Great Expectations

Great Expectations

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Miss Havisham Character Analysis

The wealthy daughter of a brewer, Miss Havisham was abandoned on her wedding day by her fiancée (Compeyson) and, traumatized. She preserves herself and her house in wedding regalia, shutting out the world for over twenty years. To exact her revenge on men, Miss Havisham adopts and raises Estella to be beautiful and desirable but completely heartless. Miss Havisham is capricious, manipulative, bitter, and, until novel's end, unable to recognize anyone's pain but her own.

Miss Havisham Quotes in Great Expectations

The Great Expectations quotes below are all either spoken by Miss Havisham or refer to Miss Havisham. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Social Class Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Dover Publications edition of Great Expectations published in 2001.
Book 1, Chapter 9 Quotes

…my young mind was in that disturbed and unthankful state that I thought long after I laid me down, how common Estella would consider Joe, a mere blacksmith: how thick his boots, and how coarse his hands. I thought how Joe and my sister were then sitting in the kitchen, and how Miss Havisham and Estella never sat in a kitchen, but were far above the level of such common things.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Estella Havisham, Joe Gargery, Miss Havisham, Mrs. Joe Gargery
Page Number: 55
Explanation and Analysis:

After his conversation with Joe, Pip becomes perturbed at how Miss Havisham and Estella would think of his pseudo-father. Instead of heeding Joe’s advice, he is consumed by anxiety about social class and how others may interpret Joe’s behaviors.

This passage shows how Pip is becoming increasingly aware of and unhappy about his social status. He focuses on specific signifiers of that status—“how thick his boots, and how coarse his hands”—that would allow Estella to observe that Joe performs physical labor for a living. Similarly, he notes that certain spaces, such as a kitchen, as only inhabited by members of lower classes. We can see how Pip is training his own eye to interpret indicators of social class and how important Estella has become to his consciousness. After just one interaction with her, Pip is already filtering his perceptions of even his closest family members through her judgmental eyes.

The retrospective narrator notably implies that these thoughts are unreasonable and negative, considering it “that disturbed and unthankful state.” Dickens indicates that by the time the older Pip is recounting this story, he has realized that Joe was a meaningful and important character—and that he should not have regarded him with this type of disdain. Thus we can guess that Pip will eventually come to hate how judgmental he has become and that the older Pip believes the younger one should regard Joe in particular with more compassion.

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Book 1, Chapter 15 Quotes

Miss Havisham and Estella and the strange house and the strange life appeared to have something to do with everything that was picturesque.

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Estella Havisham, Miss Havisham
Related Symbols: Satis House
Page Number: 85
Explanation and Analysis:

Pip plans to visit Miss Havisham’s house (Statis House) after an extended absence. He reflects here on the way he continues to idealize the dwelling and those within it.

This description is deeply ironic in its use of the term “picturesque.” The term means, in a general sense, pretty or attractive, but it has a specific connotation of quaintness and delicacy. Recall that Satis House is decrepit, Miss Havisham is a deranged parody of upper class sensibilities, and Estella is a mean-spirited critic of Pip’s every action. None of this is particularly picturesque. Yet Pip reduces these qualities to the even-keeled word “strange,” thus focusing on their unusual and alluring nature, as opposed to what is actually quite negative about the strangeness.

The next phrase is similarly ambiguous. Instead of directly saying that he enjoys or idealizes their house and life, Pip obscures his point with a series of odd qualifiers. The helping verb “appeared” indicates that they are not actually picturesque, and the phrase “something to do with everything” marks the fragility of this relationship. Thus Dickens shows how deeply Pip’s assessments of upper class life have been warped by his emotional connection to Miss Havisham and particularly Estella. He is unable to actually observe what is picturesque or not—and he can only form bizarre connections based on his intuitive attraction to their lifestyle.

Book 2, Chapter 38 Quotes

"I am what you have made me. Take all the praise, take all the blame; take all the success, take all the failure; in short, take me."

Related Characters: Estella Havisham (speaker), Miss Havisham
Page Number: 238
Explanation and Analysis:

When Estella pulls away from Miss Havisham, the older woman grows possessive. The two quarrel in front of Pip for the first time, and Estella makes this comment on how all her actions are the result of her upbringing.

With characteristic coldness, Estella describes her behaviors in a deterministic way. She reasons that she cannot be judged accountable for them because, as Miss Havisham’s pet, all her behaviors are the direct result of Miss Havisham herself. The repeated use of the word “all” to apply to “praise” and “blame,” “success” and “failure” highlights that Estella is entirely the result of Miss Havisham’s work. Her language denies any separate sense of self—as if this heritage absolves her of any moral guilt or even free will.

As we have seen before, however, the content of Estella’s language contradicts the way in which she speaks. She may be claiming that Miss Havisham dictates her life, but she is also rebelling with that exact statement. Her declarations are phrased as commands, and her language is curt, in particular the phrase “in short.” Dickens implies that Estella is rejecting Miss Havisham in the only way that she can: by employing Miss Havisham’s exact tactics against her. The very coldness that has been cultivated so carefully in Estella is now turned on its creator—but the extent to which she is intentionally doing so remains up for debate.

Book 3, Chapter 44 Quotes

"Miss Havisham gives you to him as the greatest slight and injury that could be done to the many far better men who admire you, and to the few who truly love you. Among those few, there may be one who loves you even as dearly, though he has not loved you as long as I. Take him, and I can bear it better for your sake."

Related Characters: Pip Pirrip (speaker), Estella Havisham, Miss Havisham, Bentley Drummle
Page Number: 284
Explanation and Analysis:

When Pip finally confronts Miss Havisham and Estella at Satis House, he expresses his deep love for Estella. He begs her not to marry Drummle, but rather to select someone who truly cares for her.

This passage characterizes Pip’s increasingly selfless behavior. He does not phrase his criticism of Drummel in terms of personal motivation, but rather is perturbed by how it is “the greatest slight and jury” to a variety of “far better men.” That is to say, Pip is more concerned with the theoretical ethics of Miss Havisham’s cruel act than with his own desires to be with Estella. Though he reiterates his love, he actually points out that “there may be one who loves you even as dearly”—thus accepting both that he will not marry Estella and that someone else may have sentiments that equal his own. Pleading that she “take him” thus reflects an entirely earnest wish that Estella be happy in her marriage, whether or not it's to Pip.

Pip’s moving speech is thus an affront to Miss Havisham in two ways: first, because it directly criticizes her actions for how cruel they are to Estella and other men, and second because it expresses an entirely honest, selfless, and non-manipulative sentiment. Miss Havisham has taught Estella to be cruel partly out of a world-view that love is empty and disingenuous, but Pip’s wish that Estella be happy above all expresses a true and total love—providing the counterexample to Miss Havisham’s beliefs. Though his love for Estella has previously driven Pip to deceptive and crooked actions, here it causes him to act fully nobly—a critical indicator of his personal development.

Book 3, Chapter 49 Quotes

"Believe this: when she first came to me, I meant to save her from misery like my own. At first I meant no more…But as she grew and promised to be very beautiful, I gradually did worse, and with my praises, and with my jewels, and with my teachings, and with this figure of myself always before her, a warning to back and point my lessons, I stole her heart away and put ice in its place"…[Miss Havisham] burst out again, What had she done!

Related Characters: Miss Havisham (speaker), Estella Havisham
Page Number: 313
Explanation and Analysis:

During Pip’s visit, Miss Havisham repents the way she has raised Estella. She claims that her intentions were originally relatively kind but became crueler as Estella grew older.

Though we should remain skeptical of Miss Havisham by this point in the novel, her tone does seem honest and repentant. That she originally “meant to save [Estella] from misery like [her] own” casts Miss Havisham’s intent as selfless, even feminist: her goal was to protect her daughter from being preyed upon by men, and thus she prevented her from forming emotional attachments. Yet Miss Havisham was, in a sense, herself seduced by Estella’s beauty—for it was only as Estella aged and became increasingly attractive that Miss Havisham sought to cultivate a true monster.

Her language highlights the power of her own teaching: a combination of “praises” and “teachings,” with the monetary addition of “jewels” allowed Estella to become fully inhuman. Her “heart” is replaced with “ice”—speaking to the entirely cold way she treats everyone around her, even Miss Havisham herself. This passage parallels in many ways Pip’s own regret at being deceived by money and by the teachings of the upper class—though Miss Havisham regrets the role of the teacher instead of the student. Dickens thus gathers the characters together, at the novel’s end, in a common narrative of realization and regret. Inspired by Pip’s own selflessness, Miss Havisham concludes that her own tactics have been similarly diabolical.

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Miss Havisham Character Timeline in Great Expectations

The timeline below shows where the character Miss Havisham appears in Great Expectations. The colored dots and icons indicate which themes are associated with that appearance.
Book 1, Chapter 7
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...market and excitedly explain that Pip has been asked to play at the house of Miss Havisham , Uncle Pumblechook's rich landlady who lives in seclusion uptown. She has been looking for... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 8
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...Pip on arithmetic instead of engaging in conversation. He walks Pip to the gate of Miss Havisham 's house, a large brick house with some of its windows boarded up. In front... (full context)
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Pip knocks and enters a room lit only by candlelight. Miss Havisham , an old woman in a yellowed wedding gown, sits at a dressing table amidst... (full context)
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After they finish playing cards, Miss Havisham tells Pip to return in six days and sends the children away for a snack.... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 9
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Upon returning home, Pip is barraged with questions about Miss Havisham by Mrs. Joe and Uncle Pumblechook, who has ridden over for tea. Yet, because he... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 11
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Pip returns to Miss Havisham 's the next week and is told by Estella to wait in a gloomy sitting... (full context)
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Miss Havisham has Pip call for Estella who comes with Camilla, Sarah Pocket, Georgiana, and Raymond following... (full context)
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Pip and Estella play cards and Miss Havisham points out Estella's beauty. Pip wanders out onto the grounds and finds "a pale young... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 12
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...in their fight, and suspects that either the law will come down on him or Miss Havisham herself will seek revenge. But when he returns to Miss Havisham's he is surprised to... (full context)
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That day at Miss Havisham 's, Pip agrees to return every other day to walk her or wheel her in... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 13
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Next day, Joe and Pip set off for Miss Havisham 's. Mrs. Joe has insisted on walking to town with them in all her finest... (full context)
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Pip and Joe leave Miss Havisham 's and walk to Uncle Pumblechook's where Mrs. Joe has been waiting for them in... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 15
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During one of these lessons, Pip proposes to Joe that he pay a visit to Miss Havisham . Joe is skeptical, thinking that Miss Havisham would assume Pip wanted something. When Pip... (full context)
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Pip anxiously walks to town to visit Miss Havisham and is lead upstairs by Sarah Pocket, who is suspicious of his presence. Upon seeing... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 17
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Pip persists in the same routines, varied only by a birthday visit to Miss Havisham 's where she gives him a guinea he spends on books to study. But Pip... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 18
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...a parlor. Pip recognizes the stranger as the man he met on the stairs at Miss Havisham 's. The stranger introduces himself as Mr. Jaggers, a London lawyer, and explains that an... (full context)
Book 1, Chapter 19
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The day before leaving for London, Pip visits Miss Havisham to say goodbye. He is escorted inside by Sarah Pocket. Miss Havisham keeps Sarah Pocket... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 21
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...suddenly recognize one another—young Mr. Pocket is the pale young gentleman Pip fought with in Miss Havisham 's greenhouse. (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 22
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...pale young gentleman is Herbert Pocket and he explains that his father, Matthew Pocket, is Miss Havisham 's cousin. Herbert was in Miss Havisham's greenhouse that day after Miss Havisham sent for... (full context)
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At dinner, Herbert tells Miss Havisham 's story. Miss Havisham was the spoiled daughter of a wealthy, genteel brewer. Her mother... (full context)
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All of Miss Havisham 's relations were poor and all of them except for Matthew Pocket were jealous and... (full context)
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Herbert concludes by telling Pip that he has revealed everything he knows about Miss Havisham . He promises that nothing shall come between he and Pip in the future and... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 27
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...leaves for work, Joe tells Pip he has only come to convey a message from Miss Havisham : that Estella is home and would like to see Pip. Joe says Biddy had... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 29
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Going to Miss Havisham 's the next morning, Pip is surprised to find Orlick employed as the porter to... (full context)
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Back in the house, Miss Havisham speaks frenziedly to Pip about Estella, telling him to "...love her, love her!" no matter... (full context)
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Mr. Jaggers has come by on business and he, Miss Havisham , Sarah Pocket, Estella, and Pip have dinner together. Mr. Jaggers is unaffected by Estella's... (full context)
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As he falls asleep at the Blue Boar, Miss Havisham 's injunction to "love her!" resounds in Pip's mind and he feels grateful, convinced that... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 32
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...receives a note from Estella informing him that she is coming to London and that Miss Havisham wants him to meet her at the coach. Pip, anxious to see Estella, arrives at... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 33
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...that Sarah Pocket, Georgiana, Camilla, and Raymond resent Pip and are futilely trying to damage Miss Havisham 's opinion of him. Estella explains that she is delighted by their frustration because they... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 38
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One day, Estella informs Pip that Miss Havisham has asked him to escort her to Satis House. There, Miss Havisham gloats over stories... (full context)
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Later in the visit, Pip witnesses Miss Havisham and Estella argue for the first time in his presence. When Estella pulls away from... (full context)
Book 2, Chapter 39
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Pip stays up late trying to process the news. He is devastated to realize that Miss Havisham is not his patron and that Estella, therefore, isn't destined for him. He is even... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 42
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Herbert passes Pip a note telling him that Miss Havisham 's brother's name was Arthur and that her devious fiancée was named Compeyson. (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 43
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Pip resolves to see Estella and Miss Havisham before he invites Provis to go abroad (on the pretence of shopping for more gentlemanly... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 44
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Pip goes to Satis House and explains to Miss Havisham and Estella that he has met his patron but doesn't say who it is. He... (full context)
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Pip tells Miss Havisham that Matthew and Herbert Pocket, unlike her other relations, are upright and kind. Pip asks... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 48
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...who invites Pip home to dinner with him and Wemmick. Mr. Jaggers' informs Pip that Miss Havisham has requested that Pip visit her. To Pip's great discomfort, Mr. Jaggers' then talks about... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 49
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Next day, Pip visits Miss Havisham , who is melancholy and distracted and tells him she wants to show Pip that... (full context)
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Showing tender concern for Pip's unhappiness, Miss Havisham hopes Pip will someday be able to write out "I forgive her" under her name.... (full context)
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Miss Havisham kneels at Pip's feet crying "What have I done!" She tells him that witnessing him... (full context)
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Pip asks about Estella's past. Miss Havisham tells him Mr. Jaggers brought Estella to Satis House after Miss Havisham asked him to... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 51
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Pip goes to Mr. Jagger's office and collects Miss Havisham 's money for Herbert. Pip tells Mr. Jaggers' that he not only knows who Estella's... (full context)
Book 3, Chapter 57
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Joe updates Pip on the village news: Miss Havisham has died and left a large sum of money to Matthew Pocket, crediting Pip's account... (full context)