Upon stepping into Miss Havisham's house for the first time, Pip stepped into a world of deceit and disappointment. Miss Havisham's heart broke when her fiancé left her on the day of her wedding, and she has since set her heart on using deceit to hurt people; Estella, because of her education, uses her beauty to trick men and crush them when they think they might have a chance with her, but ultimately finds herself destroyed by her own lifestyle; Miss Havisham's relatives hang around her incessantly in vain hope that she might one day favor them, though only self-interest motivates their care for he. Pip, however, sees this world as fascinating and appealing. In Estella he finds boundless beauty, in Miss Havisham the manners and education of the upper classes. Despite Estella's warnings not to fall in love with her, which could be taken as warnings not to fall in love with all she represents and plays a part, Pip eagerly distances himself from his own family in order to attain the lifestyle he so admire.
When Pip finds out that he will gain immense wealth and move to London, he imagines that Miss Havisham has laid out an intricate plan to bring him into her fold, and he enthusiastically steps into the role he thinks she wants him to play. Full of gratitude and expectation, he visits Miss Havisham in order to let her know how thankful he is for her supposed generosity. mmediately, Miss Havisham sets up her game, by calling, “'Don't go, Sarah,'" thus ensuring Mrs. Pocket's jealousy as the conversation unfolds.
'Don't go, Sarah,' she said. 'Well, Pip?'
'I start for London, Miss Havisham, tomorrow,' I was exceedingly careful what I said, 'and I thought you would kindly not mind my taking leave of you.'
'That is a gay figure, Pip,' said she, making her crutch stick play around me, as if she, the fairy godmother who had changed me, were bestowing the finishing gift.
'I have come into such good fortune since I saw you last, Miss Havisham,' I murmured. 'And I am so grateful for it, Miss Havisham.'
'Ay, ay!' said she, looking at the discomfited and envious Sarah, with delight. '
Having stated his thanks, Pip continues on in a docile manner, in order to show his respect and deference to Miss Havisham:
I have seen Mr. Jaggers. I have heard about it, Pip. So you go tomorrow?'
'Yes, Miss Havisham.'
'And you are adopted by a rich person?'
'Yes, Miss Havisham.'
'No, Miss Havisham.'
'And Mr. Jaggers is made your guardian?'
'Yes, Miss Havisham.'
After this exchange, Pip notes Miss Havisham's “enjoyment of Sarah Pocket's jealous dismay" (175). Pip takes a certain delight from this scene, thinking that at last he has been accepted into a higher circle, that Miss Havisham has given him her blessing, while Sarah Pocket stands left out and envious. No longer must he be the one who watches wishfully, who wishes and desires. Pip feels certain that at last he will be able to attain all the he dreamt of as a child. Unbeknownst to him, however, Miss Havisham uses him in this scene the same way she used him as a child: to aggravate her relatives and derive personal pleasure from watching the people with whom she toys. Upon discovering his true patron, Pip guesses all of this and confronts her, asking, “'And when I fell into the mistake I have so long remained in, you at least led me on?'" to which she coolly replies, “'Yes...I let you go on'" (394). She further admits that she used him in punishing her relatives for their selfishness. Thus, Pip discovers that what he once considered his greatest blessing is in fact the greatest lie of his life, and this realization leaves him, as he tells Miss Havisham, “'as unhappy as you can ever have meant me to be'" (393).
1. How does Dickens's use of dialogue convey the game Miss Havisham plays?
2. Miss Havisham represents affluence in the eyes of Pip and the reader throughout Great Expectations. What statement did Dickens intend to make by writing her as a character that spins great webs of lies and lives to cause others grief?
3. In Jane Eyre, Jane also receives a large sum of money, but her aunt, an embittered old woman, keeps her inheritance from her for some time because she refuses to tell Jane's uncle of his niece's existence. Her aunt, however, eventually yields and becomes the link that makes it possible for Jane to receive her inheritance. How do the roles of Jane's aunt and Miss Havisham compare?
4. In the world Dickens writes about, how much power would a criminal lawyer actually have? Would a person like Jaggers actually have the influence he does in Great Expectations ?
Last modified 23 February 2008