Miss Havisham and Her Puppets

In Great Expectations the narration is told by the present reflective Pip about the seemingly naïve past Pip. One of the several threads sewn into the narrative is the manipulation of young Pip and Estella by Miss Havisham. The reflective Pip seems very aware of her manipulations as in Chapter 29 he remarks: “She said the word often enough, and there could be no doubt that she meant to say it; but if the often repeated word had been hate instead of love—despair—revenge—dire death—it could not have sounded from her lips more like a curse.” (Dickens). This is present Pip noting her manipulation of his past self to fall in love with Estella. However, the naïve Pip, as noted towards the end of Chapter 29, he states:  “Far into the night, Miss Havisham’s words, “Love her, love her, love her!” sounded in my ears. I adapted them for my own repetition, and said to my pillow, “I love her, I love her, I love her!” hundreds of times.” (Dickens). This is the obvious result of Miss Havisham’s manipulation of Pip, to the young Pip the “I love her” might seem childish, hopeful, and perhaps even sweet, but the knowledge of the narrator Pip and the reader, puts a dark twist on those words. All that we can do is watch young Pip fall into Miss Havisham’s trap, helpless to do anything.

While present Pip as narrator can confirm that Miss Havisham is enacting revenge on men through her manipulation of young people, and likewise that Pip is eventually aware of this, is Estella is her youth at all aware that she is merely an instrument of revenge? Miss Havisham is recorded to have said in Chapter 29: ““Hear me, Pip! I adopted her, to be loved. I bred her and educated her, to be loved. I developed her into what she is, that she might be loved. Love her!” which explains a vital insight into how Estella was raised. Miss Havisham cultivated her “to be loved,” which an obvious example of that is to have men fall for Estella and subsequently have their hearts broken. But, there is another side to this coin, where Estella could be argued to also “want to be loved,” or in other words, be attention-seeking. Reflecting back to Chapter 12, Pip points out: ” Miss Havisham would embrace her with lavish fondness, murmuring something in her ear that sounded like “Break their hearts my pride and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy!” (Dickens). This ties in two elements: the first being an early statement of Miss Havisham’s plot for revenge, and the second is the “lavish fondness” bestowed upon Estella. It would appear that Estella’s cruel behavior towards men and her actions that please Miss Havisham are being positively reinforced. However, is Estella aware of this before Pip? Again in Chapter 29, Estella comments: ‘ “You must know,” said Estella, condescending to me as a brilliant and beautiful woman might, “that I have no heart,—if that has anything to do with my memory.” ‘ (Dickens). She is certainly aware of the effects of Miss Havisham’s manipulation on her own person, but I have yet to see any true indication of her self awareness. This moment after Pip and Estella leave the garden: “As Estella looked back over her shoulder before going out at the door, Miss Havisham kissed that hand to her,” is clear Estella yearns for affection and is being reinforced for leading Pip on. Is this just a childish need to impress a parental figure or has Estella consented to working with Miss Havisham in her plot for revenge against men?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.