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In Chapter 12, Discuss Miss Havisham's character, noting how she treats Estella and Pip.

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reader5646 | Student, Grade 10 | eNoter

Posted July 1, 2011 at 8:22 AM via web

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In Chapter 12, Discuss Miss Havisham's character, noting how she treats Estella and Pip.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 2) Distinguished Educator

Posted July 1, 2011 at 9:49 AM (Answer #1)

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That Charles Dickens viewed the aristocracy of his Victorian Age with disdain for their frivolity is apparent in Chapter XII of Great Expectations. A woman rendered effete by her tragic mistakes, Miss Havisham yet enjoys trifling with the feelings of both Estella and Pip. Joining in the song of the blacksmith, "Old Clem," Miss Havisham has been intrigued by Pip's singing "you were to hammer boys round!" for this line appeals to her motives of exploiting Pip so that Estella can practice being cruel to the male gender, in order to later wreaking revenge upon men in retaliation for Miss Havisham's having suffered rejection at the altar on her wedding day.

Of particular note is how Miss Havisham embraces Estella in an almost congratulatory manner whenever Estella is cruel to Pip.  With a "miserly relish" in this cruelty of her ward, she whispers greedily to Estella,

Break their hearts, my pride and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy!”

And, when Pip confesses to Miss Havisham that he is taken with Estella and finds her prettier and prettier, Miss Havisham seems "to enjoy it greedily."  Clearly, Miss Havisham's own selfish intentions supercede any moral instruction to Estella as well as any concern for the sensitive Pip's feelings.

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