Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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Describe Miss Havisham and her house from Great Expectations.

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Miss Havisham is an eccentric old lady who is always dressed in her wedding dress.  She is described as being "faded" - everything about her is old and decaying.  Her hair is white and wreathed with wilted flowers, and her clothing hangs on her withered body and is stained and yellowed with age. Mrs. Havisham had once planned to be married, but she was jilted at the altar, and she has left everything in her house exactly the way it was on what was to have been her wedding day. 

Mrs. Havisham's estate is unkempt and overgrown, and the house is dismal and closed up with iron bars.  The...

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george304 | Student

Miss Havisham is an eccentric woman who holds men in distinct distaste. This is due to the fact that she was jilted at the altar on her wedding day by Compeyson, who is another character in the novel Great Expectations. She has never forgotten this, and continues to wear her yellowed wedding dress which hangs about her withered and aged body, although her wedding was years ago. She keeps a banquet set on the table in the great room, complete with her molded wedding cake. She has strictly ordered that the table is not to be cleared until her death, when it will become a table set for her coffin. Her house remains dim form the light of the wax candles, and her adopted daughter Estella is hard and unfeeling. Miss Havisham has taught her to have a heart of stone, and a harsh impression of all men. 

She resides in Satis House, a creepy old mansion next to an old brewery. The house appears as one which would be haunted.

StephanieRR | Student

I ran out of space while typing my answer, so here are some more quotes continued from my last post:

"It was then I began to understand that everything in the room had stopped, like the watch and the clock, a long time ago... I glanced at the dressing-table again, and saw that the shoe upon it, once white, now yellow, had never been worn. I glanced down at the foot from which the shoe was absent, and saw that the silk stocking on it, once white, now yellow, had been trodden ragged (59)."- Miss Havisham's description/ House's interior

"From that room, too, the daylight was completely excluded, and it had an airless smell that was oppressive. A fire had been lately kindled in the damp old-fashioned grate, and it was more disposed to go out than to burn up... Certain wintry branches of candles on the high chimney-piece faintly lighted the chamber... It was spacious, and I dare say had once been handsome, but every discernible thing in it was covered with dust and mould, and dropping to pieces. The most prominent object was a long table with a table-cloth spread on it, as if the feast had been in preparation when the house and the clocks all stopped together. An epergne or centre-piece of some kind was in the middle of this cloth; it was so heavily overhung with cobwebs that its form was quite undistinguishable; and, as I looked along the yellow expanse out of which I remember it seeming to grow, like a black fungus, I saw speckled-legged spiders with blotchy bodies running home to it, and running out from it...I heard the mice too, rattling behind the panels... the black-beetles took no notice of the agitation and groped about the earth in a ponderous elderly way (82-83)." -House's interior

All of these quotes were taken from my particular verion, which is the Oxford World's Classics edition. For other versions, they can be found in chapters XIII and X of Volume I.

StephanieRR | Student

I thought it might be helpful to provide you with some textual references for physical descriptions of Miss Havisham and her house, in case you ever wish to use direct quotes from the novel.

"Within a quarter of an hour we came to Miss Havisham's House, which was of old brick, and dismal, and had a great many iron bars to it. Some of the windows had been walled up; of those that remained, all the lower were rustily barred. There was a courtyard in front, and that was barred... I peeped in... and saw that at the side of the house there was a large brewery. No brewing was going on in it, and none seemed to have gone on for a long time (54)." -House's exterior

"...The first thing I noticed was, that the passages were all dark, and that she had left a candle burning there. [Estella] took it up, and we went through more passages and up a staircase, and still it was all dark, and only the candle lighted us (55)." -House's interior

"She was dressed in rich materials- satins, and lace, and silks- all of 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 sparkling on the table...She had not quite finished dressing, for she had but one shoe on...her veil was but half arranged, her watch and chain were not put on, and some lace for her bosom lay with those trinkets, and with her handkerchief, and gloves, and some flowers, and a prayer-book, all confusedly heaped about the looking glass...I saw that everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its lustre, and was faded and yellow. I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes... Now, wax-work and skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved and looked at me (56-57)."- Miss Havisham's description