‘It is a truth universally acknowledged.’ What a way for a novel to start, especially a masterpiece by Jane Austen! I notice two major flaws in this statement. One is the use of the word ‘universally’. What is universal? In its purest sense it means throughout time and space. But the views of every single character in both the novels that I intend to examine (Pride & Prejudice and Great Expectations) change at least once during the story. The second defect is the word ‘truth’. Anyone who says “I never lie” is lying. And usually we have no way to tell if an acquaintance is being honest. Most of us are therefore either distrustful or naï¿½ve.
Lydia Wickham (Pride & Prejudice) and Miss Havisham (Great Expectations) have both been naï¿½ve at some point in their lives. Lydia is still young, foolish and trusting while Miss Havisham has hardened and come to regret her hastiness.
As they did not work, a man with plenty of money was a much-needed fantasy for most upper class Victorian girls, and most could not afford to pick and choose. However in the case of Miss Havisham this philosophy was reversed. She was the rich one due to her father’s fortune and she could have whomever she wanted. Desirable as the situation may seem, it had its drawbacks. When she returned one of her suitors’ affections (she perfectly idolized him’) he ‘professed to be devoted to her’, however it was clear to all others that ‘he practiced on her affection in his systematic way, that he got great sums of money out of her.’
Lydia Wickham by the end of her story still cannot see that she is being used. She is blissfully ignorant of her husbands’ being paid to marry her, and is mercifully kept in the dark, probably the wisest course of action given her temperamental nature! Embarrassingly, Mrs Wickham thinks herself above her sisters because she is married, and flaunts her new status, while both the reader and those aware of Darcy’s intervention are left to cringe for her.
Miss Havisham’s disappointment was years and years ago; therefore she should have had time to heal. However, healing is not Miss H’s intent. She has not seen the light of day (physically or symbolically) since she was jilted at the altar all those decades ago. Her fiancï¿½ was her life, as she tells Pip; ‘real love 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 smitter – as I did!’ Now she lives in those happy days; her request to be pushed around her abandoned feast ‘over and over and over again’ is resonant of her thoughts, which are always memories of that time.