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Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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In Chapter 8 of Great Expectations, how is Miss Havisham portrayed as an aristocrat?

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In Chapter VIII of Great Expectations, Pip is taken to Satis House by Uncle Pumblechook upon the request of Miss Havisham to have a boy from town come out to play with her ward Estella, who calls out to Pumblechook, then comes to unlock the gate. As the pretty Estella stands at the gate, Pumblechook attempts to enter; however, Estella informs him in "an undiscussable way" that Miss Havisham does not wish to see him, and closes the gate.When he is led up darkened stairs by this haughty young lady, Pip is shown into a room that is the dressing room of Miss Havisham. 

There amid the sundry items on her table, sits Miss Havisham, a woman in the ruins of a wedding dress with one shoe off. She orders Pip, “Come nearer; let me look at you. Come close.” Without any introduction of herself, the aristocrat, Miss Havisham, informs Pip that she craves some diversion, and orders him to call Estella and play cards with the young lady.  However, the haughty Estella is insulted by being told to play with such a "common boy." So, as they play, she ignores Pip and talks to Estella as though he is not within hearing distance, instructing her that she can break his heart. Then, after Estella asks what games he knows and Pip tells her "beggar my neighbor, miss," Miss Havisham orders Estella, "Beggar him."

After Estella has insulted Pip, Miss Havisham asks Pip what he thinks of her.  When he says that Estella is very insulting, Miss Havisham merely asks, "Anything else?" Pip tells her he would like to go home, but Miss Havisham asks, "And never see her again, though she is so pretty?" So, Pip finishes the game, and Estella impetuously throws the cards at him. But, Miss Havisham orders Pip to return in six days.  " I know nothing of days of the week; I know nothing of weeks of the year. Come again after six days. You hear?”

Clearly Miss Havisham acts the aristocrat.  She has a perspective of her own, and she orders anyone nearby to do certain things. Feeling superior to the other people in the room, her character orders others to open windows, cut off short conversations, and examine the motivation of others in the room with theme.

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In Chapter Eight, Pip goes to visit Miss Havisham for the first time with some trepidation, that is not helped by the way that the others around him treat the event as being so important. Miss Havisham behaves like an aristrocrat in having a number of servants, and Pip is led through many rooms and corridors to Miss Havisham. What presents her as being above the working class is her appearance. Note how she is described:

She was dressed in rich materials--satins, and lace, and silks--all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white. Some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and on her hands, and some other jewels lay sparking on the table.

Even though she is dressed in her wedding clothes, the quality of the material and the reference to various jewels clearly indicate the way in which she has money to spend. Her imperious nature with Pip as she commands him about, ordering him to come closer and to play with Estella, is something as well that indicates that she behaves like somebody who is accustomed to being obeyed. Note the number of imperatives she uses in her speech with Pip, such as "Come nearer" and "Play." These factors all serve to demonstrate that Miss Havisham, whatever the humble origins of her father, is now definitely a member of the upper class.

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