WHO IS MISS HAVISHAM?
(Analysing the life of Miss Havisham and
Dickens’s use of grammar)
Miss Havisham and Satis House, both in ruins, represent wealth and social status for Pip the servant boy; the irony is obvious. Their decayed state prefigures the emptiness of Pip's dream of rising in social status and of so being worthy of Estella the adopted daughter of Miss Havisham. With them, Dickens extends his spoof of society from the abuse of children and criminals to the corruption of wealth.
Miss Havisham's self-interested, envious relatives and their competition for her wealth illustrate the evil effects of the love of money. Dickens sees the valuing of money and status over all else as a primary drive in society, which is dominated by the commercial middle class. Miss Havisham and her decayed house have another relationship; it parallels the diseased state of her mind. By stopping time, symbolized by the clocks all reading twenty to nine, Miss Havisham has stopped her life, which thereby becomes death-in-life. By willfully stopping her life at a moment of pain and humiliation, she indulges her own anger, self-pity, and desire for revenge; she imagines her death as "the finished curse" upon the man who jilted her (page 87). In her revenge, which destroys her life, she is like a child who hurts itself in its anger at someone else.
The decay around her also represents her relationship with others. Her relationships are symbiotic. Her relatives try to feed off her wealth, and she feeds off their envy and subservience. The feeding relationship is symbolized by the mice, which eat the bridal cake and which she claims have gnawed at her heart. She even imagines herself laid out on the table for their consumption after her death. Miss Havisham feeds off both Estella and Pip to achieve her own ends. The feeding or attempting to feed off of others for self-gratification is one expression of the depersonalization that runs through the novel; repeatedly...