Miss Havisham as a Mysterious and Complex Presence in Great Expectations

Pages: 4 (1533 words) Published: February 2, 2009
Charles Dickens is the best known of the English Victorian novelists. He wrote a great deal about women in Victorian society and the way that roles for women were changing. Prior to these times women were expected to marry and be reliant upon men. Men were deemed to be in charge and any money possessed by women immediately passed to her husband once married. Miss Havisham is the antithesis of the social norm as a self sufficient woman living off her own means. Dickens develops her character throughout the novel as a controlling yet bitter and decaying woman. The novel is written retrospectively using first person narration. This gives the reader the impression that they are part of an intimate and confessional storytelling. Pip first meets Miss Havisham when he is summoned to play with her adopted daughter Estella. Satis house is set in a very upper class area but is very run down, the windows and doors are barred and locked, to keep people in as well as out. Its gothic architecture adds to the dark and brooding image of the house and its occupant. The reader’s first introduction to Miss Havisham occurs when Pip enters her room which is gloomy and lit only by candlelight. She is dressed in rich materials, silks, satins and lace, all in white which has now yellowed and shabby with age very similar to her jaundiced attitude towards men. She continued to wear her veil, a pagan representation of virginity and dried and decayed flowers in her hair. In contrast she wears shining jewels around her hands and neck. He observes that the dress that she is wearing had been put on the figure of a young woman and the carcass on which it now hangs had shrunk to skin and bone. The gloomy and decaying theme continues throughout Pip’s encounters with Miss Havisham. Dickens uses words like “faded”, “no brightness”, “like black fungus” and “the daylight was completely excluded” to relate the atmosphere of both the house and it’s inhabitant. As he walks towards her he notices that...

Bibliography: Dickens, C. (1860) Great Expectations.
Hawes, D (2007) Charles Dickens. London: Continuum
Davis, P. (1999) Charles Dickens A-Z. Checkmark Books
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