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Interplay Between Dickens’s Great Expectations and Carey’s Jack Maggs

Carey’s Jack Maggs is an example of the post-colonial concept of ‘writing back’. That is, the novel although written over a century apart from Dicken’s Great Expectations, is in fact indirectly interacting with this original text. The principal protagonist of Carey’s novel the eponymous Jack Maggs is undoubtedly indebted to the original Magwitch of the Dicken’s novel. Although Carey does not call Maggs, Magwitch, the shared sound of the name immediately prepares us for other similarites. The two characters are both convicts, who for their crimes were deported at an early age to Austrailia, and more particularly both characters settled in New South Wales. While the manner in which Magwitch makes his fortune is a little ambiguous, Maggs’ wealth is a result of brick-making. They also share a common bond in their sponsor of a young man in their homeland, for Maggs, Henry Phipps, and for Magwitch, Phillip Pirrip.

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The novel assumes a greater interest if one has some knowledge of the personal life of Dickens, and in the young Tobias Oates there are comparisons to be drawn with the writer of Great Expectations. The events which take place in the novel, occur primarily in 1837, the year in which Dicken’s was beginning to write Oliver Twist, and had just published The Pickwick Papers in 1836 which earned him a small degree of fame. Tobias Oates has also achieved a similar level of stature with his novel Captain…

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