Miss Havisham and Havisham:
Two Entirely Different People
Carol Anne Duffy’s poem is intertextual. The character Havisham was built, off of Charles Dickens “Great Expectations” and more specifically off of Miss Havisham. Both Miss Havisham and Havisham are described as decaying skeletons and because of their similar names it would make sense to think of them as the same person, but are they really? At my first glance it seemed as if both Dickens’ and Duffy’s Havisham were the same character and I will admit there are some similarities like their obsession, but even these so called similarities have differences at their core. In reality they are very different characters that act differently and have different personalities. Even the way they are depicted, is very differently from one another, but when one looks at them together they do seem to help Dickens’ Miss Havisham be seen in a different life; a more human light. So even if the do seem similar, they are in fact very different. You can see these differences most strongly by looking at the Havisham’s personalities. Dickens’ Miss Havisham is strong, powerful and driven for revenge towards Compeyson, and every other man alive. She even plans to and manipulates Estella so she may complete her revenge and hurt many men the way she has been hurt. Duffy’s Havisham on the other hand seems to be more fragile and weak and tells everyone she hates “him” but seems to be tottering on the edge of her conviction and on the edge of her desire for him. Both Miss Havisham and Havisham seem to have a strong obsession, both are obsessed with their former fiancé and have lead there life surrounding themselves with that obsession. Dickens’ Miss Havisham obsession does tend to differ from Duffy’s Havisham. Dickens’ Havisham is obsessed with destroying and breaking any and all men she meets. Her obsession has even lead her to destroying Estella, the only one that she had at first sought to protect. My Dear! Believe this: when she first came to me, I meant to save her from misery like my own. At first I meant no more." "Well, well!" said I. "I hope so."
"But as she grew, and promised to be very beautiful, I gradually did worse, and with my praises, and with my jewels, and with my teachings, and with this figure of myself always before her a warning to back and point my lessons, I stole her heart away and put ice in its place (Dickens 365) At first, Miss Havisham wished to protect Estella from the harsh world, to protect her from any man who would hurt her as she herself was hurt, but obsession lead her down a darker path. We can see part of this darkness when she tries to make Pip like herself, to make him obsessed and live his life trapped by his love for Estella, just like she lived her life for preserving the time before she was left by Compeyson. We can see her fueling his love for Estella several times throughout the novel, one of the most noticeable would be when she tells him to love Estella even if she hurts him."Love her, love her, love her! How does she use you?' Before I could answer ... she repeated, 'Love her, love her, lover her! If she favours 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, love her, love her!” (Dickens 219). Pip, like Estella is becoming a marionette for Miss Havisham’s obsession, for if she could not have a life of happiness, a life being married to the one she thought loved her, no one could. Her revenge towards the man she once loved turns her bitter and twisted, putting anyone in her path in danger. At this time she is like a broken toy, malfunctioning and working herself into a frenzy, her revenge that started off towards one man has become a revenge and hatred towards love, and anyone who may achieve it. The Havisham from Duffy’s poem seems to have a more single minded obsession. She is obsessed with what has happened to her and the one who did this...
Cited: Dickens, Charles, and Margaret Cardwell. Great Expectations. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998. Print.
Duffy, Carol Ann. "Havisham." Introduction to English Studies. North Bay: Nipissing University Coursepack, 2012. Black Board. C. McFarlane. Web. 02 Mar. 2012.
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