Great Expectations Reflections Part 2

Well, I’ve made my way into the second portion of Great Expectations, after Pip has left to make his life in London. The first portion of this was almost like reading a completely different book; the location changed, the set of characters changed, and, as a result of the change in circumstances, even Pip changed. But he didn’t change completely.

I’ve just read the portion where he returns to visit Estella at Miss Havishams, and I got so irritated that I when I shut the book, I muttered, “idiot.” But that was unfair of me. Dickens did make such a point to include this quote:

“The unqualified truth is, that when I loved Estella with the love of a man, I loved her simply because I found her irresistible. Once for all; I knew to my sorrow, often and often, if not always, that I loved her against reason, against promise, against peace, against hope, against happiness, against all discouragement that could be. Once for all; I loved her none the less because I knew it…”

So I won’t call Pip and idiot. I’ll call him a lovesick fool instead.

Because really, it was obvious to me from the beginning what Miss Havisham was up to. Even before I had heard her story, I guessed the gist of it. The old wedding preparations left in place for years on end combined with the stopped clocks told me that she’d been left at the altar, or probably before. True, I guessed that the groom had run away without leaving word. I imagined Miss Havisham’s world as some kind of sick game of waiting for the groom to show; a game that held a real possibility at first but soon devolved into bitter spitefulness, as if to show how long he had kept her waiting.

But the truth is worse. The groom did send word. He made it clear that he had no intention to marry her. Under those circumstances, what possible kind of woman would have thought of leaving the wedding preparations in place? The wedding was definitively off, not going to happen. The reaction of a normal person in that situation, I assume, would be to have the servants get rid of the wedding things as soon as possible to be spared from the reminder that would come from looking at them. But Miss Havisham chose to show everyone that her world ended on that day. Time stopped and there was nothing afterwards. She didn’t let the clocks run down, as she did everything else in the house, she purposely set them back to the moment she received the letter calling off the wedding.

And she held that grudge for year and years, as she slowly became old and wrinkled, continually tormenting herself instead of trying to MOVE ON with her life. Of course she nurses a thirst for revenge, the odd thing is that it manifests itself as a desire to go back in time and hurt him before he could ever get the chance to leave her. Estella is meant to be Miss Havisham as she believes she should have been: completely impervious to love. And just as she sees Estella as the reincarnation of herself, so she sees Pip as a means to exact her revenge upon the man who broke her heart.

“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! … 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!”

She’s raised Estella to be exactly the way she is, and she takes enormous pleasure in seeing her tear Pip’s heart to pieces. And Pip thinks that Miss Havisham intends for him to marry her! Herbert Pocket is the one who’s absolutely right in his description of Estella: “hard and haughty and capricious to the last degree, and has been brought up by Miss Havisham to wreak vengeance on all the male sex.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.

So, yeah, I’m not a big fan of Estella, and I repeat my assertion that Pip should stop fawning over her and find some other beautiful girl who will at least have the decency not to play games with him. And he should be nicer to Joe while he’s at it!

Part 3

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