The Manor House and its inhabitants drive Pip to pursue a more uncommon life. Pip perceives Estella and Miss Havisham as everything that he is not but aspires to beÑeducated, sophisticated, and upper class. Miss Havisham, with her uneaten wedding cake, stopped clocks, and corpse-like appearance, bewilders Pip but also fascinates him. Although Miss Havisham lives in a prison with “a great many iron bars to it” (90), Pip associates her with escape and freedom. In the passage below, Pip links her to sea-bound ships, since he believes that, like a ship, Miss Havisham will bear him on his journey to becoming a gentleman.

Whenever I watched the vessels standing out to sea with their white sails spread, I somehow thought of Miss Havisham and Estella; and whenever light struck aslant, afar off, upon a cloud of sail or green hill-side or water-line, it was just the same. — Miss Havisham and Estella and the strange house and the strange life appeared to have something to do with everything that was picturesque. [143; place within the complete text of the novel]

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Pip hopes that Miss Havisham and Estella will invite him to board their vessel and help him to depart from the land of the course and common. He prays that he too can live a romantic life by a “green hill-side” 143). But, PipÕs faith in Miss Havisham is misplaced. Miss Havisham wishes not to help Pip mature into a young gentleman, but rather to stunt his growth. As soon as Miss Havisham sees that Pip has the ability to transcend time, violating the rules of her changeless dwelling, she banishes him. Miss Havisham says “you are growing tall PipÉyou must be apprenticed at once” (131). Miss Havisham knows that Pip “hunger[s] for information” (142), refinement, and a more uncommon life, yet she condemns him to the life of a blacksmith. Miss Havisham plans not to bear Pip on a ship with white sails to a land of the sophisticated, but rather to imprison him and have him suffer with her.

Questions

1. In the selected passage, Pip uses ships and sails to describe Miss Havisham. Where else does he describe ships earlier in the novel? Does this have any connection with the above passage?

2. At this point in the novel, does Miss Havisham already know that Pip will not be content with becoming a blacksmith? Does she intentionally try to hurt him by “binding” him to Joe?

3. Anodos embarks on a similar quest for knowledge. What is it that inspires Anodos to embark on his quest? How do adults in Phantastes aid Anodos on his quest for wisdom and how does this compare to how the adults in Great Expectations help Pip?

4. Although he was an extremely talented writer, Dickens' fame and rise out of the lower class was still an unlikely outcome. Does Dickens' use of romantic ship imagery concerning Pip's aspirations reflect his own disbelief in his own fairy-tale success story?

Related Material


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens Great Expectations

Last modified 27 February 2010