Great Expectations Reflections Part 3:
Miss Havisham and Pip’s Convict
Last night I finished reading the second part of Great Expectations, in which Pip’s mysterious benefactor finally reveals himself. It’s not Miss Havisham, it’s the convict from the beginning of the story.
Even though I knew that it was him because one of my teachers mentioned it in class a while ago, I was surprised at the reason for his generosity. I’d speculated that the convict came from a wealthy family, but he was the only heir with no children of his own. Stuck in jail for life, he decided to leave his fortune to the one person who’d ever done anything nice for him.
That would have been nice, huh? Instead, he’s disturblingly similar to Miss Havisham. Just as she wishes she was impervious to love, he wishes he could have been a gentleman. If he’d been better educated he could have gotten off with a lighter sentence like his partner did. Actually, if he’d had money, he would never have had to steal to eat and wouldn’t have wound up as a criminal. He’s giving Pip the chance he couldn’t have and desiring to live his life vicariously through Pip.
Now, I don’t think this is quite as disturbing as Miss Havisham’s story, but it seems as though it would feel more crushing to Pip, who’s gone for most of his life not knowing that someone was trying to shape and control him. Estella is the more deeply affected because she DID know and has been actively shaped for her whole life, but she would seem to be the less crushed because she never knew anything else. She never felt the illusion of that freedom that Pip did.
At least, this is how I see the situation. This does provide something for Pip and Estella to have in common, which somehow makes the hypothetical possibility of romance between them a bit more palatable to me. Or maybe I just feel sorry for Estella after her big fight with Miss Havisham reveals that she resents the way she was raised and wouldn’t have chosen it for herself. But I still don’t want them together!
On a tangential point, I don’t see why Pip should have been so thoroughly disgusted with the convict on first recognizing him, before he even heard why he was there or what his story was. What’s up with that? Can’t a guy get a bit of the benefit of the doubt? Or, afterwards, a bit of sympathy for having had a rough life? Just saying…