In chapter 38, what is ironic about the argument between Estella and Miss Havisham?

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schulzie eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss Havisham has raised Estella to wreak revenge with the men she meets.  She is beautiful but unattainable.  Pip says,

"Sending her out to attract and torment and do mischief, Miss Havisahm sent her with the maliclious assurance that she was beyond the reach of all admirers, and that all who staked upon that cast were secured to lose." (pg. 282)

Miss Havisham was holding onto Estella's arm and hand when Estella began to withdraw from her.  Miss Havisham becomes irate and calls Estella an "ingrate" and tells her that she has a "cold, cold heart."  The ironic part is that Estella tells Miss Havisham,

"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"  (pg 282)

Estella agrees with Miss Havisham that she owes everything to her.  She asks what Miss Havisham wants from her.  The reply is "Love"  Ironically, it is the one thing that Estella cannot give her because Miss Havisham has trained her not to give love. She has trained her not to love, period." 

Estella then tells Miss Havisham a metaphorical story.  She says,

"If you had taught her (your adopted daughter) , from the dawn of her intelligence, with your  utmost energy and might, that there was such as thing as daylight, but that it was made to be her enemy and destroyer, and she must always turn against it, for it had blighted you and would else blight her --- if you had done this, and then, for a purpose, had wanted her to take naturally to this daylight and she could not do it, you would have been disappointed and angry" (pg 285-286)

If the reader changes the word "daylight" to read "love", this story become ironic.  The one thing she wants from Estella, Estella cannot give her because she has never been taught to love.

Read the study guide:
Great Expectations

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