Compare how Dickens presents the character of Miss Havisham when we first see her in chapter 8 and 11 to her final appearance in chapter 49. The novel, Great Expectations by Charles Dickens, is written in the genre of a bildungsroman. Dickens presents the story of a young boy, named Pip. Pip lives with his sister and her husband, Joe. His life is soon changed as he is sent to go visit Miss Havisham, a bitter old spinster. Dickens depicts an eccentric character in Miss Havisham.
The cold hearted spinster seems to both conform to and challenge society’s expectations of unmarried women in the Victorian Age. Her appearance aligns her with common misconceptions of a spinster’s appearance as unattractive, as well as outcasts from the Victorian society. Dickens intentions of creating Miss Havisham were to try and challenge the position and status of women in the Victorian period. Although she might only appear a few times in the novel, she is an iconic character in that she seems to have shaped the future ideas on the role of women.
Dickens uses Pip’s narrative voice to present a marked shift in Miss Havisham’s attitude and intentions towards him. As Miss Havisham wilfully stopped her life at a moment of pain and humiliation, at precisely ‘twenty to nine’, she indulges in her own anger and self pity and desires only revenge. It is apparent that she is manipulative of Estella, her adopted daughter, as she uses hers and Pips relationship to avenge men vicariously through them.
This makes Estella an extension of her pervading bitterness towards men and the vulnerable neophyte Pip serves as the perfect target. Miss Havisham states, ‘You can break his heart’ emphasising her malicious intent to avenge her own feelings of rejection. She approaches Pip in an impersonal manner, putting herself in a higher status as she addresses him as ‘boy’ highlighting her authority over him. It also shows how she is depersonalising him, as she views all men as the same.
In addition, it accentuates on Miss Havisham’s inability to love. The failure of Miss Havisham’s quest for love, fuels her actions of encouragement in inviting Pip over to play, bringing Estella and him closer. Her imperative tone when she demands Pip to ‘play, play, play! ‘ can seem very threatening and intimidating towards Pip, making him feel inferior and frightened. Although, it could also represent her trying to mould and sculpt a model child of her own, as she has not been able to bear child.
She seems to enjoy watching Estella and Pip play together, as it highlights once again, her trying to mould a model child of her own. Regardless of this, Dickens still shows her as resentful and cruel, alienating her from the reader. This is extended through Dickens use of first person narrative for Pip as the reader begins to identify with his emotions when he states, ‘I was half afraid of her’. Nevertheless, in contrast with her final appearance in chapter 49, her attitude towards Pip has a great sense of transition.
Even despite all the previous offences she has committed, Miss Havisham convincingly makes a switch for the better in this climatic scene. As Pip re-enters Satis house, after years of separation, he see’s Miss Havisham with a ‘new expression’ on her face, even still there was a sense of ‘utter loneliness’ around her, the adjective ‘utter’ emphasises her loneliness and isolation from the world. Though she is thankful for Pips arrival, she looks upon him with awe and fear ‘as if she were afraid of me’; implying that the status and roles have reversed.
The tone she uses with Pip is softer and sincerer as she refers to him as ‘dear’ rather than ‘boy’ Dickens then shows the reader that Miss Havisham has started to show love and consideration towards Pip. Miss Havisham begins to crave forgiveness from Pip as she states ‘can I only serve you, Pip’ this imploring tone shows that Miss Havisham wants to help Pip as she has learnt how to love and is now craving for forgiveness in order to be accepted and atone the past, therefore is seen letting go and moving on.
Pip begins to feel sympathy for Miss Havisham and as a first person narrative makes the reader sympathise too. Unlike the first meeting of Miss Havisham where Pip felt alienated from her, he now feels drawn to her. She cries ‘O! ‘ the plaintive tone shows her sadness and despair, ‘What have I done! What have I done! ‘ here her exclamations show her guilt and despair, her wasted life is the subject of her inability to forgive and her ‘stone’ heart. Moreover the repetition highlights her bitter regret.