What aspects of upper-class society might Dickens be satirizing in his portrayal of Camilla?Briefly describe Camilla and her attentions to Miss Havisham and how they satirize upper-class society.

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Camilla is a relative of Miss Havishams, married to Cousin Raymond.  She is described by Pip as a toady (suck-up) or humbug (fraud).  She attends to Miss Havisham because Miss Havisham is rich and she expects to be rewarded for her attentions.  Dickens uses her to satirize the upper class’s preoccupation with propriety and money while being completely cold.

Before I had been standing at the window five minutes, they somehow conveyed to me that they were all toadies and humbugs, but that each of them pretended not to know that the others were toadies and humbugs: because the admission that he or she did know it, would have made him or her out to be a toady and humbug. (ch 11, p. 56)

Camilla and the other ladies have “a listless and dreary air of waiting somebody's pleasure,” and is “the most talkative of the ladies” (p. 56).  She is older than Pip’s sister, but reminds him of her even though she has “a blunter cast of features” and in fact seems to have no features at all (p. 56). 

Camilla is satirized because she is described as superficial and pretends to do the proper thing for the purpose of being proper, when really she only cares what she gets and what others think.  Consider the argument about  how to dress the children for a funeral.

“You know I was obliged,” said Camilla, “I was obliged to be firm. I said, ‘It WILL NOT DO, for the credit of the family.’ I told him that, without deep trimmings, the family was disgraced. I cried about it from breakfast till dinner. (p. 57)

It is more important to Camilla that the children and family be properly attired, and she pouts until she gets her way.  Note that “Dickens continually introduces characters by describing them instead of giving them a name” (enotes summary and analysis, ch 10-11).  Camilla is described this way.

Miss Havisham knows exactly what’s going on.  She realizes that her proper family members only care about her money.

 “This,” said she, pointing to the long table with her stick, “is where I will be laid when I am dead. They shall come and look at me here.” (p. 59)

There is no affection here, and no warmth.  The people of the upper class, in Dickens’s portrayal, only care about propriety and not about compassion.



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