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They took up several obviously wrong people, and they ran their heads very hard against wrong ideas, and persisted in trying to fit the circumstances to the ideas, instead of trying to extract ideas from the circumstances. (1.16.8)
Again and again, we see how the justice system fails the people. Mr. Jaggers’ aggressive, truth-seeking ways that emphasize the importance of evidence are pretty unique in the world of law. When soldiers attempt to solve the case of Mrs. Joe’s assault, they come up with verdicts before investigating the crime more thoroughly, and they try to prove their verdicts. The soldiers rely on stereotype and on the appearances of the situation rather than digging deeper and looking farther. From this, Shmoop realizes that the London legal system is messed up; it’s no wonder there are so many criminals everywhere. Mr. Jaggers is the only man who seems to be correcting what is broken, who is more concerned with deeper issues.
As I declined the proposal on the plea of an appointment, he was so good as to take me into a yard and show me where the gallows was kept, and also where people were publicly whipped, and then he showed me the Debtors' Door, out of which culprits came to be hanged: heightening the interest of that dreadful portal by giving me to understand that "four on 'em" would come out at that door the day after to-morrow at eight in the morning, to be killed in a row. This was horrible, and gave me a sickening idea of London: the more so as the Lord Chief Justice's proprietor wore (from his hat down to his boots and up again to his pocket-handkerchief inclusive) mildewed clothes, which had evidently not belonged to him originally, and which, I took it into my head, he had bought cheap of the executioner. Under these circumstances I thought myself well rid of him for a shilling. (2.20.19)
Pip’s first introduction to London life appropriately (or inappropriately) involves a tour of the yard where criminals are publicly tortured or executed. Fun, fun, fun. Oh, and guess what, Pip’s first introduction to London life is our first introduction to London life too. So basically, London=crime. Dickens seems to be hammering home a point. The crazy thing is that we don’t hear in this moment of any horrible, heinous, bloody crimes that would induce such public punishment (in our 21st century minds) – we hear about the "Debtors’ Door" suggesting that people are often punished for issues of money and debt (not the bloodiest crimes ever). Furthermore, Pip’s tour guide is wearing the clothes of dead people, suggesting a dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest society. In this scene, we see a side of London that involves a close relationship between crime, money, and survival.
I consumed the whole time in thinking how strange it was that I should be encompassed by all this taint of prison and crime; that, in my childhood out on our lonely marshes on a winter evening I should have first encountered it; that, it should have reappeared on two occasions, starting out like a stain that was faded but not gone; that, it should in this new way pervade my fortune and advancement. (2.33.43)
Pip is inextricably linked to crime and to the breaking of laws. And we all know that laws are like the thread that holds the miniskirt of society together. Again and again, Pip aids in the breaking of laws. And not just in little ways like double parking or j-walking, but in big ways like harboring an escaped and exiled convict. However, do we ever feel in our guts like Pip is doing something morally wrong when he takes in Magwitch or steals food for Magwitch? Do we ever say to ourselves, "Oh Pip, we wouldn’t do that if we were you. We wouldn’t let Magwitch stay in your apartment. You should kick him out into the stormy night"? Well, maybe some of us do feel like Pip is wrong in his actions, but the point is that we can’t help but feel just a little bit sympathetic towards Magwitch, who is like the Godfather of London crime, feared by all who don’t know him very well. So if Magwitch is deemed by society to be representative of everything corrupt and rotten within it, then how do we feel about society? Society is also that ambiguous thing of which Pip so desperately wants to be a part. There seems to be some seriously positive reasons why Pip constantly encounters criminality and law-breaking.