Charles dickens, one of the famous authors in his times, wrote the novel, ‘Great expectations’ which mirrored the Victorian era. At the time this novel was written, the conditions for the poor in the Victorian era were bad. Gap between rich and poor was large not only in wealth, but also in rights. In Victorian times working conditions for the poor people was bad, but the rich, who lived and enjoyed their life in luxury, had nothing to do with these problems. Furthermore women were seen as almost inferior to men.
They had less powers and rights and were expected to ‘serve and obey’ in front of their husbands. They were separated from the professional and public life. Dickens didn’t agree with the social divide among rich and poor, but he believed that women were incapable in owning and managing property and this is seen in his descriptions of satis house. He also explains that Miss Havisham takes the right decision by giving some of her wealth to a male member of her family. Although dickens was sympathetic to many people in society, his attitude towards women resembles to society beliefs at his times.
Dickens experienced the poor side of life when he was young, so he used his talent in writing novels to express his arguments and views on the unfair and unjust society in which he lived. Dickens was experienced in being alone, as his whole family was sent to jail, except him, so he was left alone in the working life of Victorian era. This harsh upbringing obviously affected him a great deal, so writing a novel about it was his way of expressing what he went through.
Dickens in his novel, ‘Great expectations’ explains that the environment can affect one state of mind, as in novel, Miss Havisham creates her own environment but the environment she creates soon turns into her prison and has a negative effect on her. He therefore criticizes the upper class that was isolated from Poor’s problems telling us that their environment made them proud and selfish. This novel explores Dickens use of characters to express his feelings towards isolation. Chapter eight is an essential part of the book because it conveys a clear image of the characters personality and is a key part for the rest of the story.
In chapter eight Dickens shows Miss Havisham isolation by describing the surroundings in which she lives. He describes her surroundings as recluse and isolated from society and because of her isolation she creates a prison like environment. We can justify this through Pip’s description, when he first enters satis house; he describes her house as ‘old and dismal, and having halter chains around it’ which tells us that her house resembles to a prison. He describes her house as a ‘ruined house’ where everything was yellowed with age and ruined.
Also there is a description of passages ‘which were all dark, and the only thing that lighted them was a candle, which tells us that there was no sign of light in the passages’ which also symbolizes to a prison. So we can see that dickens uses a lot of imagery while writing his novel. When Pip enters Miss Havisham’s room, narrator describes her appearance that ‘she is wearing bridal dress and she is dressed in rich materials all of white and he also notice that all her clock in her room had stopped to twenty minutes to nine’.
The reason Miss Havisham is still wearing her wedding dress is because 25 years ago when she was preparing for her wedding she received a note telling her that her fianci?? had left her. After hearing this she stopped where she was with getting dressed with only one shoe on and accessories still on her dressing table and she stopped all her clocks at 20 minutes to 9 as this was the time when she found out she was ‘dumped’. This shows us how obsessive she was after she was ‘dumped’.
When Pip enters in the room and goes closer to her, he notices that the ‘bride in the bridal dress had withered like the dress and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes’. So there is a contrast between Miss Havisham’s previous appearance and her present appearance i. e. her isolation. Thus through this descriptions reader gets an idea of Miss Havisham’s obsession telling us that she is very clearly obsessed with this as when she first talks to Pip she puts her hand on her chest and asks ‘what lies beneath’ Pip says her heart but she quickly snaps at him shouting ‘Broken!
‘ This shows she is obsessed about letting everyone know about her misery almost as if she gets pleasure from people knowing about her ‘pain’. Charles Dickens does this to show just how adversely affected she was by her fianci?? leaving her. The buffet was left ‘decomposing and yellow’ much like miss Havisham has let herself rot and turn yellow. These descriptions symbolize her decay of mind and body. That is how and why Miss Havisham is isolated. Miss Havisham’s behaviour is different because she doesn’t like society.
She is not attached with anyone except Estella. She removes herself from real world and keeps herself away from natural light, which symbolises how she isn’t exposed to real world. This we can see when she tells pip that ‘Are you not afraid of a women who has not seen the sun since he was born’. So this gives us an idea of Miss Havisham’s character by describing the darkness in which she is living. Dickens helps reader to understand the ‘isolation’ in a visual way. His language is descriptive and he uses imagery as well.
He explains that every living being in this world needs light to grow but in Miss Havisham’s case, her growth has been deformed, like the ‘decaying feast’ which reflects her decay morally and physically. Her plan of revenge against men has made her blind to real world. She also ruins pip’s life causing him great suffering. When Miss Havisham orders pip to play cards with Estella, she discriminates against pip by allowing Estella to say that he is a ‘common labouring boy’. Furthermore, she persuades pip ‘not to say anything to her still if she continues to say any hard things to him’.
Not only this, Miss Havisham urges Pip to admire Estella’s beauty. She takes joy from seeing Pip’s answering ‘yes’ and being harassed by Estella again and again. She also takes joy in Estella’s rudeness and mood towards Pip and after that ‘she embraces Estella with lavish fondnesses when she hurts pip by making him feel sorry. When Estella goes abroad, she uses the occasion to break Pip’s heart by saying that ‘she is far out of her reach from him’ and that he has lost her.
This statement shows us that Miss Havisham was trying to ruin pip’s life by making him feel inferior and lonely. She not only ruins Pip’s life but also Estella’s life by making her incapable for love, – ‘Estella urges Pip not to waste his time as she has no heart, no emotions, no softness and no sympathy left for anyone’. Also when a quarrel between Miss Havisham and Estella takes place, she accuses Estella for being cold hearted to her and in turn Estella replies that, ‘she is what Miss Havisham has made her’.
After this incidence, Miss Havisham realises and admits that her real plan was to save Estella from misery like her, but she says ‘I turned her heart into ice’ which tells us that she turns her into a cold heated woman. In the last scene of the novel we can see that Miss Havisham ends up miserable and begs for forgiveness, rather than gaining satisfaction, she causes herself more pain as she realises that whatever she done was wrong and in the process of ruining others life, she has ruined herself.
In this novel dickens does not criticises individual characters, but he blames the whole society and environment in which we live. He provides excuses for Miss Havisham and goes to great lengths to get the reader to understand her and sympathise with her. He shows how she is a product of a diseased society and represents the upper class that was isolated from reality and poverty because her main expectation of getting married was not fulfilled and the other reason was her background which makes her spoilt and proud.
So she decides to isolate herself from the society. As a result of isolation, she doesn’t see clearly and embarks on a plan for revenge against men. She is removes from reality that she doesn’t really consider the consequences of her actions. This becomes clear when Estella reminds her that she is incapable to show Miss Havisham her love and Miss Havisham gets hurt because she doesn’t really understand why? Dickens describes miss Havisham’s feelings briefly to make the reader realise that how passionate she is towards Estella.
In this scene dickens creates sympathy for her and before she dies, dickens explain her as, ‘she had some human in her heart and then she dropped on her knees with her folded hands raised to… ‘ as she comes to realise which about what she had done. She not only realises that she had ruined her whole life but also pip’s and Estella’s and she repents this. When Dickens describes that Miss Havisham repents, he wish to show us that it was possible for a rich to change. His desire to create a better environment and more just society is evident in his treatment of the theme of isolation.
Through Estella, he tries to show how one is greatly affected by their environment. He shows how people are products of their environment and not born evil and incapable of change. Dickens also uses Miss Havisham to criticise women who did not live up to his idea of a perfect role model. But here he criticises individual. Although he was sympathetic to many people in society and wished to see more equality, his treatment towards women was less sympathetic due to society’s belief at that time where unmarried women were not regarded well as they did not fulfil their role as a wife and mother.