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Character Analysis of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations Essay


In Great Expectations, by Charles Dickens, Miss Havisham is a complex character whose past remains a mystery. We know about her broken engagement, an event that changes her life forever. Miss Havisham desperately wants revenge, and Estella, her adopted daughter, is the perfect person to carry out her motives. With her plan of revenge in mind, Miss Havisham deliberately raises Estella to avoid emotional attachment and treat those who love her with cruelty. A specific quote in the book, where Miss Havisham tells Pip that he must love Estella at all costs, Love her, love her, love her! How does she use you?(58), sheds light on Miss Havisham's vengeful character. One can draw parallels from the life of Miss Havisham to the life that she wants to force on someone else for revenge. Miss Havisham was used, she was wounded, and she will never be whole again.

Miss Havisham asks Pip how Estella uses him. Estella uses Pip as her "mental punching bag," insulting him, laughing at him, and treating him with disdain. He calls the knaves, Jacks, this boy! And what coarse hands he has! And what thick boots! (58) In asking this question, Miss Havisham implies that she was used herself, and indeed she was. Her fianc manipulated Miss Havisham and snatched away her money and her heart. The devastation of this failed engagement forever changes Miss Havisham's character: she becomes a suspicious and vengeful individual. She trusted once, and was burned; she will probably never trust again. Although Miss Havisham was used, the failed engagement is also a result of her spoiled character and ways. Miss Havisham refuses to listen to her cousin, Mr. Pocket. He warns her about her fiance and his ways, but the spoiled Miss Havisham, who is never forced to do anything, is not about to take orders or reason with anyone. Parallels can be drawn between these characters. Both "plots": her fiancs and Arthur's, Estella's and Miss Havisham's, are centered on revenge. Arthur wants to get back at his half-sister for being cheated out of the brewery business and Miss Havisham and Estella want to seek revenge on all men who love Estella. Well, you can break his heart. (58) Estella is being trained to ruin the lives of men, just as Miss Havisham's fianc ruined hers.

In Miss Havisham's address to Pip, she tells him to love Estella even if she wounds him. If she favours you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces- and as it gets older and stronger it will tear deeper- love her, love her, love her! (231) Perhaps the reason that she stops the clocks, never changes out of her yellowing wedding gown, and keeps the rotting wedding cake is to perpetuate her hope that her fianc will return. This means that either Miss Havisham still loves her fiance or that she is simply holding a 60 year old grudge. It is obvious that Miss Havisham is a deeply wounded woman: her outlook on life is dismal and desolate. She has not ventured out into the daylight for fifty years, shutting out the rest of the world. You are not afraid of a woman who has never seen the sun since you were born?(56) Time means nothing to her, for she has nothing to do and no friends to see. Her transformation from a passionate young woman in love to an old, hardened, and lonely woman is a great one. There is an obvious parallel between Miss Havisham and Pip in this regard: just as Miss Havisham was hurt by her fianc, Estella has broken Pip's heart. Miss Havisham, in trying to seek personal revenge, has only caused more pain and heartbreak. Hear me Pip! I adopted her to be loved. I bred her and educated her to be loved. I developed her into what she is, that she might be loved. Love her! (231)

Next, Miss Havisham tells Pip to love Estella even if she tears his heart to pieces. The word "tear" suggests a sharp, sudden, and brutal wound; her fianc breaks the engagement so close to the wedding that indeed, it is sudden and heartbreaking. Not only does her fianc "tear her heart to pieces," but in breaking off the engagement, Miss

Havisham is torn from the world she knows. She never ventures outside again, and she is torn from her happy youth. All of this happens at twenty past nine: the time when, for Miss Havisham, the world as she knows it ends. Although in a somewhat different fashion, Pip is also torn from the world he knows when he learns of his "great expectations." It is ironic that Miss Havisham was torn from her world by the companion of the man who tore Pip from his. Miss Havisham also tells Pip that the tear in one's heart only tears deeper over time. Pip understands this concept; with each passing day and year, he feels increasingly dejected because Estella does not love him. Miss Havisham

is still the heartbroken woman that she was some sixty years ago- she simply covers her sorrow with a mask of indifference and callousness. After all of her years in Satis House, her wounds only worsen- she still feels the pain of that one morning at twenty past nine.

One can get a glimpse into the life and character of Miss Havisham through this text. Miss Havisham was used, wounded, and will never be whole again; she instills her desire for revenge in Estella, and Estella seems to be succeeding in playing with Pip's mind. To avenge her failed marriage, she uses Estella to break Pip's heart. Ill tell you what real love is. It is blind devotion, unquestioning self-humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and against the whole world, giving up your whole heart and soul to the smiter-as I did! (231)

A turning point in the story is when Miss. Havisham and Estella begin to argue. Estella shows a lack of attention and has a cold attitude toward Miss Havisham. Are you tired of me? Speak the truth, you ingrate! You are tired of me. (294) This is the first burst of true emotion we see from Miss Havisham toward Estella. Throughout the book we see how she interacts with Pip and how she wants Estella to treat him but never toward one another. O, look at her, look at her! Look at her so hard and thankless, on the hearth where she was reared! Where I took her into this wretched breast when it was first bleeding from its stabs, and where I lavished years of tenderness upon her! (295) Miss Havishams inability to realize that she has raised Estella to be hard and thankless is a part of her personality that is a part of her failure to move on from her fiance and devastation. She is letting out her anger on Estella when her heart was first bleeding she thought she was showing Estella tenderness rather she was creating a version of the person she wishes she could become after this heartbreak.

Miss Havishams character is detrimental to the story because without knowing her past we would not understand why Estella is the way she is toward Pip and men. Also Pip would never feel as if he wanted to be better and never be content with who he is. She impacts other characters with her odd and exocentric qualities in ways she does not even realize she possesses.

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