In Dicken's novel Great Expectations, Pip has been fascinated with the little girl Estella ever since he visited Miss Havisham's house as a child. As a young adult, Pip returns to Miss Havisham's with the knowledge that Estella will be there. His attraction to her has remained since his childhood, and he finds her to be an even more beautiful young woman than he imagined. Though Estella makes it clear to Pip that his interest is futile, Miss Havisham forcefully encourages it.

Then Estella being gone and we two left alone, she turned to me, and said, in a whisper, “Is she beautiful, graceful, well-grown? Do you admire her?" "Every body must who sees her, Miss Havisham." She drew an arm round my neck, and drew my head close down to hers as she sat in the chair. “Love her, love her, love her! How does she use you?" Before I could answer (if I could have answered such a difficult question at all) she repeated, “Love her, lover her, love her! If she favors you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces — and as it gets older and stronger it will tear deeper — love her, lover her, lover her!"

Miss Havisham's passion grows as she continues her efforts to persuade Pip. Her excitement seems to turn to craze as she continues.

“Hear me, Pip! I adopted her, to be loved. I bred her and educated her, to be loved. I developed her into what she is, that she might be loved. Love her!" She said the word often enough, and there could be no doubt that she meant to say it; but if the often repeated word had been hate instead of love — despair — revenge — dire death — it could not have sounded from her lips more like a curse. [Place within the complete text of the novel]

Questions

It seems that Miss Havisham's own history with relationships has caused her to grow intensely bitter toward men. Even when Estella was a child, Miss Havisham would quietly encourage her to break Pip's heart. Yet Miss Havisham still desires Pip to love Estella. The reader wonders whether Miss Havisham desires for Estella to feel love, or if she desires for Pip to feel the pain that his love will cause.

1. In what ways are Miss Havisham's wishes fulfilled by the end of the story? Can it be said that Estella felt Pip's love and Pip felt heartbreak?

2. Miss Havisham asks Pip, “How does she use you?" How might Pip have answered this question? In what ways does Estella use him?

3. Miss Havisham seems to like Pip and enjoy his company. Why does she want Estella to cause him emotional pain? Does personal revenge cause her to wish him harm? Or does she so desperately want Estella to be loved that she does not care what it may cost anyone else?

4. In what ways does the love story in Great Expectations compare to the love story in Jane Eyre. Which story has the happier ending?

5. Does Estella wish to fulfill Miss Havisham's wishes? Is her attitude toward Pip shaped by Miss Havisham's own attitude? How does the relationship between Joe and Pip's sister compare to the relationship between Pip and Estella?


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens Great Expectations

Last modified 18 March 2009