to Jacques Lacans idea of mimicry, thereby relating his theory
to psychoanalysis,
Mimicry reveals something in so far as it is distinct from what might be called an
itself that is behind. The effect of mimicry is camouflage It is not a question of
harmonizing with the background, but against a mottled background, of becoming
mottled exactly like the technique of camouflage practiced in human warfare.

Mimicry in colonial literature is often seen when a member of a colonized society, for instance,
Indians and Africans, imitate the language, dress, politic, and cultural attitude of their colonizers,
for instance, the British or the French. Thus, mimicry is when one copies the person in power,
because one hopes to have access to that same power oneself. However, when copying another
persons pattern of behavior one has to intentionally suppress ones own cultural identity. In some
cases the colonized subject or immigrant living in a foreign place becomes so confused by the
encountering dominant culture, that there may not be a preexisting identity to suppress.

According to Bhabha, mimicry reveals the ambivalence of colonial discourse. For instance, when
the colonized mimics the colonizer, the colonized forces the colonizer to see himself as an Object,
because through colonial power the colonizer have constructed and represented the colonized and
its culture as Object and Other. Mimicry therefore, Bhabha claims, proves to be an effective
strategy for power and knowledge to the colonized. However, it can also be a threat, a menace, for

Bhabha, Of Mimicry and Man; The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse 13-15
Ibid, 121
Ibid, 121-123

the colonized, in that, The menace of mimicry is its double vision which in disclosing the
ambivalence of colonial discourse also disrupts authority.
The ambivalence of the mimicking man
is contradictive in that he simultaneously reinforces the colonial authority and disturbs it. Thus,
mimicry is deceptive by nature and serves as partial presence which is the basis of mimicry. As it
is merely a resemblance of something and holds no essence in itself, it is therefore also the most
terrifying thing to behold.
It is terrifying because the colonized man will realize that his
deceptive life cannot last and often, his traumatic experience of subjugation brings him to take on a
quest for a hybrid identity. Bhabha claims that there are two ways of considering mimicry, What
emerges between mimesis and mimicry is writing, a mode of representation, that marginalizes the
monumentality of history, quite simply mocks its power to be a model, that power which
supposedly makes it imitable. Mimicry repeats rather than re-presents [].
This proves to be
effective for postcolonial writers, because by imitating the colonial authors, they are able to
demonstrate the deceptiveness of their artistic models and thereby dismantle the colonial authors
authoritative power of colonial practice within Western literature. Yet, on an unconsciousness level
mimicry also reveals the ambivalence towards colonial discourse. Here, Bhabha quotes Freud to
stress his idea,

Their mixed and split origin is what decides their fate. We may compare them with
individuals of mixed race who taken all round resemble white men but who betray
their coloured descent by some striking feature or other and on that account are
excluded and enjoy none of the privileges.

Thus, mimicry proves to be powerful in realizing ones self and eventually leads to an awareness
of the hybridity of the colonized, that ones identity is not fixed as represented and constructed
through imperialism. Similarly, ambivalence is a way of reading hybridity in a text that allows for
the possibility of textual resistance, because it creates these in-between spaces, which proves to
be a strategy for selfhood and truth.
Bhabha calls this the Third Space where people in
acceptance of an hybrid identity are free to negotiate and interpret their cultural identities through

Ibid, 125
Ibid, 123
Ibid, 125
Ibid, 125-126
Ibid, 127
Ibid, 129-131

cultural difference. With hybridity Bhabha claims that both the colonizer and the colonized are
affected by colonial encounter, thus there is no such fixed model for colonial identity.

Moreover, if cultures are hybrid then the counter perspective is that no nations or people are holistic
and pure, Bhabha notes,
Cultures are never unitary in themselves, nor simply dualistic in relation to Self to
Other [] The reason a cultural text or a system of meaning cannot be sufficient unto
itself is that the act of cultural enunciation the place of utterance is crossed by the
difference of writing [] It is this difference in language that is crucial to the
production of meaning and ensures, at the same time, that meaning is never simply
mimetic and transparent.

Said differently, a national culture cannot be holistic and pure, because its meaning, like the product
of language, is open to interpretation by the reader or audience which might differ from what was
intentionally meant, hence it is open to ambivalence. One could therefore argue that the colonizers
cultures domination on the colonized culture is open to ambivalence.
Thus, he calls for literary hybridity, which uses experimental modes at the level of narrative form,
this is quite fundamental to what we today know as postcolonial literature. In fact, when colonial
authors, from Asia and Africa adopted the literary forms such as the novel and short story, which
originated in the West, they were facing an open format in which they could collectively begin to
imagine a sense of national and cultural identity, through novels and short stories. Literary hybridity
is often invoked with new narrative form, for instance magic realism invoked in many of Salman
Rushdies stories and his style of literary hybridity in blending Eastern texts with Western narrative
frames. Another example of literary hybridity relates to postcolonial literatures response to the
Western Canon. In which postcolonial authors freely adopt the Western literary forms for their own
purposes and the frustrations of these authors are often related to the canonical authors negative
representations of Asia, Africa, Australia and other former colonies.

Bhaha, Cultural Diversity and Cultural Differences 156
Bhabha, Cultural Diversity and Cultural Differences 156
Ibid, 155-157

The Theoretical Framework of Benedict Anderson

Bhabhas concepts are much influenced by Benedict Andersons idea of Imagined Communities.
Anderson proposes three key concepts that define nations as limited, sovereign and community.
Thus, a nation is a community that is socially constructed by the people who perceives to be part of
that community. Hence, it is limited for people within a geographically area, while also performing
power and sovereignty over its people. For that reason, nationalism is a question of ones
consciousness, and it is the very act of imagination that has to be explained. For instance, Anderson
tries to correct the supposed incapacity of both Marxist and liberal theory in relation to nationalism.
For Anderson, Marxism cannot seem to explain matters of nationalism. For instance, he questions
the memorable formulation The proletariat of each country must, of course, first of all settle
matters with its own bourgeoisie
in which Anderson questions why national affairs must be
settled before moving on to international ones. Thus Anderson moves beyond Marxism and
disagree that nationalism and history is merely the struggle of peoples class, but claims that
nationalism is a cultural artifacts of a particular kind, similar to religion or other strong connections
people share. Thus, nationalism is a question of ones consciousness.

Anderson argues the nation is limited, because even in large populated nations there are restricted
boundaries where other nations reside. He explains that no nation imagines itself being coexisted
with mankind, and that not even the extremist nationalists imagine that all members of the world
will join their nation one day. Thus the nation is limited. Next, the nation is imagined as sovereign
because the idea evolved around the time where enlightenment and revolution was destroying the
hierarchical system. Usually communities are to be distinguished by the style in which they are
imagined. Thus, the nation is sovereign where it dreams to be free and directly under God. Finally,
it is imagined as a community because a nation is imagined with ideas of fraternity and
comradeship. Fraternity is essential for people in order to be able to live together without destroying
each other, and build strong nations by imagining shared experiences.

Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism 123
Anderson, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism 123-125
Ibid, 123-125

How does Dickens generate sympathy for Magwitch in Great Expectations?

The opening of the novel positions a sympathy towards the narrator Pip, and it is only in his extent
that the reader comes to extent his/her sympathy towards Magwitch. In chapter one, we witness
how the innocent child Pip falls into the hands of a criminal, Magwitch, who wants the little child to
steal from his sister You get me a file. He tilted me again. And you get me wittles[] Or Ill
have your heart and liver out He tilted me again.
by making an innocent child a thief, Dickens
prepares and makes the reader re-examine our sympathy for Magwitch, which is essential for
developing the plot. The concept of criminality is re-enforced by Dickens to begin with as he
illustrates in the opening scene, what is criminal and not criminal behavior, in which Pips crime is
seen to some extent as innocent and passive.
Another example in which Dickens urges his readers to feel sympathy towards Magwitch is when
the convict is captured by the authorities and apologizes to Joe, for eating a pie Pip has brought him,
So, youre the blacksmith, are you? Then Im sorry to say, Ive eat your pie. God knows youre
welcome to it so far as it was ever mine[] We dont know what you have done, but we
wouldnt have you starved to death for it, poor miserable fellow-creature.
Joe accepts
Magwitchs humbly apology, after all Magwitch is only stealing for his survival. This is perhaps
one of many paradigms that demonstrate Dickens ability to write with a compassionate heart, even
for those who at first glimpse do not appear to deserve it. However, this also has the counter-effect
of showing Pip, and Joe, as morally superior, in that they are able to forgive and help the criminal
who was unfriendly to Pip.
Dickens has portrayed Magwitch with traits that in some cases are far better than many of the law-
abiding citizens in the novel. However, Dickens shows another counter-effect by positioning
Magwitch with another criminal, whose reflection more seems to show Magwitch as a victim than a
hardcore criminal. This occurs in the light of the character Compeyson, the man who left Miss
Havissham at the altar. In comparison to Magwitch who stole for survival, and later with his
connection to Compeyson But what the Devil was I to do? I must put something into my stomach,

Dickens, Great Expectations 26ch2
Ibid, 56ch5

mustnt I?[] Tramping, begging, thieving working sometimes when I could[].
Compeyson is
a far more terrible criminal, a real villain so to speak,
Compeysons business was the swindling, handwriting forging, stolen bank-note
passing, and such like. All sorts of traps as Compeyson could set with his head, and
keep his own legs out of and get the profits from and let another man in for, was
Compeysons business.

Thus, Magwitch has become a victim of Compeysons manipulative schemes. This is further
illustrated when both of the criminals were put on trial, Compeyson having had fine schooling and
much younger than Magwitch, is regarded as a sophisticated gentleman with good social
connections. Alas, it is the appearance of a gentleman that saves him out of prison,
[] when the verdict come, warnt it Compeyson as was recommended to mercy on
account of good character and bad company, and giving up all the information he
could agen me, and want it me as got never a word but guilty?[] aint it
him(Compeyson) as gets seven years, and me fourteen[]

Magwitch is doubly-victimized of the manipulative Compeyson but also of the social and political
system, as his punishment is double the time of Compeyson. This shows that the law policy seems
to function according to ones social class and less on the committed crime. This also suggests that
the crimes committed by Magwitch are misfortunes attributed to a few bad choices he has made in
life, yet mostly he is doomed because of his social class.
In the relationship between Pip and Magwitch the reader is eager to feel passion for Pip. However,
between Magwitch and Compeyson, Dickens constructs sympathy for Magwitch as a counter effect
against the villain Compeyson. Dickens enormous sense of compassion for those more or less jailed
for wrong-doings of minor assaults, perhaps stems from his own father who was sent to debtors
prison when he was twelve years old. This suggests a reflection of a parent-child relation to that of
Magwitch and Pip.
Furthermore, as previously mentioned, we realize that Magwitch has been a victim of the rigid
penal and law system of Victorian England. When he returns, after being banished from England,

Ibid, 320ch42
Ibid, 321ch42
Ibid, 324ch43

he is sentenced with, [] punishment for his return to the land that cast him out, being
The process of upholding this form of alienation, only enforces our compassion for the
convict [] having expelled Magwitch as an undesirable element, Britain cannot expose herself to
the risk of contamination that would result from his repatriation.
However, in a colonial context,
this reveals the hypocrisy of England, that in order to maintain the superficial middle class lifestyle
they need to expose the problems of that same society, simultaneously showing an idealized image
of Britain to the world.
Magwitch is denied any development or self-definition. He is consistently repressed
as the Antipodean Other, who has committed crimes for which the penalty is transportation Not
only is he objectified into the convict he is also dehumanized.
From this perspective, Dickens
illustrates the practice of cruelty and injustices of the Empire, whose only way of dealing with
criminal affairs was to remove its victims. In Magwitch Dickens wants to demonstrate that one is
not born a criminal rather it is the creation of a rigid society A society that distinguishes gentlemen
to convicts, rich to poor, oppressor to oppressed, thereby maintaining status quo. From this
perspective, John Thiemes criticism of claiming Dickens as a colonist seems to be right. In that,
Dickens in the reflection of Magwitchs exposes the corruption and abuses of Victorian society,
thus criticizing his own society. In Dickens imagination such less-than-desirable elements seem to
inhabit a bizarre dual position as both symptoms of the shortcomings of society and also
contributors to the cause of its decay. In either case their return was to be secured
However, this suggests that though Dickens criticized the English system, he also
approved of not having convicts return, rejecting a second chance in life for criminals in England,
thus, implicitly, favoring that the British rule was the right order.
Despite Magwitchs lot in life, and his repeated position as low, he never seems to complain
about the injustices life has given him, I am not a going fur to tell you my life, like a song or a
story-book.[] Ive been done everything to, pretty well except hanged.
Perhaps Dickens is
suggesting that if people had not trained him to be a low scoundrel since he was young [] when
I was a ragged little creetur as much to be pitied as ever I see[]This is a terrible hardened one

Ibid, 416ch56
Moore, Chapter 1: Emigration, Transportation and the Problems of Closure 14
Gaile, The contrarian streak. An Interview with Peter Carey 251
Moore, Chapter 1: Emigration, Transportation and the Problems of Closure 8
Dickens, Great Expectations 319ch42

they says to prison wisitors, picking out me. May be said to live in jails, this boy
implying that
Magwitch may have been a much different man if the environment of his upbringing had been
different. As a consequence he seeks his revenge to exploit the societal class by promoting Pip
with gentility by material achievement.
Above all, Dickens seems to criticize those gentlemen of high social standing in the novel, Jaggers,
Herbert, and Compeyson while it is in fact Magwitch and Joe, those of lower class, that display
varying yet exemplary attributes of gentlemen. Thus they become father-figures for Pip.
Dickens creates ambivalence towards Magwitch, as he displays both an honorable side, but also a
criminal and less-like-able attitude. The first thing that strikes us is the name Magwitch. This name
alone suggest that he is not a very nice person. The witch part even alludes to something evil.
However, as the story progress the convicts name changes, and so does his identity, from
Magwitch to Provis to Mr.Cambell. When we are told, in the end of the novel, that his full name is
Abel Magwitch, we sense a change in Magwitch, from the beginning of the novel. Thus, as
Magwitchs name changes his identity changes as well. From a hardened criminal who threatens to
eat Pip to a redemptive man in the name of Abel Magwitch. The Abel part of his name is
misleading, because the name Abel normally alludes to the biblical term of the son who was killed
by his sinner and brother Cain, thus Dickens presents a binary opposition in the Pip and Magwitch
relationship distinguished as Good vs. Evil. However, Dickens use of Abel in this context, suggests
a redemptive-part, in relation to Magwitchs self-awareness, as he reveals his criminal story to Pip,
thus he has changed from a hardened criminal to a repentant sinner.
Magwitch thus plays the part of a dark and mysterious person. The Other as the marginalized and
outcast of society, both socially and culturally. When Magwitch reveals that he is the benefactor of
Pip, he starts to display feelings of cruelty, by commanding the expectations he has of making Pip a
gentleman, Magwitch gains a tyrannical and obsessive behavior to get his revenge over the
society that has cast him out. As the Australian critic, Robert Hughes describes Magwitch,
His energy is demonic; his thirst for revenge is insatiable. And it turns out that his
anonymous, obsessively prompted generosity to Pip is another kind of revenge, a
black joke against England and colonial class relations. Pip will be his revenge on the
Exclusives, who still spurn him as a risen felon. Do gentlemen make convicts? Then a

Ibid, 319ch42

convict will make and own a real gentleman, not a colonial facsimile. He will show
the truth about gentility: It can be bought.

Magwitch believes that a mans value depends on the amount of money one has and how ostensibly
one spends it, which seems to be the case for gentlemen in Victorian England. Thus, he has spent
his life working for money in Australia to make Pip, a poor blacksmith boy, a gentleman.
Although we should despise Magwitchs actions, we can only sympathize, because we realize that
society has created the revenge element in him, by continuously rejecting him for his social
status. For this reason we understand his need to make Pip a gentleman.
How does Dickens make us withhold sympathy for Magwitch?

Pips physical description of Magwitch reinforces our horrific feeling about Magwitch A fearful
man, all in coarse grey, with a great iron on his leg [] who limped, and shivered, and glared and
growled; and whose teeth chattered in his head as he seized me by the chin.
This description is
almost like an animal, and worse, Magwitch is associated with cannibalism, when he almost bid
Pips cheek. From these reports and depictions of Magwitch Dickens advices us to be careful, thus
we are terrified of this creature and reasonably distance us from him.
When Pip discovers that his benefactor is Magwitch, and not Miss. Havisham as he had hoped, he is
full of disgust, The abhorrence in which I held the man (Magwitch), the dread I had of him, the
repugnance []
Pip knows that he cannot obtain social respectability, what Magwitch himself is
seeking for by making Pip a gentleman, if it is known that his money is from a convict, as it would
be tainted money. Yet we are not told in the novel, how exactly Magwitch has acquired his
wealth, other than his work as, [] a sheep-farmer, stock-breeder, other trades besides, away in
the new world. (Australia)
We become suspicious about Magwitchs wealth. However,
Magwitchs obsessive behavior of satisfying Pip takes a whole new level of disgust, when he offers
to buy Estella for Pip, Isnt there bright eyes somewheres, wot you love the thoughts on?Oh,
Estella, Estella! They shall be yourn, dear boy, if money can buyem.

Thieme, 5: Turned Upside Down? Dickenss Australia and Peter Careys Jack Maggs 107
Dickens, Great Expectations 24ch1
Ibid, 298ch39
Ibid, 296ch39
Ibid, 299ch39

This is an ignorant determined man, who has long had one fixed idea. More than that, he seems to
me (I may midjudge him) to be a man of a desperate and fierce character.
When Magwitch
comes to act like a puppet master, who wants to control Pips life, we begin to judge him and
perhaps reconsider if he really is a changed man after all. The reader might even find him snobbish
at times. Moreover, in reference to another novel, Frankenstein, Magwitch is like Frankensteins
monster. He is rejected by the England society, thus he feels the need to return for acceptance, this
makes us sympathize with him to some extent but Pips repulse of Magwitch is similar to how
Frankenstein was by his creature, when he became horrified of what he had created. As Pip
describes his horrific fear of Magwitch we too become horrified of the convict, especially for Pips
Dickenss construction of Magwitch is inferior , in his use of visual detail and imagery through the
dialects and language of the criminal which not only distinguishes him between social status of the
other characters, but also because his language and gruesome appearance Others him. As Said
notes, language is what identifies by difference, thus Magwitchs language sets him apart from the
other characters. What is more is that he is the only character that is allowed to swear in the novel.
While both Magwitch and Joe represents lower social class in relation to their language it calls for
different kinds of interpretations. An example of invoking the readers sympathy is, that how you
might be amongst strangers, and that how you and me having been ever friends, a wisit at such a
moment might not prove unacceptabobble.
While Joes attempt to pronounce difficult words
leaves him tongue-tied thus evoking a sense of pity for Joe he is still superior to Magwitch, whose
language displays a more crooked imagination for the reader, e.g., Lookee here![] single-handed
I got clear of the prison-ship; I made a dash and I done it. I could ha got clear of these death-cold
flats likewise look at my leg []
Magwitchs language and frank way of talking represents him
culturally and morally inferior than the rest of the characters. Moreover, when Pip learns how to
write he is able to present himself far better than Magwitch, whose ability to read and write is
extremely limited. Thus, Pip utilizes epistemic violence on the representation of Magwitch, in that
he stereotypes the image of Magwitch. Again, this reveals Dickens structure and attitude to
reference to the colonial world. Similar to how the colonizer constructed and represented the Other,

Ibid, 316ch41
Ibid, 422ch35
Ibid, 53ch3

Pip describes and reports what Magwitch is as a reflection of what Pip is not. It is a mirror image in
that Pip needs Magwitch, the inferior to reflect him as the superior.
Dickens controlled what to be included and not to be included in order to sustain his authority. As
Dickens never went to Australia, he gained extensive amount of secondhand material, e.g. Having
never actually visited Australia, Dickenss fleeting depictions of life in the settlement were largely
informed by Household Words articles like An Australian Ploughmans Story by John and Samuel
Sidney. Interestingly Samuel himself never visited Australia either, but relied upon the accounts of
his brother John, who had lived as a bushman in New South Wales for six years.

This passage illustrate that Dickenss knowledge about colonies in the British Empire was gained
through textual depictions and representations of stereotypes, than firsthand knowledge,
simultaneously it was in narratives the question of imperialism practiced,
The main battle in imperialism was over land, of course; but when it came to who
owned the land, who had the right to settle and work on it, who kept it going, who
won it back, and who now plans its future-these issues were reflected, contested, and
even for a time decided in narrative. As one critic has suggested, nations themselves
are narrations.

From this perspective, Dickens worldview is inscribed in his portrayed of Australia, in which he
clearly emphasizes the superior cultures oppression of the colonies. More importantly, though
Dickens [] remained, throughout his life, unconvinced that transportation presented an adequate
remedial measure.[]
Having Magwtich return to England only to cause fear and horror, seems
to suggest that Magwitch return was used as a plot development, in order to cause fear for the
Victorian readers during his time.
Furthermore, the fact that Dickens allow Magwitch to be hanged, suggests that he supports the
death sentence of convicts returning to England. Though he did not favor transportation of
criminals, he did not want them to return either. This is another example of how the imperial
domination was practiced within discourse by showing Britain as a sovereign, where criminals
desired to return. Also, it suggests a form of arrogance of Dickens as he was not fully aware of what
happened in Australia, since he never actually went there, but still favored the topic in his novels.

Moore, Chapter 1: Emigration, Transportation and the Problem of Closure 12
Said, Culture and Imperialism 12-13
Moore, Chapter 1: Emigration, Transportation and the Problem of Closure 15

When Magwitch smokes his pipe, Pip repeatedly refers it as negro-head tobacco. In fact it is
repeated four times, negro-head[]his negro-head[]loose tobacco of the kind that is called
Negro-head[] fill it with negro-head[]
By referring to this tobacco four times, Dickens is
revealing the novels discourse of race. There might be numerous commercial and racial symbols to
this word, however in this context, the word suggest the connection with the negro heads of
Australian Aboriginals, a population who were similar to the Africans, according to the British
settlers. Thus, the word connotes to Australia and Magwitch as a race of inferior status, even worse
Dickens describes Magwitch to be associated as a savage-and animal-like figure, similar to how the
British described the Aboriginals. This illustrates and enforces the power relations of imperialism.
As a result, Magwitchs marginalized and inferior position is so convinced in Dickenss novel,
because he is able to produce only a very little amount of self-representation. Thus, it is Magwitchs
inability to write that represents his position as subjugation of Victorian England. Pips various
attempts to control the return of the repressed fear from the convict continually brutalize the
representation of Magwitch. Dickens demonstrates through his construction of Magwitch a form of
self-validation, in that Magwitch is ultimately morally, culturally and racially inferior to the Empire,
thus Dickens shows his acceptance of the Empire.
Ultimately, Pips first person narrative form gives him a knowledge position and represents power.
Through Pip, Dickens is able to practice colonial domination. The fact that Dickens displays both
pathos and withholds pathos for Magwitch only reinforces the Empire. In that, by creating pathos
for Magwitch Dickens, implicitly, shows that Magwitch is marginal and weak and thus invokes the
feeling of pity and passion, which is only served to reflect the cultural, racial, and moral superiority
of the Empire. Withholding pathos for Magwitch shows the marginalized as dangerousthe
forbidden fear and therefore needs to be controlled, justifying the British rule, thus we come to
accept that as part of the order. By displaying both devices, Dickens constructs Magwitch as a
negative, inferior inversion of the Western culture. From this perspective, Dickenss novel allows
and maintains the traditional binary opposition of the Self and Other.

Dickens, Great Expectations 306, 310, 311, 319 ch40,ch41

How does Carey criticize Dickens through Tobias Oates?

The Level of Form and Content

In order to understand Jack Maggs as a postcolonial discourse, one needs to look distinctly at two
levels, at the level of form and at the level of content. In order to look at the form of the novel we
need to investigate Careys ambivalence of colonial discourse, which shows a need to resist and
adopt Dickenss form and style. We need to investigate the notion of mimicry. However, as this is a
rather complex concept, in which mimicry shows both mimic and resistance, I have chosen to
illustrate the notion of mimesis and mimicry separately in order to make it more easy to understand
and see the difference. It is very important to remember, and I cannot stress this enough, that both
notions are mimicry, an imitation of the person in power, in this case Dickens. However, they differ
in their artistic representation, in that mimesis, re-presents, while mimicry merely, repeats. Mimesis
shows textual resistance by placing Jack Maggs at the metropolitan center thereby threatening the
established position that Dickens created for Magwitch as marginalized and inferior to the rest of
the characters in Great Expectations. Mimicry is when Carey repeats, imitates Dickens style and
language, that it becomes difficult to distinguish them this is done deliberately to demonstrate that
the colonists model is a artificial and thus holds no power in itself. Mimicry reveals Careys
imitation of Dickenss style and language. Combining the two they illustrate what Bhabha claims is
the mode of representation for postcolonial writers.
It is only by demonstrating this mode of representation that we can obtain a hybrid reading of Jack
Maggs and be able to identify it as a novel that is an offspring of Great Expectations. Yet
independent as well as the identity of Jack Maggs, who needs to return to England in order to
accept his home in Australia as an independent man. Thereby, Carey is also saying, implicitly, that
there has never been a distinct division between the colonizer and the colonized. From this aspect,
ambivalence is a tool for Carey to display colonial discourse and show Jack Maggs as a hybrid text.
In order to look at the level of content in Jack Maggs we need to investigate three aspects of
colonialism. First, we need to examine the relationship between Oates and Maggs in order to see
how Oates as the colonizer controls and constructs the colonial subject, Maggs. Next, we will
examine the effects of colonial subjugation on Maggs in order to see how he conceives and
perceives himself in relation to his identity and nation. Finally, as a result of the two previous

investigations, the former showing the practice of imperial and the latter the effects of this, we can
examine how Carey criticizes Dickens through Oates, for imperial practice within Western
Mimesis: Jack Maggss mimicry of the colonizer

This section examines Maggss mimicry of the colonizer. In order to do that Carey, subverts the
idea of center/margin, narrative form, physical appearance, the nation, and the citizen. As a result,
the division between center and margin becomes unclear. Maggss mimicry is a way to obtain the
power of the colonizer, in order to tell his story and see himself as the colonized by becoming the
colonizer, only then can he come to accept the truth about himself and find salvation. This is part
one of two aspects of mimicry. Mimesis and mimicry both are imitations, but while the former re-
presents, the latter repeats. Now, we will examine what Carey re-presents.
In Jack Maggs, Carey gives voice to the suppressed point of view of Abel Magwitch, the
transported convict and benefactor of Pips in Great Expectations. Carey makes use of a set of
discursive strategies in order to give a more sympathetic portrayal of the man who was banished
from England, by allowing the colonized to take control of his own story, despite being the subject
of others. As a result, by shifting the narrative form from the Eurocentric point of view - Pip (now
Henry Pipps) to the antipodean Magwitch (now Jack Maggs), the narrator is able to maintain his
humanity, and regain a sense of belonging in the world.
In Jack Maggs, Carey literally turns everything upside down the margin is now at the metropolitan
It was a Saturday night when the man with the red waistcoat arrived in London. It
was, to be precise, six of the clock on the fifteenth of April in the year of 1837 that
those hooded eyes looked out the window of the Dover coach and beheld, in the bright
aura of gas light, a golden bull and an overgrown mouth opening to devour him the
sign of his inn, the Golden Ox.

Carey, Jack Maggs 1

The first aspect to notice here is the attention to details in the style of narrative. There are phrases
that are slightly colloquialised, e.g., It was a Saturday night, looked out the window and
antiquated, e.g.,six of the clock. Another example is Careys attention to precision of timing by
stating time and place the character gains control of his situation. Next, we also gain insight of his
feelings to his rather icy perception of the center, an overgrown mouth opening to devour him.

The opening section seems to stress the urgency of the characters quest, thus with the reversal of
urban space, the former colonized seems to invade and repossess the metropolitan,
In order to recreate this London of the past convincingly, Carey researched the details
to get a true sense of the place. Maps of the time provided precise information about
street names, which are vividly inhabited with the vibrant life of his imaginary city

Thus Careys reconstruction of the cityscape is both detailed and historically faithful. By rewriting
the urban space of Dickens Victorian London, Carey emphasizes the space which metonymically
stands for Britain as the imperial power and which is here significantly viewed from the convicts
This leads to reversal of the narrative perspective, from Pip (colonizer) to Magwitch (colonized).
Said states, The power to narrate, or to block other narratives from forming and emerging, is very
important to culture and imperialism.
While Great Expectations is narrated by Pip and only him,
giving the English gentleman authoritative power and control, Carey utilizes a third person
omniscient narrative view in his novel, in which he unites present actions with Maggss history.
The reason for this, Carey states in an interview, In the context of a novel with an omniscient
narrator, people want to have some stabilizing force in the narrative, and they want to know who
they can trust, or what they cannot trust

There are four narratives in Careys novel. The first serves as a manuscript of the life and cultural
setting of Dickens against the background of this novel, Great Expectations. The second is the story
of the fictive author Tobias Oates and his novel The Death of Jack Maggs. Dickens and Oates share
the same value in the depiction of the former convict. By representing Dickens through the

Ibid, 1
Woodcock, 8: Jack Maggs 119-120
Said, Culture and Imperialism 13
Gaile, The Contrarian Streak. An Interview with Peter Carey 9

character Oates, Carey is able to portray them as voices of the dominant discourse in Victorian
ideology. The third narrative is the story of Jack Maggss past, revealed through his letters to Pips
and during his mesmerism-sessions with Oates. This is also the narrative that illustrates the cruelty
of London and its treatment towards the voiceless poor class, while also criticizing the juridical
system for being the very cause for producing criminals. The final and fourth narrative is Careys,
which contains all three conflicting histories and thereby contradict the cultural principle of the pre-
text, Great Expectations. It does so by replacing Magwitch with Maggs and Dickens with Oates, in
order to reveal Oates as the victimizer of Maggs. As a result, by depicting several narratives from
different characters, Carey re-visits the Victorian narrative of first-point of view as an authoritative
and decisive interpretation of a situation or event that [] destabilize the very basis of fictional
authority and with it linear, filial lines of influence between metropolis and former colony.

Similarly, the physical description is also subverted by Carey. Magwitch is a stereotyped convict in
Great Expectations, e.g. They he had long iron grey hair. That his age was about sixty. That he
was a muscular man, strong to his legs, and that he was browned and hardened by exposure to
to Careys Magwitch,
He was a tall man in his forties, so big in the chest and broad in the shoulder that his
fellows on the bench seat had felt the strain of his presence, but what his occupation
was, or what he planned to do in London, they had not the least idea. One privately
imagined him a book-maker, another gentleman farmer and a third, seeing the
excellent quality of his waistcoat, imagined him an upper servant wearing his masters
cast-off clothing.

The Magwitch Dickens construct is old and weak, while Careys Magwitch is a young and strong
man in his forties, dressed like a gentleman. Similarly, the character of Pip is now a snobbish and
ungrateful in the character of Henry Pipps. Dickenss Magwitch is instantly presented as a criminal,
while Carey deploys a sense of ambiguity of Maggss identity as there is a crisis of origin, or as
Bhabha calls it, an ambivalence of representation. If we accept Bhabhas concept, then the first
notion of ambivalence takes place in Careys demonstration of the colonial discourse as not merely
being a copy of Great Expectations. Careys novel can be read as mimicry of the pre-text of
Dickens, thus, as previously stated, ambivalence becomes hybridity in the text that makes it

Thieme, 5: Turned Upside Down? Dickenss Australia and Peter Careys Jack Maggs 109
Dickens, Great Expectations 296ch39
Carey, Jack Maggs 1

possible for textual resistance. The second notion of ambivalence is within Maggs himself. In that
Maggs never show absolute resistance to his colonizer, Oates. From this perspective, the notion of
ambivalence proves to be a useful tool for reading colonial resistance. Furthermore, by portraying
Pip as snobbish and culturally dismissive, Carey is able to reflect the English cruelty, thus use him
to shine light on Australia, similar to how Dickens used Magwitch to create fear
Another reversal is the idea of mother country and metropolis, as it is given a cruel and vicious
meaning. For instance, in the conversation Jack is having with his foster mom, who he refers to as
Mary Britten, You worried I might have a bone to pick with you, Ma? Arent you worried
someones going to hang you, Jack? Having made this bitter speech, she stepped inside the house
and closed the door behind her.
Percy Buckle gives his account of what happened to his sister As
for me, I had an older sister who suffered transportation to that same cursed place.[] but I never
did forget that day, God help us all, that Mother England would do such a thing to one of her
not only that but she also sells pills for abortions [] in Cecil Street where Mrs. Britten
sells her famous pills.
The allegory Carey uses of Mary Brittan, as the mother who betrayed and
abandoned her child, is both ironic and alludes to the historical facts of imperialism Thus, Careys
response to the allegorical representation of imperial dominance. It is Mary Britten who turns
Maggs into a criminal and exploits his talents and labour for profit, similar to Dickenss Fagin from
Oliver Twist. In fact, there are other connotations to Oliver Twist, in Careys novel, which we will
examine further on, in relation to the sympathetic portrayal of Maggs.
It is worth noticing that Maggs hides his true identity under a footmans disguise. If you are
lucky, you are dealing with a footman
Yet as we are relieved of his past later in the novel It was
very clear what would happen to me if I were to ever set foot in England again.
As a result
Maggs is a footman from the antipodes, which refers to Australia and New Zealand because of their
geographical location, thus Carey both literally and metaphorically takes his character from the
other side of the world.
As we started by looking at the first paragraph in which Carey subverts the established binary
oppositions of center and margin, as the colonized moves into the metropolitan center. There are

Ibid, 5
Ibid, 88-89
Ibid, 292
Inid, 23
Ibid, 128

other examples as well where he challenges the norm of social status in terms of wealth in England.
One is, besides being at the metropolitan he also owns a house in London and by reclaiming Pipps
as his English son and his English identity, his offspring. Maggs shows that the respectable
gentlemen and the criminal classes are entwined, thus, the division between the metropolitan center
and the colonial margin is not that clear cut.
Perhaps, the most vivid model of reversal is literary in the writing space of Maggs. When he
secretly writes his autobiographical letters to Henry Pipps Maggs writes from right to left, e.g.
sqqihp yrneH raeD[]He watched these fresh lines fade[] until, that is, they became
There are several symbolic interpretations on the account of this secrecy. First, the
invisible ink suggests a reflection of his subaltern position in society, which has been faded
because of his achievement of wealth. Next, it has certain degrees of antipodean meaning
Although the simile does not directly refer to antipodean, it certainly involves a reversal of
Western scribal norms, which is arguably necessary for the expression of subaltern utterance.
Maggs is in disguise in England, he must resort to secret methods of communication to Henry.
Another part in Maggss secret writing is [] you will read a distinguished story on the mirrors
handle. Well Henry Pipps, you will read a different type of story in the glass, by which I mean
mine own.
Maggss letter to Pipps can be read as a counter-discourse presented against the
writings by Oates. Here, the most crucial difference between Magwitch and Maggs is the ability to
write ones own story. While the mirror serves as a symbolic inversion of the writing space, and the
method of writing backward in invisible ink it also illustrates Maggss ambivalence for absolute
resistance. While he feels eager to reveal his story he also insists on hiding his troubled past. Maggs
is torn between the need to speak out and keep silent. However, Maggss hope of revealing his
traumatic history is ultimately to gain sympathy from Pipps, despite Maggss time in Australia.
When this fails it is us who sympathize with Maggs, not only through the knowledge of his letters
but equally for Pippss rejection of embracing his benefactor.
Mimicry: Careys pastiche of Dickenss style and language

This section is the second part of mimesis and mimicry. Here we will look at Careys mimicry of
Dickenss style and language. By imitating Dickenss social novel theme Carey is able to gain

Ibid, 74
Thieme, 5:Turned Upside Down? Dickenss Australia and Peter Careys Jack Maggs116
Carey, Jack Maggs 74

readers sympathy for Maggs, similar to the sympathy Dickens created for many of his child
narratives, including Pip. Simultaneously, Careys imitation shows that if Dickenss style and
language can be imitated then it is artificial, not natural or obvious.
In Jack Maggs, the scenery of London is identical of Dickensian London. In fact, the background
Carey creates for Maggs is noticeably similar to that of many of Dickenss child protagonists, in
particular Oliver Twist-orphan hood, poverty, child labor, abandonment, betrayal, social
humiliation and oppression. In parallel to Oliver and Pip, Maggs is also a lonely and vulnerable
orphan, yet defiant and tough.
An example of Careys pastiche of Dickens, is in Maggs letters to Pipps, in which he accounts for
his childhood[] for when I was just three days old I was discovered lying in the mud flats neath
London Bridge. I was picked up by Mudlarks. I do not recall this, but have so oft been told of my
Good Fortune that for many years I saw them in my dreams:[]
which echoes Oliver Twist. The
opening paragraph of Maggs first day is extremely, if not the same, as the descriptions of the little
orphan Oliver. Similarly, in Maggss letters Careys pastiche of the street scenery of Olivers
wandering is so identical that one becomes puzzled of which novel one is reading. However,
Careys imitation of one of the most sympathetic child characters of Dickens is deliberately selected
in order to create the same feelings towards his character Maggs. More importantly, to stress that
Maggs childhood is no different than that of Pip and Oliver. They are all orphans; however, Maggs
was not fortune enough to be raised by hand of a loving sister or come into the acquaintance of a
wealthy gentleman.
Other Examples of mimicry of Dickenss style and language, e.g. Now pay attention to this Silas
Smith, for he will come into the History later
is a classic Dickens style by directly addressing the
reader to pay attention to something or someone. Similarly, Dickenss enormous sense for details is
also adopted, e.g. He watched me as I laid my purse upon the table and opened it, and he watched
me as I separated two one-pound notes from its contents. They were clean and new, and I spread
them out and handed them over to him.
to Maggss narrative Oates watched close as his eel soup
was ladled into his plate. Straightened his silver. Stared at me. Stared at me again (26)

Ibid, 75
Ibid, 75
Dickens, Great Expectations 396ch39

The relationship between Jack Maggs and Tobias Oates

Tobias Oates is portrayed to represent the figure of imperialism and the role of the colonizer on
numerous levels. For one, he is a secret magnetist who is enthralled with examining The criminal
mind is as susceptible to magnetism as any other,[]
This suggest that he is a man who likes to
construct the idea and thoughts of other especially the criminals. Oates who believes him-self to be
a cartographer of the criminal suddenly takes an interest in Maggs not because he feels sympathy
towards Maggs but because he sees a great literary story in him. Thus, Oates begins to mesmerize
Maggs in order to investigate his brain,
I have them all inside this cranium. But what you have brought me here is a world as
rich as London itself. What a puzzle of life exists in the dark little lane-ways of this
wretchs soul, what stolen gold lies hidden in the vaults beneath his filthy streets []
Its the Criminal Mind said Tobias Oates, awaiting its first cartographer.

Carey illustrates the idea of cartography and that Oates no longer perceives Maggs as a person but
rather, in his process of mapping, a body of tabula rasa in which Oates can construct an identity
of a criminal, in order to make profit. From this perspective, Carey is stating in Oatess perception
of Maggs that between an author and a character, the way many Victorian writers, including
Dickens used the colonies as terra nullius, in which they could rewrite their own fictional
representations coming from the metropolitan center. This shows how imperialism constructed and
represented the Other as a reflection to the Self.
The metaphoric association between Maggss mind and an empty space is echoed throughout the
novel on different occasions, e.g. in his letters to Henry, Maggs defines himself as a blank map, I
blame myself for the way I withheld my true history from you. I left a blank map for you and you
have doubtless filled it with your worst imaginings.

As stated earlier, Carey has subverted the physical description of Maggs from Magwitch, hence
Maggs is disguised in his appearance, making the reader speculate if he is a gentleman, a servant or
something else, like the people on the bench in the opening page. This can be interpreted as Carey

Carey, Jack Maggs 28
Ibid, 90
Ibid, 238

leaves an open space, for the reader to bring his/her own knowledge of Maggs, with an allusion to
Magwitch. However, it is also Maggss camouflage in that he needs to disguise and protect
himself from being exposed as the colonial subject. From this perspective, Carey shows the
unwritten space that exists in every text, in which the reader needs to fill in the gap in relation to the
history according to his or her perceptions. Similarly, as Maggss body works as a driving narrative
in the novel, Carey shows through Oates, the power relations of class status, as the mesmerizer
transforms Maggss body into a text,
It has always been Tobiass method to approach his subject by way of the body. When
he had set himself the task of writing about Jack Maggs, he had first produced a short
essay on his hands, pondering not merely the fate of the hidden tendons, the bones, the
phalanges, the intercarpals which would one day be liberated by the worms, but also
their history: what other hands they had caressed, what lives they had taken in anger.

Oatess interest in Maggss body can be interpreted with two reasons. On the one hand, Carey wants
to expose the ability authors have to map and prescribe a certain identity or historical position for
a person, as Oates states Dont you see what I know possess? A memory I can enter, and
Oatess statement is strikingly an allegory of the history of cartography. The other reason
could be that Oatess physical accounts of Maggs, as hands hidden tendon, the bones in many
ways contrast the psychological, historical and autobiographical accounts told by Maggs himself.
Thus, Carey suggests that the suppressor and colonizer, in the form of Oates and also as illustrated
in Great Expectations, Then they looked at me, and I looked at them, and they measured my head
[phrenologists measured skulls to judge mental and moral capacities []
are more interested in
merely the physical attributes of a person, rather than to examine them, as Carey proposes, for both
the physical, emotional and historical records of a person.
The emotional aspects of Maggs are revealed through the mesmerism sessions by Oates, as he
uncovers the phantoms and strange images of Maggss past. The reason for Oates mesmerism
sessions is described by Lizzy,
Toby had always had a great affection for Characters, reflected Lizzie Warriner:
dustmen, jugglers, costers, pick-pockets. He thought nothing of engaging the most

Ibid, 303
Ibid, 87
Ibid, 319ch42

gruesome types in Shepherd Market and writing down their histories in his chap book.
The subject of this Mesmeric Exhibition did not know it, but he was likely to appear,
much modified, in Tobys next novel. There he would be Jack Muck, or Jock
Crestfallen a footman with a costers voice and a chest like a strong man in circus.

Carey implies Oates is a thief and the worst kind possible, those who steal not material objects, but
the personal thoughts and stories of people who are not even aware of it. Also, when Oates
discovers the commercial value in Maggss story Maggs becomes an object for Oates, in which he
can use Maggss past as material for his literary work. Similarly, by stating that Oates has affections
for characters, Carey shows the space authors place between themselves and characters so that each
character is the creation of a person rather than a reflection of a representation of a person. Carey
portrays Oates as a collector of characters from which he removes or takes pieces of story only to fit
with his own ideas, thereby suggesting a criticism on Dickens as well as writers from the Western
canon, who contributed greatly to the myth-making of the notion of the Other.
Through Oates Carey wants to criticize the blending of truth and fiction that the process of
authorship has, it is also emphasized by Maggs, again, using his body as an example, He began
slowly to pull the writers face towards his own as if he meant to kiss him. How am I to get those
thoughts back out?[]Your notes are lies, mate. Your notes say nothing about me taking off my
shirt. The truth is: you had me reveal secret information in my sleep.
Here, Maggss own story
serves as an embodiment of the truth against Oatess biographical account of Maggs.
Can you see our phantom, Mr. Maggs? We are going to chase him away. What do you think
frightens him? I dont think my Phantom is frightened, Sir.[] Oh, no, not flog him he cried.
You mustnt do that, Sir.[] Oh, God no, please[]
Maggs is clearly tortured by this
phantom, his alter-ego, and pleads Oates not to harm him. Yet, Oates continuous his violent
practice of cartography during the hypnosis, knowing the pain they inflict on Maggs. From this
point, Carey is suggesting that as an author, Oates is partly required to not ignore Maggss past, or
the history of Australia as a penal colony, yet, more importantly he cannot fully represent Maggss
story, well aware of the violence and traumas it produces within Maggss subconscious level, only
to create a story for commercial purposes. Oatess infliction of violence on Maggs is thus another
metaphor of colonialism where Carey posits responsibility on Britain.

Ibid, 81
Ibid, 232
Ibid, 83

Carey shows in the struggle between Oates and Maggs, the representation of the control to
enunciate between a writer and a character. While Maggs insist on telling his own story, Tobias
manipulatively insists on writing Maggss criminal past in his novel The Death of Jack Maggs, thus,
Carey is experimenting with the idea of meta-fiction. As a result we can argue that the relationship
between Jack Maggs and Tobias Oates, functions on two levels a meta-fictional perspective and a
postcolonial perspective, the struggle for the power to enunciate.
In the Prologue to Jack Maggs, Carey has included Du magnetism animal (1820)
by Armand
Marie Jacques de Chastenet, Marquis de Puysgur, one of the pre-scientific founders of hypnosis,
earlier known as, the title indicates, animal magnetism. The book highlights the notion of the
somnambulist, which is a person who engages in sleepwalking. More importantly, the fact that
Carey includes this concept before his story begins, states that he is playing with the idea of
possessing a hypnotic ability to extract story from those are not aware of what they express, that is
to produce consciousness while in an unconscious state. If this is what Carey is suggesting through
Oatess hypnosis sessions with Maggs then Carey is playing with the idea that the ability to
unnoticeably suit a narrative from one who does not even realize you have taken it, is far more
horrifying than any of the legitimate and epistemic violence contained in his novel. The idea of
opening the mind to outside interpretation opens a whole other field of fictional analysis what is a
piece of fiction if not the implied and suggested reports and descriptions of the narrative from an
authors mind. From this perspective, Jack Maggs is not just a narrative but also the dark and
frightening figure that can create and destroy his own story. From Bhabhas theory, Carey is
suggesting that the colonizer have become the colonized, and the colonized the colonizer. The fact
that Carey addresses this phenomenon in the prologue suggests a message that Maggss search for
his hybrid identity is already in motion. Thus, our first encounter of Maggs placed at the
metropolitan centre is Maggss beginning of his journey to truth and selfhood.
Carey illustrates through the hypnosis sessions by Oates, Dickenss own irresistible power for
[] Dickens was intensively occupied with mesmerism and its methods, when he
tried to cure Madame de la Rue of her nervous tic. During her mesmeric trances,

Ibid, Prologue

which Dickens induced , the patient explored fears, fantasies, and dreams through
verbalized free association, brought in order to find the hidden causes of her illness.

Similarly, Oates offers to heal Maggs tic doulourex and not only does Oates have Maggs suffer
the from the same physical pain as Madame de La Rue, but he also shows Oates attempting to cure
his condition along with its mental cause of a physic trauma, through what he calls magnetic
By letting himself be healed by Oates, Maggs shows the mystery of
psychological forces that Oates, much like Dickens, finds irresistible. Carey, not only criticize
Dickens process of writing and his means of gaining material for his novels, he also, perhaps more
importantly for a writer of storytelling, expose Dickens lacking of imagination, in order to fabric a
story for his novel. Thus, he exploits Maggs mind as material Dont you see what I know
possess? A memory I can enter, and leave [] But what you have brought me here is a world as
rich as London itself.

Oates tries to compensate for his lack of imagination by hypnotizing Maggs for the desire of profit,
prestige and fame and his desire to write stories and make novels [] a novelist who might topple
Thackeray himself. And it was this ambition; always burning bright within him []
Oatess desire for fame and acknowledgement, to be more important than for the passion of
storytelling. Oatess desperate measures are by his wife, Mary questioning his new activity, You
never needed magnets before. You used an ink and pen. You made it up, Toby. Lord, look at the
people you made. Mrs. Morefallen. Did you need magnets to dream her up?

Jack Maggs and nation

In Jack Maggs Carey interrogates one of modernitys and post colonialisms question that of
national identity. Carey shows the complexity of being caught between two nations, as Bhabha and
Anderson have put forward in their works. For one, Carey shows the ambivalence inherent in the
idea of the nation and how this idea works as a social construction,

Maack, Peter Careys Jack Maggs: An Aussie Story?232
Carey, Jack Maggs 27
Ibid, 87, 90
Ibid, 44
Ibid, 118

Convict literature is a well-established form in Australian writing. Part of its
significance lies in its reevaluation of Australian history in which the convict
experience is seen as significant in the development of the national psyche.

Thus Carey allows Maggs to examine the imperial experience on the English psyche, by allowing
him to come back home to England and confront the society that created him.
Consequently, Carey not only deals with postcolonial issues, but also historical and convict genres.
As a result Carey is able to show that the economic exploitations of class and colonialism are
integrally connected to cultural domination which destroys and re-corrects identities, selves and
histories. Again, the limitation of nations for Maggs as he cannot simultaneously be British and
Australian is exemplified by Bhabhas concept of unhomeliness. Bhabhas idea of unhomeliness
should be seen together with Andersons concept of the nation,
It is an imagined political community and imagined as both inherently limited and
sovereign. It is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never
know most of their fellow-members, meet them of even hear them, yet in the minds of
each lives the image of their communion.

Thus, the novel Jack Maggs can be related to Andersons three key concepts limited, sovereign,
and community. If we accept Andersons notion, then the limitations of nation causes instability in
Maggss nationalism since he cannot be British and Australian at the same time.
This is emphasized in the social construct of the nation and how Maggs imagines the nation. One of
Maggss many inner conflicts of the new national identity that the British try to create for him in
Australia is instantly rejected But you see, I am a fucking Englishman, and I have English things to
settle. I am not to live my live with all that vermin. I am here in London where I belong.

Maggss insistent on his English identity is perhaps to be traced in Careys own childhood
experience, as he address in an interview with Andreas Gaile,
Australian history is filled with denial and false consciousness. I grew up thinking that
we were English; my grandfather called England home. And somehow, when we
imagined the convicts and soldiers, we always placed ourselves on the soldiers side

Woodcock, 8: Jack Maggs 121
Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism 124
Carey, Jack Maggs 128

of the experience. We thought the convicts were nothing to do with us. Later I came to
believe that the convict experience was central in the formation of Australia. And, you
know, the convict experience makes itself felt in so many things, not least the very
particular nature of our lovely idiosyncratic Australian English.

Maggss ambivalence to the nation is also emphasized, as he on the one hand tries to distance
himself from those varmints as he perceives to be better than them because of his English
identity. In the other hand, also considers himself as a vermin, varmint and cockroach
and his
physical description [] his high hawks nose []a hedgehog or a mole like the hair of an animal;
These descriptions illustrate Maggss convict experience and his animal-like
associations of himself. More importantly, Maggss identification with insects alludes to the
metaphorical treatment the Empire had on its criminals, e.g. When Maggs recounts his experience
in Australia to Mercy Larkin, You would not be judging me. You would shoot a man you saw treat
a dog as we were treated. You might blow his brains out and not think yourself a bad un for having
done the business [] A girl like you cannot imagine what it was, to live in such a darkness

This shows Maggss mimicry as deceptive because he cannot escape or suppress his traumatic
experience of his preexisting identity.
Maggss English identity holds a sense of ambivalence. From one point, he fails to realize that the
nation that he desires is the same nation that continually rejects him and perceives him as a vermin.
From another point, if we accept Andersons notion of nationhood, Maggs projects this image onto
the Australians, which becomes subjugated from his representation as well. Thus, Maggs is an
imperial subject and an imperial object whose nationhood is limited both by the British state and by
him, since he fails to see the possibilities of multiculturalism and a hybrid identity in Australia, but
holds onto his romantic imagination of Britain. With Bhabhas theory one could argue that it is a
sense of double consciousness, which is the cause of Maggss divided self.
Again, if we take Andersons concepts into perspective, Maggs ambivalence towards nationhood is
a product of the idealized construction of the nation itself, where differences such as the limitation
and sovereignty of nations stand side by side. While the nation is seen to be limited, it is also seen
to be free to act independently in the world. This seems to be the case from the perspective of the

Gaile, The Contrarian Streal. An Interview with Peter Carey 7
Ibid, 128
Ibid, 279, 317
Ibid, 317

British nation. Britains national ideology alongside imperialism only enforces this illustration; that
if Britain is a nation and a sovereign, then Australia must be the object of Britains domination,
which Britain could project it-self against.
Australian nationality is fragmented since part of its colonization was migration and deportation of
criminals from Britain and therefore the expansion of British nationality. Thus, they lack the shared
experiences and kinship that Anderson claims holds nations together. As a result, it becomes
impossible to develop a national ideology in Australia, since many of its citizens still perceive
themselves belong to the mother country. Carey himself stated his grandfather insisted he was
English in Australia, as is the case with Maggs, and so rejected the construction, through imagining,
of a national tradition that could have been Australia, e.g., in Oatess account of Maggs he writes,
Many of M-s companions could not stand the torture of banishment, and went mad
on the voyage out. Sinners they may have been, but English sinners in their hearts.
Whether plucked from the village or the festering heart of the great Wen, they could
not bear the prospect of never more seeing their beloved Motherland. M- would not go
mad, but only because he carried with him the strong conviction that he would, not
matter what Judge Denman read to him, walk once more in Englands green and
pleasant land.

Here, Oates describes the Romanized image of Britain that is constructed and represented through
Victorian discourse and which holds the nation powerful, because it is though reading the same
discourse and shared experiences, as put forward by Anderson, the nation is sovereign. Ironically
when Maggs rejects Australia because of the countrys inability to fulfill his dreams of freedom he
unconsciously reinforces the colonial structures that prevents Australian nationalism to form. From
this perspective Maggs has inextricably put himself into difficulty, as he will never be accepted in
Britain as a free citizen and secondly rejecting his Australian nationality, which can give him
personal freedom if he chose to participate in the social construct of the nation. In this regard
Maggss mixed and split-origin makes him copy the English gentleman and in doing so betrays
his Australian community, and finds him excluded and enjoy none of the privileges from either
culture, as Freud proposed.

Ibid, 231

The exclusion from the British nation makes him buy Pipps in order to get access to the country
and be known as a father to a gentleman. The objectification of Pipps makes Maggs a symbol of
global capitalism, and perhaps another allusion of the destructive effect of imperialism. Maggss
self-delusion makes him re-enforce the power relation between the center and margin. Despite
Maggss wealth and capital which gives him power to control the market he occupies, he fails in his
attempt to buy into the community, thus even the power of capitalism is not able to overcome the
social construct of the nation. From this perspective, Andersons critique of Marxism seems to be
true. This suggests as Anderson stated a further limitation to nation, which is that only certain type
of people are granted access to its community, thereby suggesting the idea that the nation as a
community is in reality only an imagining. Maggs fail to see his reality, which explains why he
cannot comprehend the importance of the role the British nation played in his deportation.
Another example, in which Maggs fails in his mimicry of the colonizer, is that in order to survive
within British community, he must isolate all traces that could reveal him as the outsider, You
have babies in the place where you have come from. His mouth tightened in denial. My son is an
Englishman. I meant your real children. I am not of that race. What race? The Australian race
Even though Maggs refuses his connections to Australia, it is too significant to be denied, as
is symbolically shown by the locks of hair from his children of Australia, he carries, Why he
said, prying her hand open, it is a little lock of childrens hair. Two locks.
Again, this can be
interpreted as Maggss ambivalence of colonial desire, in that the hair locks are a sign that he
cannot suppress his life in Australia, when mimicking as a footman in the colonizers culture. This
also shows how difficult, if not possible, it is for Maggs to be a fixed identity, he simply cannot be
one or the other.
As a result, Carey challenges the key concepts of the nation proposed by Anderson in the end of the
novel. Carey symbolically illustrates in the relationship between Maggs and Mercy Larkin, as they
move back to Australia to take care of Maggss children, and participate and integrate into
Australian society. As Thieme notes [] Jack and Mercy should achieve prosperity and happiness
in an environment where there is no need to disguise identity.
If the nation, as proposed by
Anderson, is an imagined political community, it can only be limited by its own social
constructions, thus Carey uses Maggs to stretch these constructions and show that if the nation is

Ibid, 312-313
Ibid, 176
Thieme, 5:Turned Upside Down? Dickenss Australia and Peter Careys Jack Maggs 122

imagined, then multiculturalism and diversity can also be an imagined reality. This is the Third
space where Maggs can negotiate and articulate his identity freely into selfhood. It is through
mimicry of colonial desire that Carey is able to demonstrate that one cannot, and should not, repress
ones preexisting identity. Maggss mimicry eventually leads him on a quest for his hybrid identity,
with the help of Merci Larkin. Carey also makes it crucial to stress that in order for Maggs to see
his true identity, he has to become the one who has constructed and represented him as the other.
Only then can he see himself. Thus, it the effectiveness of mimicry is that it works like a mirror.
It is Maggss mimicry to the formation of a hybrid identity makes Jack Maggs a bildungsroman.
Moreover, by having Jack Maggs return to Australia to be with his natural sons, rather than the
adopted Pip, we see his integration in Australia community to be very successful,
Jack Maggs sold the brickworks in Sydney. In Wingham he set up a saw mill and,
when that prospered, a hardware store, and when that prospered, a pub. He was twice
president of the shire and was still the president of the Cricket Club when Dick [his
son] hit the cover off a new ball in the match against Taree.

While Magwitch finds a sense of social redemption through Pip in England, Carey re-locates the
narrative center, by having Maggs find redemption in Australia as a human, rather than a criminal in
England. The fact that Carey advocates for Maggss emancipation to be possible in Australia only,
reveals the true mask of the British Empire and the cruelties and violence enacted upon its colonies.
If we take into Bhabhas perspective on colonial mimicry, in which the colonial self needs the
colonized other to reaffirm its own identity. Then Maggs social redemption in Australia has only
been possible because of his disguise as the colonial self in England. It is only in the process of
colonial mimicry and ambivalence, that Carey through Maggs is able to recover the voices and
history of nations and peoples whose identities are constantly balancing between the national
imperialist consciousness and their own concept of the self. Thus, Carey allows Maggs narrative to
express the self thereby exploring a deeper consciousness than Dickens allowed for Magwitch in
Great Expectations.
While Carey re-addresses many of the issues Dickens raised in his novel, there are also examples of
more postmodern topics, like abortion, child prostitution and homosexuality in Careys work. This
mainly illustrates the different centuries that Dickens and Carey were writing in, yet they are also

Carey, Jack Maggs 327

characteristic of Careys preoccupation with the anti-hero, characters born with a bad lot in life,
that he focuses on, and who would one day become the new population of Australia. Careys
preoccupation with national identity, as previously stated, stems from Australians own image as
abandoned and displaced orphans. Despite the many flaws and misguided qualities Carey attributes
Maggs and his Australian fellows they also prove to have self-determination and ability, as best
illustrated in the Character of Mercy Larkin, e.g.
It was not an easy role for Mercy Larkin, yet she applied herself to being their mother
with a passion. She who had always been so impatient of the rules now became a
disciplinarian[] Yet amongst the succeeding generations of Maggs who still live on
those fertile river flats, it is Mercy who is now remembered best[]

In London Mercy was subjugated to sexual humiliation He called Marjorie Larkin a hoo-oor and
other things, and splashed the slops from a cup across the cobbles at her.
Nonetheless it is for the
role as a successful underdog that makes her an ancestor to be proud of for later generations in
Australia, which is now rich and redemptive opposed to Dickenss image of Australia as blank
However, in order for Maggs to reclaim his Australian identity he feels the need to discredit
England as a mythical nation, But you see, I am a fucking Englishman, and I have English things
to settle. I am not to live my life with all that vermin.
The fact that Maggs considers Australians
as vermins shows that he is consumed by a sense of his English identity, despite the fact that he
himself is a vermin to the English class, as represented by Percy Buckle and Tobias Oates.
Moreover, Maggs continuously resist his Australian identity, Id rather be a bad smell here than a
frigging rose in New South Wales.
Carey uses the Oates book The Death of Jack Maggs, to
reveal the reason or motivation behind Maggs resistance, the book begins with As certain birds do
declare themselves unto their indented, so the Murderer returned to court his beloved England, bold
as cock robin in his bright red waistcoat.
It is as if Maggs is in denial of his own self-destructive
behavior, his behavior is in a sense similar to that of the self-deluded Pip in Great Expectations, in
which his longing to be a part of the higher social class of Miss. Havisham and Estella, makes Pip

Carey, Jack Maggs 327
Ibid, 71
Ibid, 128
Ibid, 230
Ibid, 321

reject Biddy and Joe. Thus, we find Maggss mimicry of behavior in which he has suppressed his
Australian cultural identity, in order to become like the colonizers the British.
Furthermore, Carey shows in Maggs obsessive blind love to England, the same tendency found in
modern day Australian identity. That is, as previously mentioned, Carey has stated that his
generations of Australians grew up with an ignorance of the history of Aboriginals, mistakenly
thinking that they did not fight for their country. Thus rejecting a nation they did not feel the need to
be proud of, and seeking a parental acceptance in England. Similarly, it is only when Mercy
emphasizes the positive nature of his relations in Australia, his two sons They walk along the
street, they think they see your face in the clouds.
That he comes to realize that he can actually
lead a successful live there with his family, thus finally making his own decision to return to New
South Wales,
There were, as in all crooked business, two sets of books, and had Jack Maggs seen
the second set he might have recognized scenes (or fragments) more familiar to him: a
corner of a house by London Bridge, a trampled body in a penal colony. But even here
the scenes were never very clear. For the writer was stumbling through the dark of the
convicts past, groping in the shadows, describing what was often a mirror held up to
his own turbulent and fearful soul.

Carey argues with Maggss return to Australia, that the country can be transformed from a place of
banishment into a literal and imaginative home, even for those who suffered physical and
physiological tortures of penal oppression and that settler colonies should not be seen as an
obstacle, but rather as an open door of opportunity. However, if we compare Dickens ending with
Magwitch to the ending of Jack Maggs, Magwtich was denied the return and acceptance of the
English society, Careys ending offers the status quo, in that once a criminal is deported to the penal
colony it is difficult, if not impossible to come back to the English community and lead a fruitful
life. While Careys Magwitch is given a second chance in life, Dickenss Magwitch is punished
with death. The fact still remains that Carey appropriates the same denial of the English community
as an imaginative home for the former convict. If this is the case, then how can the former colonizer
and colonized subject establish a mutually respectful relationship in a postcolonial world, which is

Ibid, 313
Ibid, 91

the essence for postcolonial criticism? Careys novel is an attempt to reevaluate the convict
experience and its contributions to the countrys history.
Careys criticism of Dickens through Tobias Oates

In Careys novel there is a struggle of power to enunciate, between Jack Maggs and the novelist,
Tobias Oates. The character of Oates has quite a few elements from Charles Dickens real life. First,
the account of Oates and his life Tobias Oates was twenty-four years old, and for twelve months
past he had been the head of a family which now consisted of his wife, Mary, his son, John, and his
wifes younger sister, Elizabeth.
Secondly, Oatess sexual relationship to his wifes sister, who
dies having an illicit abortion.Dickens was passionately fond of his sister-in-law, Mary Hogart
Moreover, Oates writes [] a painful letter informing his father that he could be no longer
responsible for his debts.
Similar to Dickens father who spent several years in debtors prison.
Thirdly, Dickenss enormous sympathy for poor and exploited children is also attributed to Oates
For Tobias had been a poor child too, and he was fiercely protective of abused children, famously
earnest in defense of the child victims of mill and factory owner
and Oatess fascination with
mesmerism. The clarity of the Dickens-like figure in Tobias Oates is not to be mistaken.
The essential part of the novel is Careys criticism of the act of storytelling itself. As the
performance of storytelling is a Western concept, thus by representing Dickens as Tobias Oates,
Carey satires the Western ownership of storytelling, and breaking with the idea that there is only
one grand narrative, a metaphor for the British Empire and colonization, thus also breaking with
history and the way history itself has been narrated. Careys re-examining of storytelling is like
many other postcolonial works, an important aspect of writing back to the center.
The storytelling about the idea of the storytelling in that the character Oates writes the book The
Death of Jack Maggs in Jack Maggs, Carey challenges and questions the concepts of character and
criminality. More importantly, how they are constructed in literary representations. Oatess control
of Maggs makes him de-humanize Maggs, treating him like an animal Jack Maggs began to beat
his fists upon his chest. He was truly like a wild animal, and Toby his expert trainer.
or Be still

Ibid, 36
Thieme, 5:Turned Upside Down? Dickenss Australia and Peter Careys Jack Maggs 111
Ibid, 177
Ibid, 130
Ibid, 84

there, thats a fellow. Down now. In his style Tobias continued to soothe his angry subject, talking
very low, as to a frightened beast.
Oates describes himself in imperialist language by addressing
himself as the expert trainer and first cartographer of the criminal mind, which makes him
ignorant of Maggss feelings and unable to understand Maggss sufferings.
Similarly, when Maggs accounts for the trial of his girlfriend and mother to his unborn child
Sophina, in his letters to Henry [] the young woman Sophina Smith was sentenced to death by
hanging and he who had tried to save her wept openly in the dock.
Oates reads the letters and
finds Sophinas death suitable to be a part of his story without any considerations to Maggs
feelings. I write that name, Jack, like a stone mason makes the name upon a headstone, so
her[Sophina] memory may live forever.
Oates fails to understand that it is his version of her
memory not Maggs that he accounts for, thus it will be misinterpreted as facts. On this point, Carey
challenges the notion of storytelling, by presenting both Oatess fictional records of his novel, and
Maggss own account of his story. By allowing Oates to achieve his fame and dedicate his novel
The Death of Jack Maggs to the ignorant and cruel Percy Buckle [...]of that page which reads:
Affectionately Inscribed to PERCIVAL CLARENCE BUCKLE, A Man of Letters, a Patron of the
Carey sustains the order of the Victorian order in the end, Mercy Larkin, who owns seven
copies of the novel, but never featured in it deletes the dedication to Buckle and conveys her own
editorial inscribing To Mercy from Captain E. Constable, Clapham 1870
by rejecting the
Western practice of myth-making Mercy reclaims ownership of her story that was presented as not
her story by Oates. This always advocates for the idea, that every text is open for free interpretation
and that the authors intent when he wrote it is not necessarily how it will be perceived by the
The struggle for authorship literary becomes a question of life and death. When Maggs eventually
begins to realize what Oates has stolen from him he becomes uncooperative and violent. The novel
reaches its climax when Maggs triumphs over the young novelist, by forcing him to give up his note
book when they are alone on a boat on the River Severn, Jack then hurled the book high out above
the Severn. As it flew up into the mist, its pages opened like a pair of wings.
This scene where

Ibid, 54
Ibid, 272
Ibid, 280
Ibid, 328
Ibid, 328
Ibid, 282

the fight takes place between Maggs and Oates, He turned the boat in the water so the frightened
passenger was facing him.Why should I not kill you now?[] You have cheated me, Toby, as bad
as I was ever cheated.
is also reminiscent to a scene from Great Expectations between
Compeyson and Magwitch, in which the latter tries to escape [] that villain[Compeyson] had
staggered up and staggered back, and they had both gone overboard together [] there had been a
struggle under water, and that he[Magwitch] had disengaged himself, struck out and swum
The symbol of Maggss victory is also evident when Oates is forced to burn his notebook
which holds the account about Maggss story taken from his hypnosis method. As Lizzie recounts,
A threat was made, a last match lit. She watched the final sheaf of papers flare, and saw the shrouds
of the blue and yellow as Toby stirred them with the poker. In the flames, she saw ghostly figures,
fictions amidst the skirts of flame.

Careys criticism of the business of storytelling is a revision in the consciousness of readers to
reexamine the notion of texts as true facts. The inter-textual framework within Jack Maggs,
suggests that neither Dickenss, in the figure of Oates, version of the story of the convict, the
biographical facts about Dickens himself, nor Maggss own account of his experience of exile can
escape fictionalization. Thus, Careys use of inter-textuality and meta-fiction creates a hybrid
narrative in which art imitates life, and fiction imitates history, to the point where it becomes
difficult to tell them apart and ultimately question what compromise history.

Careys main reason for writing-back to Dickenss novel is his criticism of the writing process of
authors, and in the figure of Oates he is explicitly criticizing Dickenss representation of Magwitch
through the colonial subject, Maggs.
As with much post-colonial writing, this self-conscious narrative calls into question
the reliability of written texts as embodiments of any kind of truth. We are also made
acutely aware of the novelistic process in action, of the transformative power of
writing and the written to reveal and veil.

Ibid, 280-281
Dickens, Great Expectations 406ch55
Carey, Jack Maggs 307
Woodcock, 8: Jack Maggs 132

In the relationship and struggle between Oatess and Maggss control of power to enunciate, Carey
is criticizing the notion of representation. He is illustrating that Oates, and thereby Dickens, have no
right in representing the colonized subject, as they cannot fully grasp how and why the subject feels
and acts the way he does. More importantly and worse is that through Oatess manipulative scheme
of using the criminal mind of Maggs for commercial benefits, Carey is criticizing the concern of
authors, in particular Victorian authors, as they are the target in Jack Maggs, to change the truth in
order to meet the fictional ends for plot development. Thereby dramatize the concern for cultural
authority and power to articulate. From this perspective, Carey is challenging any claim to the truth
of texts. He is not claiming his novel of the convict to be more or less truth than Great
Expectations. However, it is an alternative version, to the one Dickens created, a version, in which
the writing strategies were developed in a deliberately self-conscious manner in order to allow the
former Magwitch to write his own story simultaneously criticizing Dickenss writing process. Carey
himself denies any claim of truth to Jack Maggs, as he states in the Authors note, The author
willingly admits to having once or twice stretched history to suit his own fictional ends.

In Jack Maggs, Oates is writing a biographical account of Maggs, The Death of Jack Maggs, in
which as the title indicates, Maggs dies at the ending. Similar to the destiny Dickens chose for
Magwitch by having him hanged for returning to England, in Great Expectations. From this
perspective, Carey is suggesting an inter-discursive element of The Death of Jack Maggs to Great
Expectations, in which the former novel shows the process of how the latter novel came to be, said
differently, Carey is trying to take us behind-the-scenes to a novel like Great Expectations, that,
according to Carey, gives a brutal representation of the marginalized victim, for the sake of
entertainment and commercial value and at the cost of historical facts from the colonies. Moreover,
Carey also criticizes the business of novels. When Oates sells the copyright of The Death of Jack
Maggs, even before he has written the novel, I have just finished recording all this in my notebook.
Money will come of it, you must believe me. Entwhistle will pay me good money for this serial.

Carey draws attention of both the social and economic worlds of the novel, emphasizing on the
ethics of storytelling. Equally, Oates also displays the hypocrisy of an author. My father will tell
any untruth to get his hands on money.
Yet, Oates has just pleaded guilty in the same charge he
is accusing his father of by telling untruths about Maggs so he can pay his debts.

Carey, Jack Maggs, Authors note
Ibid, 118
Ibid, 117

However, Careys criticism of Dickens also holds a sense of ambivalence. In that, in the end, Carey
is able to show sympathy towards Oates. For instance, when he fears for his life, he finds himself
embracing Maggss body. With that hugged him[Maggs], wrapping his arm tight around his
shoulders and pulling Tobys face into his breast, thus forcing him to inhale what would always
thereafter be the prisoners smell the odour of cold sour sweat.
this scene is a moment of mixed
intimacy and otherness. Thus, it offers a counter- effect to the scenes of violence, both in terms of
the traumatic experiences of Maggss childhood and his time in Australia, but also the amount of
mental cruelty that this novel holds, thus one could regard Jack Maggs as a book full of abuse, and
much of the abuse takes Oates as a target. Nevertheless, this intimate moment between Maggs and
Oates suggests a form of reconciliation. Carey is displaying sympathy towards both the pre-text and
perhaps even symbolically Dickenss life.
On the night Lizzie died, he was a frightened, ambitious young man. His eyes were bloodshot, his
red mouth contorted by spasm of grief. He wept upon his dead lovers pillow, and then on the skirts
of his wife, although this lady, uncharacteristically, made no move to comfort him.
and later
when he and his wife burn the body, He saw the wraith of their dead child folding and unfolding in
the skirts of fire.
It is hard to not sympathize with this man who has lost his lover and their
unborn child, and a wife who despises him. At the end of the novel, Carey is perhaps trying to
demonstrate, that Oates is not that bad of a character, nor are his actions but the means of a
desperate man in financial dept trying to support his family. Thus, we gain an understanding of
Oates and his actions not that we necessarily accept them. This is somewhat similar to how Dickens
allowed Magwitch the voice of telling that he merely stole food for his own survival, and that
Magwitch was not a bad character but a victim and a product of the unjustly stratified society of
Victorian England.
Consequently one might argue that Carey is both writing back to the pre-text of Great Expectations,
but also to the author, Dickens, by portraying him in a rather unsympathetic perspective as a rather
self-centered, immoral novelist and part murderer. Carey himself expresses quite openly his idea of
writing back in an interview,
I suppose the starting point is this: heres Dickens, heres my ancestor and Dickens
is giving my ancestor a bad rap, so fuck him. So theres some sort of getting Dickens

Ibid, 284
Ibid, 352
Ibid, 326

because I begin with the conceit that there was a real Magwitch and Dickens knew
who that was and didnt tell that story.

Thus, we have Careys own explanation for his aggressive approach in representing the fictional
character of Dickens in Tobias Oates. For Carey, on the one hand the neglect and repressed image
of Australia, while simultaneously portraying Australia negatively from Dickens side, increased his
attempt for this literary imbalance or injustice to write Jack Maggs.
Careys attempt to correct the myth-makings of Dickens is illustrated on many levels, yet the most
crucial of recovering the Australian identity is perhaps best exemplified in the renaming of
Magwitch to Maggs. For one, by removing the witch-part Maggs is instantly viewed as more
humane, and not a outsider or alienated. Secondly, the word witch, was symbolically alluded to evil
ghost-figure of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, who is absent in Careys novel, the same
goes for the cold and scheming Estella. The fact that Carey chooses not to include these characters
in his novel indicates that he wants to remove the romantic focus of the metropolitan text and
distances his re-imagined characters from their original examples. Simultaneously, Carey is also
able to provide more psychological truth, by labeling his characters as the criminal, the gentleman,
the domestic wife etc, from the beginning of the novel in order to subvert and re-imagine his
characters. For instance, at the end of the novel, when Maggs returns to Australia, with his now-
wife Mercy to take care of his children, they are not, in domestic endings, un-like Dickenss Biddy
and Joe in Great Expectations. Regarding this perspective Carey shows that the convict can also be
a Christian gentleman, like those highly praised in Dickenss novels.
With Jack Maggs, Carey argues that cultures can be understood to interact, transgress and transform
each other in a much more complex way, than the traditional binary opposition that Dickens argues
in Great Expectations. Carey advocates for the idea that we should think of identity as a
production and not a fixed subject.
If one should criticize Careys novel, it is that his ending is quite rushed. While Careys concern is
primarily the process of Maggss encounter with the colonizer and his idealized image of the
metropolis, in order for Maggs realize his self-delusion and accept his hybrid identity, he is less
concerned with how Maggs interact in his new accepted home Australia. It is only at the second
last page we are told that Maggs lead a successful live, and that it was now Mercy who was best

Unknown author(The Guardian) Portrait Inner Conviction 11 June 1998

remembered of the generations of Maggs. This sudden shift to another hybrid character,
compliments the idea of multi-voices and hybridization. Yet, if Maggs accepted his hybrid identity
in Australia, why does Carey not allow more space and room to show how Maggs was free to
negotiate translate and transgress his cultural identity with cultural differences, which clearly was
not possible for him in Britain, by neither Dickens or as it appears, in Careys novel. Careys
solution seems to favor hybridity, but is less concerned to demonstrate what that that actually means


When reading Great Expectations contrapuntally, which is a way of taking into account the
intertwined histories and perspectives, we come to understand Dickenss structure and attitude to
aspects of the colonial world. How Dickens through Pip practises imperial control by establishing
Magwitch as morally, socially and culturally inferior to the superior Pip. Similarly, Dickens was
able to represent Britain as a nation and power because it could project itself against what Australia
was not, a stigmatized periphery.
In Jack Maggs, Carey rewrites the history of Magwitch in order to challenge Dickenss negative
and socially superior representation of the former convict. In order to do that Carey combines a
form that reverses the grand narrative form of the Victorian author. Thus, giving voice to multiple
characters, imitates Dickenss social novel theme in order to obtain the same sympathy that Dickens
intended for Pip in Great Expectations, and show that if it can be imitated it must be artificial. This
form of bending mimesis and mimicry is a mode of representation for postcolonial writers to
articulate resistance against the Empire. The result of blending mimesis and mimicry is ambivalence
in the colonial text in that it destabilizes its claim for absolute authority and absolute authenticity.
At the level of content, Carey shows through Oates as an author and Dickens-like-figure, how he
controls and constructs the colonial subject in order to make commercial profit out of Maggss
personal and traumatized story, thus making another reversal by shifting the role of thief and writer.
The former thief, Maggs, becomes the writer and the former writer, Oates, becomes the thief.
Through hypnosis, Carey is able to demonstrate that Oates and Maggs, the colonizer and the
colonized, needs each other in order to see the truth, but more importantly for Maggs, who is both
self-deluded and in self-denial of his identity and where he belongs. It is this split origin of
Maggss, his own divided self, a self-divided by having grown up in one place and shaped by later
experiences in another that is the very central issue in Jack Maggs.
With the help of Oates and Mercy Larkin, Maggs is able to realize his hybrid identity, by combining
both his British and Australian identity and find salvation in Australia.
Through mimicry, and with the help of Oates and Merci Larkin, Maggs is able to realize and accept
his hybrid identity, that is not fixes as one or the either, but a combining of both his British and
Australian identity and find salvation in Australia.

Ultimately, Careys criticism with Jack Maggs, is the blending of truth and fiction, and claiming
fictional work to be holding any knowledge of truth. In Jack Maggs, Carey makes it very clear to
distinguish that his version of Magwitch, is no more, but no less valid than Dickenss Magwitch.
Jack Maggs is merely an alternative way of conceiving human history and demonstrating that the
Western perspective is not the only way of telling a story.



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