This post was written in response to Charli Mills at Carrot Ranch’s weekly Flash Fiction Challenge
February 23, 2017 prompt: In 99 words (no more, no less) write a migration story. It can imagine the dusty or arctic trails of the frontiers past or look to the travel across the galaxy. What issue about modern migration bans might influence an artistic expression in a flash? Migrate where the prompt leads you.
Migrations can be voluntary, in search of a better life, but they can also be imposed. Starting a new life is always hard for a migrant, but even more so when it is imposed.
My migration story has taken me to Victorian England, where deportations to Australia, for certain criminals, were considered a cheap alternative to life sentences.
‘You’re Magwitch, the convict at the graveyard.’
‘Wrongly convicted, Pip. Compeyes was the mastermind.’
‘Miss Havisham’s groom who abandoned her at the altar?’
‘He was imprisoned and I was deported to New South Wales.’
‘You tricked me into helping you.’
‘I’ve paid you back generously.’
‘You’re my anonymous benefactor?’
‘I worked hard at the Penal Colony. My money is yours now.’
‘I don’t want your soiled money!’
‘Are you planning on giving up your fancy life and going back to being a blacksmith?’
‘You’ve ruined everything. I hate you!’
‘And yet, Pip, you have Estella to thank me for.’
Pip had always thought Miss Havisham had been his anonymous benefactress and he was horrified to learn his money had come from a criminal, but he later came to terms with Magwitch when he learnt more about his life and hardship, and finally looked after Magwitch in his final days, in prison, once again. This time Magwitch cannot leave him his money because it is confiscated, thus destroying Pip’s Great Expectations.
Great Expectations is an absorbing and complex novel. Magwitch, who is deported to New South Wales, for using counterfeit money, has a short-lived presence in the novel, yet his role is vital in the plot. He is a catalyst in Pip’s life.
Pip met Magwitch at a graveyard when he’s seven and is persuaded by the escaped convict to bring him food. Magwitch, who was grateful for the child’s help, improves Pip’s prospects by being his anonymous benefactor, enabling him to move to London and become a gentleman, instead of a village blacksmith.
Magwitch is also Estella’s father, whom we all know was the woman Pip loved and lost. Dickens wrote two endings to Great Expectations. In the ending which Dickens finally endorsed, on Wilkie Collins insistence, Estella and Pip are reunited in the final scene of the novel, with that famous line, in which Pip says of Stella:
‘I saw no shadow of another parting from her.’
During the 18th century, most prisoners were deported to penal colonies in America, but after the American War of Independence broke out in 1775, transportation was sent to Australia. Over the years, about 160,000 people, including men, women and children, sometimes as young as nine years old, people were transported to Australia. Most of them never returned.
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