A Character Study of Miss Havisham in ‘Great Expectations’ Essay Sample
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- Category: dickens
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A Character Study of Miss Havisham in ‘Great Expectations’ Essay Sample
The house is described as
“old brick, dismal and had great many iron bars to it” which reflects that Miss.Havisham is old and rather depressed. The manor house is described as being “barred” many times, suggesting that Miss.Havisham is blocking everyone from entering the premises, she does not want human contact. The house had several names like, “Manor House” and “Satis House”. Satis is Latin for ‘enough’ suggesting that whoever lived there before had everything they needed and wanted nothing else. The word ‘Manor’ connotes that the house may be large and important. This helps us understand that she was wealthy, important, powerful and well respected.
“The great front entrance had two chains across it…” shows that Miss.Havisham is blocking any light from seeping into the house. Dickens uses a lot of words related to the dark.
“No glimpse of daylight” again illustrates that all natural light was barred from the house, the only light would have been from a “candle burning”. The word candle is used many times, suggesting that the only form of light used in the house was by candle.
The brightness of daylight connotes a cheerful, happy life, where as darkness connotes misery and loneliness which reflects Miss. Havisham’s life. Whereas daylight is natural, there is something unnatural about the candlelight, just like the whole of Miss Havisham’s life is artificial.
Next, the reader is given the first glimpse of Miss Havisham. Pip calls Miss Havisham a “fine lady” suggesting that he thinks she is wealthy and respects her very much.
“She was dressed in rich materials”. The adjective ‘rich’ hints that her clothes were of fine materials and were very expensive. She is in her wedding dress but is not completely dressed.
“She had but one shoe on”. Our first impressions of her are rich and splendid. As Pip looked closer he noticed that her clothes were “faded and yellow” which reflects the age of her and her clothes. It males us think she has been wearing the same outfit for years. As Dickens adds detail, our impression of Miss Havisham changes, she seems lifeless, old and pale and her surroundings seem strange.
Dickens describes her as a “ghastly wax-work at the fair” and “a skeleton in the ashes” illustrating her pale, old, frail body. The words “wax-work” and “skeleton” suggest a lack of life. Dickens uses words like “sunken eyes”, “now hung loose” and “shrunk to skin and bone” which all describe the ways in which she has aged over the years. He compares it to when she was young and was a beautiful “young woman”. Miss Havisham is now lifeless and lonely.
The description of Miss Havisham is unpleasant. Dickens describes her forty years ago and we see she has withered greatly since she was young. It is strange that Miss Havisham only has one shoe on and is not completely dressed. The room is cluttered which adds to the effect, as it would have been untidy on the day of the wedding.
Miss Havisham’s behaviour towards Pip is also very strange. She talks to him about her “broken” heart and takes pleasure in calling her heart “broken”. It is puzzling that the first thing she says to the young boy is about her broken heart which must be very frightening for a young child like Pip. Miss Havisham is “tired” and therefore wants an amusing distraction- she asks him to play because she has a “sick fancy”.
“Are you sullen and obstinate?” This is unpleasant and illustrates that she does not like children and does not care for Pip.
“I stopped, fearing I might say too much”. This implies that she makes him feel nervous and Pip is scared of her.
“So new to him”. Miss Havisham mutters quietly to herself but it is aimed at Estella. Miss Havisham is in a world of her own- she seems a bit distracted. This creates a mysterious atmosphere. Pip thinks that he over heard Miss Havisham say,
“Well? You can break his heart” to Estella. She did say this but Pip thinks it is a cruel, nasty, odd thing to say and does not believe that she would say such a thing. Miss Havisham is testing the power to break men’s heart, which is the purpose of Estella’s training. It is only a social experiment to her. Her behaviour is nasty, cruel, mysterious and manipulative.
Dickens also makes use of the past to add to our impression of Miss Havisham.
“Everything in the room had stopped…along time ago.” The clock, the watch, the shoe upon the table- everything is exactly the same. Nothing has changed. When Miss Havisham moves something she puts it back in exactly the same position. She “put down the jewel exactly on the spot from which she had taken it up.” Time has stood still in the room. Dickens describes her clothes as “grave-clothes” associating her clothes with death, implying that they were dull, old and ghostly looking.
The way Miss Havisham tries to manipulate Pip and Estella also suggests her character is very strange. Miss Havisham subjugates and patronises Pip. She makes Pip admit his feelings towards Estella after Estella had made fun of him. Miss Havisham embarrasses him. She does this to make him feel small, stupid and unimportant as a man and to increase Estelle’s pride. Miss Havisham emasculates him- she takes away his masculinity. Before Pip leaves she arranges for him to come back again.
“I know nothing of days of the week; I know nothing of weeks of the year. Come again after six days.” This shows that time means nothing to Miss Havisham.
The chapter ends with Pip’s description of the brewery.
“No horses in the stable, no pigs in the sty” implies that there is no livestock in the brewery any more. Neither are there any signs or smells of human activity,
“no smells of grain and beer”. The place is deserted suggesting a lack of life and it is also a “wilderness” which indicates a lack of care and maintenance. It has been abandoned and is ignored. When Pip steps inside he is “oppressed by its gloom.” The gloom is dark and miserable.
The word “sour” is repeated which suggests a bitter smell of old beer, which may linger on the empty casks. It can be associated with Miss Havisham. After being jilted, her life has turned “sour” and bitter just like the beer. Miss Havisham has become a “recluse” just like the brewery has been “deserted” and left alone. Her “better days” were before the planned marriage.
The word “rank” is also repeated, rank means sick and is parallel to Miss Havisham’s life. The garden has become twisted and tangled with weeds just like Miss Havisham’s life has become twisted in a bad way. She has tried to twist other human beings just like the weeds become tangled with others.
Pip’s vision is of Miss Havisham hanging in a “low nook of the building”. This shows what an impact Miss Havisham has made on his imagination. She has disturbed and frightened his sensitive nature. The word “terror” is repeated which captures his fear, fear of the vision and even greater fear when the vision vanishes. Pip’s vision of Miss Havisham hanging dead shows how he sees her- as a cold, manipulative person not a warm living human being.
In chapter eight Miss Havisham seems likes a manipulative, harsh, cruel person. Her whole outlook in life has been distorted-to hate men. She is bitter and cruel in the way she plays games with and teases Pip and Estella for pleasure. Since being jilted, she has led a cold, mechanical life in which real human feelings have been stunted. She has remained unloved and unloving.