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Critical Analysis of the Character of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations

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Great Expectations analysis

Uncle Pumblechook is Pip’s sloppy and messy uncle. He will shamelessly take credit for Pip’s rise in social status throughout the rest of the novel, even though he has nothing to do with it.

“Uncle Pumblechook: a large hard-breathing middle-aged slow man, with a mouth like a fish, dull staring eyes, and sandy hair standing upright on his head, so that he looked as if he had just been all but choked, and had that moment come to.” (Dickens, 24).

Uncle Pumblechook is very pompous and arrogant. Although he was very much a road hog, Pumblechook thought highly of his driving skills and did not give much attention to others ‘ feelings.

‘Mr. Pumblechook was very positive and drove his own chaise cart – over everybody.’ (Dickens, 43)

It happens that Mr. Jagger’s characteristic is that he can see the right side of those who would otherwise be unlikely to be respected, for example, as he speaks to Pip at his house after the Drummle party.

‘But I like the fellow, Pip; he is one of the true sort. Why if I were a fortune Teller’ (Dickens, 230)

Mr. Jaggers likes strength. He sees the potential in power, such as his hands. It shows the evolution in his appreciation for his achievements and his amazement at some people’s power.

‘There’s power here,’ said Mr. Jaggers, coolly tracing out the sinews with his forefinger. ‘Very few men have the power of wrist that this woman has. It’s remarkable what mere force of grip there is in these hands. I have had occasion to notice many hands; but I never saw stronger in that respect, man’s or woman’s, than these.” (Dickens, 225)

We see that Wemmick has certain features in Great Expectations. Some of these are helpful, realistic, cautious and caring. These character traits are revealed in certain phrases throughout the novel.

‘… said Wemmick, contemplating the old man, with his hard face softened; ‘there’s a nod for you;’ giving him a tremendous one; ‘there’s another for you; ‘giving him a still more tremendous one; ‘you like that, don’t you?…’ (Dickens, 220). This reveals that Wemmick is very caring towards the Aged Parent.

Throughout Great Expectations Dickens used the first person point of view. It lets us see it from Pip’s viewpoint, and respond to the incidents he mentions more readily. In these cases, there is often much tension and this specific storytelling strategy is successful throughout conveying such emotion.

For example, when Pip describes leaving for London, he admits that his desire to depart without Joe “originated in my sense of the contrast there would be between me and Joe.” (Dickens, 144) Pip says that “If I had cried before, I should have had Joe with me then.”

Charles Dickens portrays Miss Havisham as an immensely wealthy yet gloomy lady who lives in a large and desolate robber-barricaded house and leads a life of solitude. She is described as having very white hair and being an old woman.

“She was dressed in rich materials – satins, and lace, and silks – all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white. Some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and on her hands, and some other jewels lay sparkling on the table. Dresses, less splendid than the dress she wore, and half-packed trunks, were scattered about. She had not quite finished dressing for she had but one shoe on – the other was on the table near her hand. . .” (Dickens, 55).

Estella is not at all pleased. Pip uses every opportunity he has to try and impress her, but nothing works. She brushes aside what he says, and makes them look like nothing. This shows how uncaring Miss Havisham trained her to be. It also reveals that she feels she’s cleverer than Pip as she calls nonsense of his terms.

‘I live quite pleasantly there: at least-‘ It appeared to me that I was losing a chance. ‘At least?’ repeated Estella. ‘As pleasantly as I could anywhere, away from you.’ ‘You silly boy,’ said Estella, quite composedly, ‘how can you talk such nonsense?” (page 282/283)

This passage was of extreme importance for the development of Miss Havisham in the novel. This was chosen from the end of the novel where Miss Havisham started to regret how she had transformed Estella into a cold-heated person, who could have been affectionate and thoughtful. Not only did she lament exploiting Estella’s feelings, but she felt remorseful to trick Pip into believing that he would wed Estella soon and get all the money from Miss Havisham as she walked away.

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‘ ‘What have I done! What have I done!’ She wrung her hands, and crushed her white hair, and returned to this cry over and over again. ‘What have I done!” (Dickens 423).

Miss Havisham is deprived and heartbroken too, but she uses the word ‘ broken! ‘ And so gloriously. It shows that despite her sorrow, Miss Havisham is somewhat aware of the situation in which she is, and what she has been through.

“‘Broken!’ She uttered the word with an eager look, and with strong emphasis, and with a weird smile that had kind of a boast in it.” (Dickens, 60)

‘Joe’ is quite a simple name. So, in relation to that, Joe is an easy, pleasant, and moral character in Great Expectations. In the book, Joe doesn’t change at all. He ends the book demonstrating his good nature and kindness when he was pleased that the prisoner had not died after being allegedly stolen by the convict.

“Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded together, as I may say, and one man’s a blacksmith, and one’s a whitesmith, and one’s a goldsmith, and one’s a coppersmith. Decisions among such must come, and be met as they come” (Dickens 237-238). Joe comes to the realization that he and Pip can no longer be friends or even seen together due to Pip’s new reputation.

Estella, on the other hand, is a very dynamic character; she goes from being a girl with an ice heart to being a sensitive woman, though the change in her takes place late in the book. Estella is very meagre and insulting to Pip at the beginning of the book. This is not her own intent, and that is why she will turn into a better person.

‘My earnestness awoke a wonder in her that seemed as if it would have been touched with compassion, if she could have rendered me at all intelligible to her own mind'(Dickens, 385). This quote from the novel shows that she is beginning to change. She is just beginning to break away from what Miss Havisham is forcing her to be.

Man vs. Man: This conflict happens in light of the fact that Pip was visiting his folks in the cemetery park and happened to do as such at an inappropriate time. Another circumstance is when Pip battles Matthew Pocket in the nursery, finishing the fight with a triumph for himself. Pip battles his inward clash of his appearance when Estella reveals to him everything that she sees isn’t right with him. He battles this since he begins to let himself know and accept that these things are valid. He pummels himself over this intellectually until he settles his issue and finds a sense of contentment. Additionally, when Pip has become 23 he battles himself on whether he needs to wed Estella, despite the fact that he needs to, he thinks about whether he truly needs to any longer. He thinks for quite a while over this subject and so far, has not thought of an end yet. Pip and Orlick become engaged in a man versus man strife. Envy has developed in Orlick for everything that Pip has ever had and wanted since Pip was a young man working with Joe in the manufacture. Orlick catches Pip and is going to endeavor to kill him when all the unexpected Trabb’s kid ran in with Herbert and Startup. Before Orlick attempted to execute his unfortunate casualty he additionally admitted to endeavoring to kill his sister, Mrs. Joe Gargery, however she unfortunately lived after a fierce hit to the rear of her head.

An example of Pip first realizing what is reasonably right and wrong is ‘ There was something so natural and winning in Clara’s resigned way of looking at these stores in detail, as Herbert pointed them out,- and something so confiding, loving, and innocent, in her modest manner of yielding herself to Herbert’s embracing arms- and something so gentle in her, so much needing protection on Mill Pond Bank, by Chinks’s Basin, and the Old Green Copper Rope-Walk, with Old Barley growing in the beam- that I would not have undone the engagement between her and Herbert, for all the money in the pocket-book I had never opened.’ (Dickens, 399).

The novel’s opening chapter is one of the most famous in all of literature: a raw December evening (Christmas Eve, to be exact) in a church graveyard. The church is surrounded by shadowy marshlands, and it is about a mile from the blacksmith’s shop where Pip lives with his sister and her husband. Pip’s village, located in the county of Kent, is near the town of Rochester, England, close to the mouth of the Thames river. Satis House is another huge spot inside the nation setting of the novel. This is the old, disintegrating bequest where Miss Havisham is experienced her days as an all-out whimsical.

‘Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening.’ (Dickens,1)

I would change the setting of the Satis house to something entirely different, instead of a gloomy mansion with dark rooms and rotting food, it would be a small intimate family home. The impact of this would change the mood of Pip entirely since the home represents his hopes, such as his longing for Estella. The Satis house negatively affects Pip’s whole life, in that it exposed him to love, however it was an unobtainable one which haunts Pip. By changing the homes dynamic, it would lighten Pip’s mood and things wouldn’t be so grim.

‘It was paved and clean, but grass was growing in every crevice. The brewery buildings had a little lane of communication with it, and the wooden gates of that lane stood open, and all the brewery beyond, stood open, away to the high enclosing wall; and all was empty and disused.’ (Dickens 53)

My favorite part was the story ending when Pip finally finds happiness. My favorite character is Pip, because he is trustworthy, capable and loyal. I admired him as well, because he always has the strength to face all the challenges that he has. I was very pleased as I finished reading the book because in the end Pip’s life changes for the better.

“I took her hand in mine, and we went out of the ruined place; and, as the morning mists had risen long ago when I first left the forge, so, the evening mists were rising now, and in all the broad expanse of tranquil light they showed to me, I saw no shadow of another parting from her” (Dickens516).

Miss Havisham reveals her carelessness for other people’s feelings and sentiments. Evidently, she uses Estella to break Pip’s heart, and makes this clear to Pip. She doesn’t know what she’s doing is wrong, and cruel. I don’t like this part because Pip has been through so much in his life and now when he’s trying to be happy Miss Havisham is playing with his heart.

”Love her, love her, love her! How does she use you?’ Before I could answer (if I could have answered so difficult a question at all), she repeated, ‘Love her, love her, lover her! If she favors 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, 254).

I can recommend this book to those who like to read classic literature in old-style English after reading Great Expectations, after my encounter. To younger people the book might be a little frustrating, but I wouldn’t say that only adults will like the novel. The story gives such great detail, and you almost feel as if you are in the 1860’s when the book was written. As the novel progresses, more of the plot starts to change, so it can get complicated too. But don’t worry, it will all make sense in the end! Charles Dickens crafted such a beautiful tale; it was hard to put down the novel. I will recommend this book to someone who is willing to read a story of love that brings out all the feelings, and a story that will hold you happy until the end.

Works Cited

  1. Dickens, Charles (1812-1870), and Latif Doss. Great Expectations. Pearson Education Limited, 2008.
  2. Coastalsherlockians, Author. “The Satis House: A Symbol of Confinement.” Prince Building Irregulars, 1 Mar. 2015,
  3. “Characters in Great Expectations with Analysis.” Literary Devices, 26 Nov. 2019,

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Critical Analysis of the Character of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations. (2022, September 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved September 25, 2023, from
“Critical Analysis of the Character of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations.” Edubirdie, 27 Sept. 2022,
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