Great Expectations Essay

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Miss Havisham is the most important character in Great Expectations. How far do you agree?

Miss Havisham appears regularly throughout the novel and is a key character. However, Pip is the protagonist, he is the one the book is about so he must be the most important character? This is what it would seem if you don’t look deeply enough: But I think the further you search, the more you will see how important Miss Havisham’s character really is and you will eventually conclude that she is most important. She is involved in many themes of the novel such as Pip’s Great expectations, the class system and how your class doesn’t determine character. This was a very real and important issue during the time the novel was written as class was still very important and how her character was so integrated with this theme makes her of some value.

The title, ‘Great Expectations’ can easily be seen as the main theme of the book. More to the point, the person which sparked Pip’s ‘great expectations’ was of course Miss Havisham, which must show a great deal of importance. She was the person who opened Pip’s eyes to a ‘better’ life, changing his sights completely. He could no longer accept being a simple blacksmith apprentice with his simple brother in law Joe Gargery who at that time was the only person who had shown Pip any affection whatsoever.

“I had believed in the forge as the glowing road to manhood and independence. Within a single year all this was changed. Now, it was all coarse and common, and I would not have had Miss Havisham and Estella see it on any account.”

Language such as glowing gives the reader the image of a nice, warm and comfortable fire place where you can fit in and be very content. Whereas coarse makes the reader think of very rigid, sharp and rough things as well as discomfort and agitation showing how unhappy he was and how he really hadn’t fitted in smoothly because of his new found views. This changed and impacted his future considerably. All of a sudden he wanted to be one of them, and was ashamed of his roots and his family. He didn’t want to grow into manhood anymore, because now he wanted more, by becoming a gentleman. His expectations had now clearly changed and this could only be put down to meeting Miss Havisham. This change leads him on his fantastic and eventful journey. However, the book begins with his encounter with Magwitch and there is an argument that this was for good reason. He is the true benefactor, so he is the one who starts Pip’s journey.

Pip’s first visit and impressions of Miss Havisham are described at length painting a very detailed picture for the reader. Dickens achieves this by using different techniques in this passage to describe both the house and Miss Havisham. Strong imagery through powerful adjectives, similes and other methods all make it seemingly an important occasion. For example:

“I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes.”

Dickens chooses his words very carefully to maximise the effect on the reader. He tries to show her fragility and sadness through adjectives such as withered and sunken this provokes some sympathy for Miss Havisham especially for me as a modern reader because we just see an old heartbroken lady. But the Victorian reader would be likely to be more shocked as this is not what they would expect of a lady of higher class. It shows how he wanted to portray Miss Havisham as an interesting character and one which will intrigue readers. This is very important as one of her main purposes was to sell more copies of his struggling magazine, in which the story was first published. This format meant how the public responded to one issue must have altered what, or more importantly who, was featured in later issues. Miss Havisham is one of the characters mentioned throughout the novel and many...
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