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Miss Havisham of Great Expectations is a memorably eccentric character who represents what Dickens considered a frivolous aristocracy, lost in its own illusions in a changing world. Perhaps, the greatest characterization of Miss Havisham is that which she gives herself when, in Chapter VIII after he has played cards for some time with Estella, she considers renewing Pip's visit, "When shall I have you here again?" said Miss Havisham. "Let me think." As Pip begins to remind her that his visit has been on a Wednesday, she puts up her hand in forbiddance:
"There, there! I know nothing of days of the week; I know nothing of the weeks of the year."
As all the stopped clocks and the rotting wedding cake and wedding dress attest, Miss Havisham has withdrawn from the world; now, she lives only for her revenge upon the male gender.
It is not until Chapter XLIX that Miss Havisham has a change of heart. Having raised Estella to wreak her revenge upon men, Estella becomes hardened to everyone, rather than just to men. Devasted by this realization as well as her aloneness, Miss Havisham cries out, and begs Pip to forgive her. After he leaves, Pip wonders if he should return to the lonely woman; he climbs the stairs only to find Miss Havisham's rotten dress has caught fire. Pip throws his greatcoat over her and wraps her in it, along with the great cloth from the table containing the ancient cake.
After the physician has been called, Pip hears the lonely woman utter again her words of regret:
“What have I done!” And then, “When she first came, I meant to save her from misery like mine.” And then, “Take the pencil and write under my name, ‘I forgive her!’”
Miss Havisham never changes the order of these sentences.
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