How does Miss Havisham manipulate others and impose her power?Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Having been herself imposed upon and manipulated when she was young by Compeyson's chicanery which involved her fiance Arthur who left her at her dressing room table, Miss Havisham has vowed revenge upon the male gender.  In order to do this, she adopts the beautiful Estella, whom she teaches to be cold and cruel to boys and men.  When she sends for Pip to play with Estella,she tells the girl, "You can break his heart" and encourages her to be insulting to Pip while at the same time, she urges Pip to "Love her, love her, love her!"  All the while this cruel game is enacted, Miss Havisham sits gleefully watching.  Whenever Pip comes she encourages him to return by rewarding him with money.  In other words, she imposes her power over Pip by playing upon what Uncle Pumblechook has called "the joy of money." 

Thus, it is natural for Pip to believe that Miss Havisham is his benefactor when her lawyer, Mr. Jaggers whom she also pays to carry out her wishes, announces to Pip that he has "great expectations"; moreover, she does not contradict this assumption of Pip as it provides her a power over the youth.  In the same way, she possesses control over the "toadies" Sarah and Camilla Pocket and her husband, who appear on her birthday to flatter her while they wait for her to die so they can receive some inheritance. In all, Miss Havisham's power to manipulate people comes from her monetary fortunes.

This power of money and revenge that Miss Havisham uses carries her only so far. For, having raised Estella to be so cruel makes the beautiful young lady coldly reject her own love, devastating her; furthermore, Estella marries the cruel Bentley Drummle and leaves her.  Alone in her old age, Miss Havisham realizes what she has done, and when Pip arrives to visit her, she begs his forgiveness.

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