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While my mind was thus engaged, I thought of the beautiful young Estella, proud and refined, coming towards me, and I thought with absolute abhorrence of the contrast between the jail and her. (2.33.46)
We can see the contrast between Estella and the jail pretty clearly. Estella is pretty, the jail is not. Estella wears perfume, the jail does not. Estella has nice clothes, the jail does not, etc., etc., etc. However, when we think about it, Estella and the jail would probably hit it off pretty well on a blind date, because both love keys. Remember how Estella was always the gatekeeper when Pip was little? Remember how inaccessible and untouchable Estella is to Pip? Remember how Pip wants to become a gentleman and to be accepted by society in order to please Estella? True, Estella likes to keep things out with her metaphorical lock and key, and the jail likes to keep things in, but the key here seems to us to be, well, the key.
I cautioned him that I must hear no more of that; that he was not at all likely to obtain a pardon; that he was expatriated for the term of his natural life; and that his presenting himself in this country would be an act of felony, rendering him liable to the extreme penalty of the law. (3.40.96)
Jaggers, who is a beacon of truth and lawfulness, lays out very clearly the reasons why Magwitch should not return to England. When we hear the reasons laid out in such a way, we can’t help but agree: Magwitch should never return to England; it would not be good. But then, when we begin to hear Magwitch’s story, slowly but surely, the law seems to matter less and less. The law doesn’t seem to take into account all kinds of things, like, the fact that the law itself is prejudiced and gave Magwitch a harsher punishment than Compeyson simply because he looked the part of the criminal.
"Dear boy and Pip's comrade. I am not a-going fur to tell you my life, like a song or a story-book. But to give it you short and handy, I'll put it at once into a mouthful of English. In jail and out of jail, in jail and out of jail, in jail and out of jail. There, you got it. That's my life pretty much, down to such times as I got shipped off, arter Pip stood my friend." (3.42.1)
Magwitch is distinctly aware of the power of storytelling and the power of framing a story in a certain way. He can himself distill his life’s story down to a very nice one-liner (compact and travel-sized too), "in jail and out of jail." He knows that the world loves these compact, travel-sized descriptions of people. However, he also knows how much lies beneath these descriptions that, when articulated, totally change our understanding of them.