Peter Carey's Jack Maggs and Charles Dickens's Great Expectations: An Introduction

George P. Landow, Professor of English and Art History, Brown University

Upon its publication readers immediately recognized that Peter Carey's Jack Maggs had multiple connections to the life and works of Charles Dickens. As Thomas Mallon wittily explained in his review of the book,

Jack Maggs is too Dickensianly jammed with incident and accident and sheer population for anybody but Rain Man to recap. And yet it is very easy for a Dickens lover to explain it: Jack Maggs is an inverted chuck of Great Expectations that's been fleshed out with Oliver Twist, jazzed up by Edwin Drood and put inside a biography of Dickens. . . .Phipps is Pip, and Maggs is Magwitch, and we're back in the churchyard of Great Expectations. Except that Magwitch is now the main character. And except that Magwitch is also Oliver Twist. [168]

As Mallon also points out, Carey not only put Dickens's characters in his novel but also but the novelist himself in the action. The novel's coach ride, Carey's settings, and various characters all derive from -- and comment upon -- Dickens's novels. With all these similarities there are also differences, major and minor. How, for example, does Magwitch's relation to Pip differ from Maggs relation to Phipps? Where do you find the major differences between Great Expectations and Carey's novel?

How do Carey's reworkings of Dickens relate to those of Graham Swift's Waterland?


Mallon, Thomas. "Writing Like the Dickens." GQ. (March 1998): 167-69.

Australia Carey OV Jack Maggs

Last modified 25 January 2004