In the novel Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, an old woman with a bizarre lifestyle is introduced as Miss Havisham, while Pip is a common boy from a small town. While they may seem to not have much in common, their lives became intermingled when a strange playdate rekindled an unhealthy obsession held by Miss Havisham which fires her burning need to avenge herself by manipulating and hurting others which is the wrong path to go down for a content life. Her traumatic past love life is reflected in her saying: “I’ll tell you what real love is. It is blind devotion, unquestioning self-humiliation, utter submission…giving your whole heart and soul to the smiter – as I did!”(254) Meaning that her toxic infatuation with her ex-fiance was true love in her mind even though he was only using her for her wealth. To begin with, Miss Havisham’s strong urge to seek revenge out to those who did her wrong seemingly gained more motivation once Pip became more ingrained into her life and he began to have an impact on her.
For example, during Pip’s first visit to the Satis House, he stated “The cold wind seemed to blow colder there, than outside the gate.”(97) Dickens wrote this phrase to emphasize the eerie and cold atmosphere that surrounds the Satis House. By mentioning “the cold wind” it can be inferred that wherever Pip was coming from was already a bland-like place that had a cold vib.
Furthermore, the comparison to the borders of Miss Havisham’s home, being described as “colder” displays how her lifestyle is even more unfavorable than the small, common town that Pip came from. Yet another display of Miss Havisham’s peculiar lifestyle is in the phrase “..
.than outside the gate.” because it portrays the Satis House to be within its own boundaries and that it has a separate environment from the rest of the town.
All of these strange aspects of the Satis House were experienced by Pip for the first time at a very young age which seemingly put him in a vulnerable state while with Miss Havisham. This vulnerability that Dickens instilled in him was displayed through his wary and cautious behavior around Miss Havisham. Such as obeying her demands in fear that she give him a sort of punishment as that is all he has known as Mrs. Joe, his older sister, would beat him for disobeying.
For example, Miss Havisham would say “You are to go and stand there boy until you are wanted.” and this quote reflects how she views him merely as a toy that she can use for her own personal benefit and not a person. The phrase that she used, “until you are wanted” shows how Miss Havisham at first had no sympathetic feelings towards PIp and only used him as she pleased. Additionally, Pip became infatuated with Miss Havisham’s adopted daughter Estella, who was insulting yet pretty. It is likely that Miss Havisham subconsciously recognized Pip’s inferior and in-love persona as how she once was before being traumatically heart-broken. This similarity in character between the two could have potentially sparked her vengeful cravings as she saw a reflection of her own weakness and infatuation through Pip. However, she must have wished that she could associate herself more with Estella, because she sees that the female, in this scenario, is the one who has the stronger presence, which contrasts Miss Havisham’s own backstory of being the weak one.
She raised Estella in a loveless manner that resulted in her being incapable of loving and made her ultimate mission be to break men’s’ hearts. It was in those moments that Miss Havisham realized that Pip would make a great practice dummy for Estella to take on an emotional rollercoaster. In continuation, Miss Havisham not only seeked out to use Pip as a target of her revenge-seeking plan, but she was mentally manipulating him along the way in order to be able to assume the role of control over the circumstances and use him to her benefit. To illustrate, Miss Havisham lead Pip on to believe that she was the benefactor for his mission of moving to London, becoming a gentleman, and no longer being a commoner. This was explained towards the end of Stage 1 when Pip was bidding farewell to Miss Havisham before departing for his mission, because he wanted to display his gratitude. Pip exclaims “I have come into such good fortune since I saw you last and I am so grateful for it Miss Havisham.”(278) It is clear within this quote that when Pip says “I am so grateful for it” that he is referring to his belief that Miss Havisham is his benefactor.
Miss Havisham wanting her vengeful plan to be a success, says nothing contradicting in response, but instead goes along with Pip and fuels his assumption. This causes Pip to feel indebted to her and he wants to spend as much time helping her with her daily errands and activities which also means spending more time in close-quarters with Estella. Miss Havisham once again uses this to her advantage and consistently encourages Estella to hurt Pip by saying things such as: “Break their hearts my pride and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy!”(167) By telling Estella to have “no mercy” Miss Havisham is trying to ensure that Estella will have the strength to go through with the plan of hurting Pip in a harsh manner, similar to the way that she was once treated.
Additionally. Dickens also wrote that Miss Havisham would greedily accept Pip’s answer of “yes” when asked if he thought that Estella had gotten prettier. Furthermore, by being deceitful, manipulative, and vengeful, Miss Havisham is acting in a very sinful manner which prevents her from ever experiencing true joy or contentment in life as nobody can achieve such happiness if they dwell on bringing others down instead of raising themselves up.
For example, Miss Havisham’s unhealthy obsession over her past love life and traumatic wedding scenario resulted in her being a lonely old woman who people associate with being crazy and almost witch-like in their minds. To illustrate, Pip’s knowledge of Miss Havisham before meeting her was “I had heard of Miss Havisham..as an immensely rich and grim lady who lived in a large and dismal house barricaded against robbers, and who led a life of seclusion.” (53) The fact that she “lived a life of seclusion” is pretty indicative that she may not have many happy memories as it is in human nature to be around other humans and to have regular social interaction. However, Miss Havisham’s isolation from others prevented her from being socially active and she was mentally unstable as her deeply scarring broken heart backstory created toxic qualities, such as deceitfulness, within Miss Havisham. If she was truly happy, she would not have deemed it necessary to neglect loving feelings towards Estella while at the same time raising her to be a heartbreaking machine.
Yet another inference that displays how Miss Havisham is not living a fulfilled and content life is the fact that she arranges playdates for Estella and other children which is not a typically normal thing to do. Miss Havisham is also military-like when ordering kids to play and this demonstrates her bizarre habits. However, her want of watching young and innocent kids play together and have fun could potentially be her coping mechanism for her immoral treatment of young people such as Estella and Pip. It could possibly be parallel to how Jaggers is constantly washing his hand in attempt to cleanse himself of any wrongdoings or associations with such things. Miss Havisham is possibly attempting to push aside her sinful actions for a while and soak up the innocence of playing children. Towards the end of Stage 2, Pip came to the realization that Miss Havisham was not his benefactor and that it was his convict. With a feeling of betrayal he marches to Satis House to confront her about her lies. There he said, “What I had to say to Estella, Miss Havisham, I will say before you, presently—in a few moments.
It will not surprise you, it will not displease you. I am as unhappy as you can ever have meant me to be.” (637) Pip says that his newly gained knowledge “will not displease” Miss Havisham, because now that Pip is aware and no longer ignorant of the situation, Miss Havisham’s ultimate goal of emotionally ruining Pip was still achieved. However, in a bizarre and twisted way, Miss Havisham came to care for Pip and almost considered him family since he was always around helping her out, much like a gentleman. Therefore, when Pip said “I am as unhappy as you can have ever meant me to be.
” the reader can assume that this is the moment in which Miss Havisham is hit with the realization that she has selfishly ruined the young lives of Pip and Estella. Miss Havisham being awoken from an almost trance that she was in that allowed her to look past moral dilemmas and focused on avenging herself from the male species, specifically Pip, perhaps because he reminded her of the inferior position that she once held, Miss Havisham began to make several attempts at mending her relationships with the youths and trying to diminish her sinful ways. She realized that living her life by trying to mend something that happened ages ago will leave you stuck in the past and she noticed that she had missed out on most things from her present, such as raising Estella into the woman that she deserved to be. All of these regrets that now face Miss Havisham encourages her to profusely apologize and wishes for forgiveness. Finally, Pip, who also came to care for Miss Havisham, said, “O Miss Havisham, I can do it now. I want forgiveness and direction far too much, to be bitter with you.
“(709) meaning that he has made too many mistakes himself to be angry with someone else about theirs. All throughout the novel, Miss Havisham’s sinful actions reflected those of a deeply disturbed person who is selfish enough to manipulate young people into a cycle of pain and hurt for the only purpose of trying to make others as miserable as her. Once she was able to develop humane and caring feelings for others and not be as self-centered, she realized that she had no chance of living a fulfilled life by ruining others. Forgiveness was her answer and Pip was mature enough to deliver.
Pip also confirmed his forgiveness towards Miss Havisham by giving her a kiss on the lips when she was on her deathbed.