Estella's beauty captivates Pip from their very first meeting, but he finds her to be otherwise cold and insulting; later on in their acquaintance, she goes so far as to declare that her heart has no emotional capacities, and has never felt any tenderness towards anything. Nonetheless, Pip idealizes the inaccessible Estella, claiming, “I never had one hour's happiness in her society, and yet my mind all round the four-and-twenty hours was harping on the happiness of having her with me unto death" (Chapter 38). Pip assumes that Miss Havisham intends Estella for him, but nothing in Estella's character or relationship with Pip should suggest that they would be happy together. She merely represents the antithesis of the “coarse" and “common" young Pip, and the socialite beauty that is undoubtedly deserved by the gentleman he contrives to become. When Estella admits that she shall be married to the unworthy Drummle, the news crushes Pip:

"O Estella!" I answered, as my bitter tears fell fast on her hand, do what I would to restrain them; “even if I remained in England and could hold my head up with the rest, how could I see you Drummle's wife?"

"Nonsense," she returned, “nonsense. This will pass in no time."

"Never, Estella!"

"You will get me out of your thoughts in a week."

"Out of my thoughts! You are part of my existence, part of myself. You have been in every line I have ever read, since I first came here, the rough common boy whose poor heart you wounded even then. You have been in every prospect I have ever seen since — on the river, on the sails of the ships, on the marshes, in the clouds, in the light, in the darkness, in the wind, in the woods, in the sea, in the streets. You have been the embodiment of every graceful fancy that my mind has ever become acquainted with. The stones of which the strongest London buildings are made, are not more real, or more impossible to be displaced by your hands, than your presence and influence have been to me, there and everywhere, and will be. Estella, to the last hour of my life, you cannot choose but remain part of my character, part of the little good in me, part of the evil. But, in this separation I associate you only with the good, and I will faithfully hold you to that always, for you must have done me far more good than harm, let me feel now what sharp distress I may. O God bless you, God forgive you (Chapter 44)!"

Even though Pip is appalled by the choice, as he considers Drummle completely undeserving of the beautiful Estella, and Estella shows Pip no comfort or compassion, he persists in romanticizing her. Pip inextricably links Estella to his desired station in life, and somehow still associates her with the good in him. However, the possibility of Pip and Estella's reunion is not possible until Pip becomes an honest, hardworking man and Estella learns something of human suffering. As they leave the ruins of Satis, Estella says, “Suffering has been stronger than all other teaching, and has taught me to understand what your heart used to be. I have been bent and broken, but — I hope — into a better shape (Chapter 59)."

Questions

1. How does the parallel structure employed in the above passage strengthen the emotionality and poignancy of Pip's appeal to Estella?

2. Gender relations pervade Great Expectations . How do Pip and Estella characterize or defy typical Victorian gender roles? Which other characters in Great Expectations act in a manner consistent or inconsistent with what is generally attributed to their gender?

3. Compare Pip's reaction to Estella's marriage to Drummle with Anodos's reaction to the white lady's union with the knight in Phantastes.

4. Pip's desire to become a gentleman was much more a matter of class than of wealth, as he would have been relatively well-off as a blacksmith. How would the class divisions of Victorian England have spurred Pip to seek Estella's affection?


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens Great Expectations

Last modified 18 February 2008