The novel was set in the 1830’s, when society was very different to how it is now. The role of the upper and lower class women was completely different. If you were a lower class women you were expected to work hard, and be submissive towards the upper classes. They also had no power at all. Their fathers or husbands owned them as though they were property. On the other hand Upper class women were not expected to work, and could be a lot more free in what they did, although it was still strict. All women of all classes were expected to have children, and look after the house. This was consider to be their duty or natural role.
The two key characters in this essay are Biddy and Estella. I will be comparing the differences in the class divisions that Dickens has portrayed these two characters in. Estella is an upper class girl who lives in a large, old decaying house, with Miss Havisham. Biddy is a quite the opposite. She is a working class girl, who is very poor, and looked down on all the time. She is also Pip’s friend.
In the first section of the novel, Biddy is presented to us to be a kind, caring, hard-working girl. (At this point Biddy is still growing up.) “She is pleasant and wholesome and sweet-tempered.”.
The appearance of Biddy is first described as “messy” and untidy.- “for her hair always wanted brushing, her hands always wanted washing”. There was an exception on Sundays where she made a lot more effort with her appearance.- “On Sundays, she went to church elaborated”. This was what everybody would have done, especially people who went to church. She was very hard working, as she would work in a school, and also help Pip with his reading and writing.- “by the help of Biddy… I struggled through the alphabet”.
Pip’s opinion of Biddy at this point is that she is a very kind and caring girl, but that she is a bit messy.- “her shoes always wanted mending and pulling up at the heel”. A bit later on in the first section, after Pip has met Estella, his opinions change a little. He thinks she is a bit ugly and domestic.- “She is not beautiful”. He is comparing her to Estella.- “could not be like Estella”.
My opinion of Biddy at this point is that she is a very kind-hearted, caring, hard-working girl. She is very polite, and knows her place in society. She is also a very typical women of her class at the time when the novel was set.
In the first section of the novel Estella is presented to us to be a very harsh, cold-hearted, emotionless, rude girl. (At this point Estella is still growing up.)- “With this boy! Why, he is a common Labouring-boy!”. This shows that Estella is quite a rude person, who does not really care what people think of her. Estella is also linked with the image of light and stars.- “and her light came along the long dark passage like a star”.
The appearance of Estella is first described as “very pretty and seemed very proud”. This is how she seemed to be all the time, unlike Biddy who dressed and seemed to make more effort on Sundays. Estella did not really have a job as such, but her main aim in life was to get back at men and be horrible to them.- “without looking at me, as insolently as if I was a dog in disgrace”. Pip said this because he felt that Estella was not being too nice to him. This is a perfect example were Estella is being psychologically sadistic.
Pip’s opinion of Estella at this point is that she is “beautiful” however nasty she is to him. He also thinks of her “like a star”. There are several references throughout the novel where Pip compares her to a star. This is a positive comparison that Pip is making.
My opinion of Estella at this point is that she is a very uncaring, harsh, heartless person, who is out to upset men in every way possible that she can.- “You can break his heart”. She is very scornful and rude.- “scornfully”.
By the middle of the novel, Biddy has changed quite a bit. She is now older and more responsible.- “I have learnt a good deal… and have had time to improve”. However even though she might have grown-up and matured since the first meeting, she is still plain, old boring Biddy. In this section though, because it is Pip’s sister’s funeral Biddy is dressed in her Sunday best and looks really smart.- “Biddy, looking very neat and modest in her black dress”. This is the only time we meet her in this middle section, so therefore don’t know if she has changed the way she dresses and looks all the time.
In this section because Biddy has grown-up, her jobs and domestic tasks has changed slightly especially at the beginning of this where Biddy is helping to look after Mrs Joe.- “Biddy… sat holding my sister’s plate” Later on at the funeral Biddy was thinking of getting a job at the new local school.- “I am going to try to get the place of mistress in the new school”.
Pip’s opinion of Biddy at this point is more or less the same from the first section. He still thinks she is not beautiful.- “She is common”. Pip feels a bit sorry for Biddy.- “I did not like the thought of making her cry again”. This shows that Pip felt sorry for her and did not want to upset her and make her cry again. This is very important because Pip had already made her cry a bit earlier on, and that he did not want to do it again. Even though Pip does not think Biddy is anything like Estella and is a bit mean to Biddy, he still loves and cares about Biddy enough to not want to make her cry.
My opinion of Biddy at this point in the novel are the same, apart from I think she has grown up and matured. She is still timid and shy, and knows where her place is.
When we meet Estella in the middle of the novel, she has changed a bit of course because she is older now and more grown up.- “She was so much changed”. At first when Pip sees Estella he does not recognise her, until he sees her eyes.- “that the eyes were Estella’s”. This shows us how much she has changed since the first section.
She has also changed in her appearance otherwise Pip would have recognised her straight away.- “So much more beautiful, so much more womanly”. This tells us that she has changed and grown up a lot. The novel suggests that she still wears the same sort of clothes, but in some ways looks even more beautiful then before. Estella’s attitude has not really changed, she is still “proud and insulting”. Her jobs and domestic tasks are still very different from Biddy’s. She still has not really got a job. Her main aim in life is still to hurt men, and now that she is older she can do that more, and is even more wicked.- “Her manner was more winning then… before”. This shows that she is worse then before, when she was younger.
Pip’s opinion of Estella is even stronger than before. He thinks that she is even more pretty and beautiful.- “Estella seemed more delicately beautiful than she had seemed yet”. He also thinks that every time he sees her, she grows more beautiful.
My opinion’s of Estella at this point in the novel is that she is still awful, and cold-hearted, and evil, maybe even more so then before. Estella has changed a lot since before, she is a lot more womanly and grown-up.
In the final section of the novel when we meet Biddy again, she is a lot more older and settled in life. She has just married Joe.- “I am married to Joe”. Her appearance has also changed.- “But, dear Biddy, how smart you are!”. She has become more smart and tidy. She has grown up a great deal since when we first met her in the first part of the novel when she was just a girl. Her jobs and tasks now that she is married and has children are described as a lot more motherly.- “as her little girl lay sleeping in her lap”. She has more responsibility now that she has a family to care for and look after.- “good matronly hand”. These are all positive changes in Biddy.
Pip’s opinion of Biddy at this stage is that she is lovely, the best lady possible.- “you have the best Wife in the whole world”. He is saying this to Joe, showing them both how pleased he is for them. He thinks that she has made a wonderful life for herself. Pip is happy for her and thinks she has made the right choice.- “My first thought was one of great thankfulness”. He is happy.
Biddy’s character has been rewarded by Dickens. He has rewarded she is comfortable in life and now has a lovely home and family.- “you have the best husband in the world” Pip says this to Biddy. It shows that She really has the best husband in the world. Joe is the only character who remained pure and nice all throughout the novel. Biddy has been made very happy. Biddy’s rewards reflects what Dickens thought about the upper and lower classes. He thought that most upper class people were cold-hearted and evil, because of there status and money. This is shown through Estella, until right at the end of the novel where she has not got anything and she has become softer and nicer. Whereas he thought most lower class people were more kind and caring and that they should be rewarded and made happy.
In the final section of the novel when we meet Estella for the last time, she is a lot older – like Biddy except unlike Biddy, Estella is more unhappy in life.- “the saddened… eyes”. Pip has noticed this in her eyes, which were once so bright.
Her appearance has changed greatly, unlike Biddy from when we first met her. Estella has become older.- The freshness of her beauty were indeed gone”. She is not as beautiful as before, but other ways about her remained.- “its indescribable charms remained”. Another thing that has changed slightly in her – her personality. Whereas before she was cold and harsh towards things, particularly men, she is now a lot more soft and kind.- “I have often thought of you.”. She is saying this to Pip.
Estella’s job and domestic tasks at this stage in the novel have changed from when we first met her. Back then her main aim in life was to get back at men, and to be as mean and horrible to them as she wanted. Now that she has grown up, and had lots of bad experiences in life, she now does not really have a job or purpose in life. She has changed greatly.
Pip’s opinion of Estella at this point is that she has changed greatly. She has become more relaxed, and has calmed down, and come to her senses. Unlike Biddy who has more or less stayed the same throughout the book. Estella’s personality has changed, she is a lot less proud and powerful. Unlike Biddy, Estella has changed a lot.