Illustration of Pip visiting a graveyard

Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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Discuss and consider the parental figures of Mrs. Gargery and Miss Havashim.

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Mrs. Gargery and Miss Havisham are both abusive to their wards, but in different ways.

Mrs. Joe, Pip’s sister, is physically abusive.  She is raising him by hand, which meets beating him with a stick called Tickler.  He lives in terror of her hitting him for the smallest infraction.  He grows up to be a timid child, and his timidity is what allows him to be so easily influenced by others, including Miss Havisham.

Miss Havisham is abusive to both Pip and Estella, but her abuse is emotional.  She plays with Pip’s head, making him think he is being groomed for Estella.  She raises Estella to toy with men, and uses Pip as a practice toy.  This is abusive to both Estella, who grows up unable to love, and Pip, whose heart is broken.  Even though the abuse is emotional, it is longer lasting than the physical abuse.  Miss Havisham may not beat Estella with a stick, but she does ruin her future happiness.


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