How does Dickens portray Miss Havisham in Great Expectations ?
Miss Havisham, the lonely spinster who wants Pip's heart broken because hers was broken when she was jilted by her fiance, is portrayed both through the eyes of the child Pip and the eyes of the adult Pip. Pip the child first encounters Miss Havisham when he is invited to her home. The child Pip sees her as a strange figure from a fairytale. As he puts it:
In an arm-chair, with an elbow resting on the table and her head leaning on that hand, sat the strangest lady I have ever seen, or shall ever see.
At first glance, all he notices are her rich clothes of white satin, silk and lace, worn with a bridal veil on her white hair. She wears jewels. But as Pip gets closer, he realizes
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.
To the child Pip, Miss Havisham is frightening, seemingly a figure out of a grave, uncanny:
Once, I had been taken to one of our old marsh churches to see a skeleton in the ashes of a rich dress that had been dug out of a vault under the church pavement. Now, waxwork and skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved and looked at me. I should have cried out, if I could.
After she puts her hand on his shoulder, he describes her as "the Witch of the place."
But the adult Pip can also weigh in, saying,
It was not in the first few moments that I saw all these things, though I saw more of them in the first moments than might be supposed.
As an adult, Pip sees past the fairytale witch to a person. He sees her as living in "a vanity of sorrow" that has become a "mania." He says that "her mind, brooding solitary, had grown diseased." He is judgmental towards her, feeling she has been overly self-indulgent in her grief. Rather than a witch, she is depicted, through the adult Pip, as a mentally unbalanced woman.