curious dynamic of female aggressiveness occurs in Great Expectations (1860-1861), when Estella, the most characteristic Judith[-figure], is prompted . . . by pride. Mrs. Gargery is the first domineering female we meet, but she is soon overshadowed by Miss Havisham, who, in turn, is softened proportionately to Estella's waxing heartlessness. All the while, behind these civilly aggressive women, is the wild spectre of Molly, to whose powerful hands Jaggers so ominously calls his guests' attention. This accumulation of female power is counterbalanced by two saintly characters, Clara Barley and Biddy. In the original version of the story, all of the destructive women suffer miserable fates, while the Griselda-like domestic saints find harmony that their enduring characters merit. But in Dickens's revised version, even Judith, in the guise of Estella, is spared, and the unattainable star is attained. Salome improbably renovates her chastened saint, and the moral design loses its intended force to satisfy an equally insistent convention of sentimental reward. [p. 50]
Reed, John R. . Victorian Conventions. Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 1975.
Last modified 1996