Miss Havisham plays a big part in Pip's life. Dickens portrays her as a woman who was jilted on her wedding day. This event ruined her life. She has stopped all the clocks and sits in her yellowing wedding dress. (1 [1: Factual description of Miss Havisham. ]) Dickens describes her in a way which makes me imagine the castle of the White Witch in Narnia, with its frozen statues in the courtyard. (2 [2: Personal response. ])
Miss Havisham employs Pip to play with Estella, but enjoys watching her mock and shame him. She is happiest when Pip falls in love with Estella, because then she can taunt him that he will never be good enough to have her. (3 [3: Facts about Miss Havisham's desires and feelings. ]) Dickens writes:
"Miss Havisham repeated, 'If she tears your heart to pieces - love her, love her, love her!'" (4 [4: Quote to prove the point. ])
By this, he is showing that Miss Havisham wants Estella to break his heart. (5 [5: Explanation of how the quote proves the point. ]) In the end, however, Estella rejects Miss Havisham as well. Miss Havisham eventually sees that she hurt Pip because she was hurt, and asks his forgiveness. She gets too close to the fire and is burned - in the 19th century, readers would have seen this as God's punishment. (6 [6: Social and cultural context. ])
In the story of Great Expectations (7 [7: Flags up that the essay is now going to work at word text level. ]), Dickens purposefully portrays Miss Havisham as an 'unreal' character. (8 [8: Opening statement of paragraph, stating a characteristic of her character. ]) You can see this in the fact that she wears fantastic clothing and looks like a waxwork. (9 [9: Supported by facts from the story. ]) For her, time has stopped; she stopped all her clocks the moment she found out her lover had jilted her, which shows she has not moved on with her life. (10 [10: What this means for her character is drawn out. ])
One possible reason why Dickens portrayed her like this is that he wanted to create an image of a woman who is psychologically damaged. (11 [11: Suggestion as to WHY Dickens portrayed her like that. ]) This makes her a character for whom we have sympathy. (12 [12: What this means for her character is drawn out. ]) There were many such people in 19th century England (long before there was mental health care). (13 [13: Social and cultural background. ]) A number of people have been suggested models for Miss Havisham. For example, Wikipedia suggests Dickens based her on an Australian woman called Eliza Emily Donnithorne. (14 [14: Own ideas - this is extra research, not something this website has told you. ])
Alternatively, Dickens might have wanted to create a character who was 'distant' and emotionally 'out of touch'. (15 [15: More than one idea/interpretation. ]) Dickens never got on with his mother, and it is possible he is imagining a parallel between himself and Pip - as children who needed a loving mother but only got a heartless 'user'. (16 [16: Reference to Dickens' personal context. ]).
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Dickens also creates an impression of Miss Havisham for the reader through the words and style in which he writes about her. (17 [17: Flags up that the essay is now going to work at word/sentence level. ])
"Her chest had dropped, so that she stooped; and her voice had dropped, so that she spoke low, and with a dead lull upon her; altogether, she had the appearance of having dropped, body and soul, within and without, under the weight of a crushing blow."
One stylistic feature (18 [18: Flags up that the paragraph is going to talk about repetition. ]) of this passage that is typical of Dickens is the repetition of the word 'dropped'. This portrays Miss Havisham (19 [19: Explains effect of the repetition for the reader. ]) as someone who has lost everything. Poor woman - you cannot drop more wholly than "body and soul, within and without"! (20 [20: Sensitivity to Dickens' intentions. ]) The word 'dropped' creates an image in the reader's mind of a woman who is slumped and broken. It makes me think of an old woman in a care home waiting to die. (21 [21: Personal response. ]) Dickens wanted us to imagine a woman who has lost her hopes, energy, self-esteem, and will to live. The word 'dropped' is especially wonderful (22 [22: Evaluates the effects of Dickens' technique. ]) because it carries the idea of 'downwards' - into depression, perhaps, or a personal hell. And the reader thinks of lost opportunities - of the beautiful vase smashed on the floor, or the missed cricket catch. (23 [23: Layers of meaning/alternative suggestions. ])
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Miss Havisham In Great Expectations Essay
In Great Expectations, Dickens depicts an eccentric character in Miss Havisham. The unmarried Miss Havisham seems to both conform to and deny the societal standards of unmarried women in the Victorian Age. Spinsters and old maids display particular attitudes and hold certain functions in the society. Miss Havisham's character shows how one woman can both defy and strengthen these characteristics. She, along with several other female characters in the novel, supports the fact that unmarried women were growing in number. In addition, her extravagant appearance aligns her with the common misconceptions of a spinster's appearance as common and unattractive, as well as makes her outcast from society like many unmarried women were. On the other hand, Miss Havisham's wealth is an uncommon characteristic of unmarried women. Furthermore, society does not show disrespect for Miss Havisham as it did for many spinsters; in fact, Miss Havisham portrays an authority rarely associated with spinsters over the lives of a few characters in the novel. Yet, while Miss Havisham's wealth and sense of respect and authority defy these characteristics of spinsters, the reasons she has these traits, her inheritance and social status, realign her with the traditional idea of a spinster.
The novel presents several figures of single women like Miss Havisham, each with her own peculiarities, which is in keeping with the social reality that the number of single women was growing. Molly, Jaggers's maid, is revealed as a murderess with a "diseased affection of the heart" (204; ch. 26). Biddy, the servant at the forge, provides an excellent example of a young woman on the verge of spinsterhood. She is described by Pip as "not beautiful - she was common" and therefore aligns herself with the common, unattractive standard of appearance for spinsters in Victorian time (130; ch. 17). Miss Skiffins, Wemmick's friend, presents herself not only as a single woman but one who takes care of her own finances, which was uncommon in this day. And then there is Miss Havisham, who has risen to the status of old maid through the mere passage of time. All of these women provide examples from the text of single women, which supports the contention of the time that single women were growing in number. Although Biddy and Miss Skiffins do marry, it is important to note not only the length of their spinsterhood, but the circumstances under which it comes to an end. Biddy can only become Joe's wife after Mrs. Joe dies. Wemmick waits until precisely the right time in his affairs to propose to Miss Skiffins so as not to disturb the natural order of his very structured life. While these single women offer a distinct presence in the novel, none plays a large role in society.
Spinsters were often viewed as outcasts from society; there was no respect for a woman who could not marry. Miss Havisham definitely fits the mold of an outcast. After being abandoned...
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