Walking into Satis House — “Enough" House — as Miss Havisham's frozen palace is named, Pip enters into a timeless home where memories of lost love reign. The house stands as testimony and memorial to Miss Havisham's broken heart; all clocks in the home stopped at the moment her heart broke, and little in the house has changed since the moment her fiancé left her while dressed in her wedding gown. Miss Havisham, still wearing the gown, now yellowed with age and grief, is further testimony to the pain of lost love. Yet, in this frozen home, Pip is born anew — a new chapter of his life begins when the ever-chilly Estella lets him in to the home. Within this house of broken hearts, Pip's own heart becomes vulnerable, as he comes to love Estella (who makes him doubt his home, his family, even his hands), who by all appearances is wholly untouchable to such a plain “labouring-boy." The house is at once a place of stasis and broken dreams-- stopped at 9:20 on the day Miss Havisham's heart broke--but also a place where love is born and relationships are formed, as Pip comes to cherish Estella. The following passages focus on what it means for Pip to love Estella, and how it is that he comes to love her despite himself. The following passage best illuminates their relationship, and Pip's perceptions of Estella: terrible and beautiful, magical and sinister, unattainable yet painfully real, Estella is both untouchable and wholly loveable.

"Let me see you play cards with this boy."

With this boy! Why, he is a common labouring-boy!

I thought I overheard Miss Havisham answer — only it seemed so unlikely — “Well? You can break his heart. . . . [53; pace within the complete text of the novel]

I had never thought of being ashamed of my hands before; but I began to consider them a very indifferent pair. Her contempt for me was so strong, that it became infectious, and I caught it. . . . [54]

The rank garden was the garden of the house, and that it was overgrown with tangled weeds, but that there was a track upon the green and yellow paths, as it some one sometimes walked there, and that Estella was walking away from me even then. But she seemed to be everywhere. For, when I yielded to the temptation presented by the casks, and began to walk on them, I saw her walking on them at the end of the yard of casks. She had her back towards me, and held her pretty brown hair spread out in her two hands, and never looked round, and passed out of my view directly . . . . I saw her pass among the extinguished fires, and ascend some light iron stairs, and go out by a gallery high overhead, and is she were going out into the sky. [57]

Why don't you cry, you little wretch?

Because I'll never cry for you again," said I. Which was, I suppose, as false a declaration as ever was made, for I was inwardly crying for her then, and I know what pain she caused me afterwards. [74]

I am afraid I was ashamed of the dear good fellow — I know I was ashamed of him — when I saw that Estella stood at the back of Miss Havisham's chair, and that her eyes laughed mischievously. [91]

As a child, does Pip love Estella, or does he feel something different (lesser?) than love? Pip is reflecting back on his experiences of coming to love Estella — do you sense regret, remorse, acceptance of the past? On a very simple level, is it a case of “love at first sight"? From what does Estella's power derive?

For Pip, does Estella stand for anything in particular?

Do you see any similarities between Estella and The Great Gatsby's Daisy? How does Miss Havisham act as a sort of demonic cupid in Great Expectations?

Why Estella's sharp contempt for Pip — is it merely that he is a “labouring-boy" or is it something other than his class status? Does Pip cry inwardly from love or from pain?

References

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Ed. Edgar Rosenberg. New York: W.W. Norton, 1999.


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens Great Expectations Discussion questions

Last modified 16 February 2004