What is Miss Havisham's house like in Great Expectations?

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litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Miss Havisham is an eccentric lady who lives a life of seclusion.  She has a reputation for being strange, and few have actually seen the inside of her house.

[Everybody] for miles round had heard of Miss Havisham up town—as an immensely rich and grim lady who lived in a large and dismal house barricaded against robbers, and who led a life of seclusion. (ch 7, p. 36)

Miss Havisham’s house matches her reputation.  Pip describes it as “old brick, and dismal, and had a great many iron bars to it” and windows that are barred up (p. 38).  There is a courtyard in front, and the only way to enter is by ringing a bell and being let in by someone.  Pip is usually greeted by Estella.

The courtyard is a little better than the outside.  It is “paved and clean, but grass was growing in every crevice” to keep it looking somewhat decayed.  It is surrounded with old disused brewery buildings.   Estella tells Pip “the place will stand as idle as it is, till it falls” (p. 39).  Estella tells Pip that the name Stais means “enough” in some language (it is actually Latin).

The house was once grand, but now the entrance is chained closed.  Inside, the house is as decayed as the outside.  There are candles but there’s very little light.  Most of the furniture is dusty, moldy, and frayed.  In Miss Havisham’s dining room is a great bride cake that has been decaying as long as Estella and Pip have been alive, and is now home to beetles, spiders, and various other bugs.

The house is a metaphor.  It’s name’s meaning is supposed to imply that whoever has the house could want nothing else.  Miss Havisham uses this ironically, because the house becomes her living grave as she wastes away from grief. 

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