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Portrayal of Boo Radley in To Kill a Mockingbird and Miss Havisham in Great Expectations Essay Sample

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Introduction of TOPIC

To ‘Kill a Mocking Bird’ and ‘Great Expectations’ are both good examples of bildungsroman, which is a novel that describes a character’s life and development from childhood to adulthood, which is one similarity between the novels (Scout and Pip). ‘To Kill a Mocking Bird’ is written by Harper Lee and is set in a small Southern American town, Maycomb in the 1930s. ‘Great Expectations’ is written by Charles Dickens and is set in England early 1800s. These novels both have another thing in common they both have characters that are isolated from the outside world, Boo Radley in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ and Miss Havisham in ‘Great Expectations’, these characters have lots of similarities, but also a lot of differences.

The settings of both characters are different in small ways such as they are both set in different times and countries. ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ is set in a small American town, of Maycomb, whereas ‘Great Expectations’ is set in a big city, in Southeast England. As they are set in different times and settings, they both approach different themes. ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’ Harper Lee tends to explore themes of racism and prejudice, whereas ‘Great Expectations’ approaches themes like class and money. One thing that makes these characters similar is how they are both known.

Boo is a ‘neighbourhood legend’. ‘People say he [Boo] exists’. This suggests that not only is he gossiped about but is also seen as maybe a monster figure. Miss Havisham is also talked about ‘everybody for miles round had heard of Miss Havisham’. However this also has differences as they are spoken about differently.

Miss Havisham even though she is still spoken about, is not openly disrespected as despite how mean she was to Pip when he was younger, he still treats her with respect when he is older, ‘It is I Pip. Mr Jaggers gave me your note yesterday. I have lost no time [to come and see her]’. Whereas Boo seems to be more “gossiped” about and seems to be referred to as a ‘malevolent phantom’, here it is shown that people see him a perhaps a mysterious monster.

The two characters’ grounds also appear similar and seem to be a reflection of their inner-selves. Miss Havisham’s garden had ‘high inclosing walls’. Here the walls could possibly represent her isolation and loneliness, also perhaps insecurity. She also has an, ’empty and disused’ garden, which maybe represent how she feels empty. ‘The shutters and doors of the Radley house were closed on Sundays’, here it is shown that Boo is kept isolated and in the dark. Also ‘he [Boo] went out at night’ when it is dark, showing Boo quite a dark and mysterious inside. Darkness is used by Charles Dickens in ‘Great Expectations, ‘passages were all dark’ represents the darkness in her which also portrays her mysteriousness.

Even though they are both isolated due to people in their lives, Compeyson, the man who left Miss Havisham at the alter, and Boo Radley’s father, who forced Boo to stay at home. They are different in the sense that Miss Havisham isolates herself, unlike Boo who is forced into isolation by his family who ‘kept to themselves’.

Miss Havisham’s house is a ‘satis house’ meaning satisfactory, this perhaps represent how she feels that she has had enough of her life, and heartache, maybe the reason for her stuck over one time, she feels she no longer needs to live. ‘The great front entrance had two chains across’ Miss Havisham’s chamber door, here it is suggested that she perhaps unwelcoming and also insecure, that she has to chain her own room d

oor. She uses ‘wax candles’ as her source of light cutting out natural sources of light,

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which is a need, suggesting she does not want reality and possibly not want to live.

There are also similarities in the characters’ personal appearances. Boo’s clothing also say a bit about him, he was wearing ‘khaki pants…torn denim shirt’, this could possibly represent him as being “normal” just like everyone else and not a “monster” like the people of Maycomb claim, as he is wearing casual clothes. Miss Havisham’s clothes, like Boo’s also say something about her. For example she is wearing a ‘faded and yellow’ wedding dress gives us an idea of her state of mind, that she is faded and perhaps heart is also faded and worn out.

There are also differences in both character’s appearances. One difference is that we are given a rumoured description of Boo, however we are not given one of Miss Havisham, as people tend not to speak badly about her. Another difference is that when we see Miss Havisham she seems to be stuck over one particular time in her life, the exact time, that she was possibly left at the alter, or even the time her heart broke. This suggests that she felt that after her heart broke, her life stopped. Hence the stopped clock, and everything being just the way it was on the day she was supposed to be getting married. It also shows that she possibly felt she could not continue her life, and so she left everything the way it was. This is different from Boo as when we see him he seems “normal” in the sense that he looks like everyone else, however he is pale, as he has been out of light for a long time.

When we are first introduced to Miss Havisham, she still leaves all the remnants of her bridal day about her chamber. She still wears her white dress, veil, bridal flowers and her jewellery. ‘She had not quite finish dressing, for she only had one shoe on’ is how Pip sees her. Here it is shown that she allows people to see her like this, showing them that this is her world and also how she feels inside, maybe because she feels humiliated about what happened and wants everyone to know what it was like for her. Miss Havisham becomes ‘the bride within the bridal dress that had withered like the dress, and like the flowers and had no brightness left but the brightness in her sunken eyes’. Here Charles Dickens represents her almost dead, she has no brightness, and the only brightness she has shows her sadness and loneliness, her eyes. She directs the path of her life towards bitterness and loneliness by not moving on from one particular point in her life.

Another similarity that these characters share is how their roles change towards the end of the novels or their lives. Just before Miss Havisham dies, when her house catches fire, Pip comes to see her and she is ‘before…the ashy fire.’ Here it seems to be shown that she is near the fire because she has realised how cold, or mean she has been and wants to do something to make it right, perhaps the reason for her being near the fire, to warm her coldness. It is also shown that unlike before where it seemed she was the powerful one, and Pip was the weak, or powerless one, she is now the powerless one, ‘her tremulous right hand’. It is also shown that she has realised the consequences of her actions (Estella stuck in a horrible marriage due to her being bought up by Miss Havisham) ‘What have I done!’ This change is similar to Boo’s, however we see that Boo doesn’t really change, but comes out. We see Boo’s generosity through the gifts left for the children, early in the novel, however it is made certain when he comes out at the end and saves the children from Bob Ewell, risking his own life.

These characters also have morals that the authors bring through with these characters. Boo is almost portrayed as, a mockingbird, which in ‘To Kill A Mockingbird’, ‘it is a sin to kill a mocking bird’ as it only does good for the people, which is like Boo (i.e. save Scout and Jem), yet the people of Maycomb still gossip about him and treat him as a monster and his family still keep him isolated, which is like killing him, this is a bit like the famous saying “don’t judge a book by its cover”. The characters all talk about him thinking they know him and everything about him, yet in the end, all that we had heard about him doesn’t seem true. This is like how Charles Dickens uses Miss Havisham to show that life is not worth sorrow and regret, as she dies lonely and unhappy, (more themes that are bought up with this character).

After studying both characters I have found a number of similarities and differences. Overall Boo and Miss Havisham are alike in the sense that they are both isolated and their actions have consequences that change the children around them. Despite this Miss Havisham’s actions seem to have a bad consequence on Estella and Pip, as oppose to this Boo’s seem to have a good consequence on Scout and Jem. I now conclude that Charles Dickens portrayal of Miss Havisham is much stronger than Lee Harper’s portrayal of Boo, as everything around Miss Havisham seems to be a reflection of her inner self. We learn things about Miss Havisham through her surroundings, unlike Boo who we learn more about through his actions.

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