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Miss Havisham has a very big influence on Pip’s life. She acquires him at a young age, and uses him to train Estella how to tease men and break their hearts.
Miss Havisham’s spooky gothic appearance would affect any boy, and they certainly affect an impressionable young Pip. Pip knows very little of Miss Havisham before starting to go there, except that she is rich.
I had heard of Miss Havisham up town—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. (chapter 7, enotes extext p. 36)
It turns out not to be robbers that Miss Havisham is avoiding, but life itself.
When Pip first goes to Miss Havisham’s crumbling mansion, Satis House, she demands that he play. Pip comments, “that she could hardly have directed an unfortunate boy to do anything in the wide world more difficult to be done under the circumstances” (p. 41). The “corpse-like” Miss Havisham makes him uncomfortable.
From the beginning, Miss Havisham barrages Pip with Estella’s abuse. She calls him “a common labouring-boy” and teases him for his coarse hands and the way he plays cards. Miss Havisham asks him what he thinks of Estella, and with prompting he says that she is pretty and insulting.
Pip’s perspective on money and love are both distorted by these experiences. He falls in love with Estella, and when he finds out about his “great expectations” he puts two and two together and comes to the disastrous, erroneous assumption that he is destined for Estella and only needs to be trained up as a gentleman first.
Even though it is Magwitch and not Miss Havisham who is Pip’s secret benefactor, she does not correct him in thinking that it’s her. In London, he is in her circle with Herbert Pocket and Jaggers, her lawyer keeping an eye on him. He watches Estella toy with high society.
Estella has determined her part in the grand scheme, and is miserable for it. She has succeeded in becoming Miss Havisham’s revenge on men, and breaks hearts all over the place. She seems to pity Pip, even though she tells him she has no heart.
“Moths, and all sorts of ugly creatures,” replied Estella, with a glance towards him, “hover about a lighted candle. Can the candle help it?” (ch 38, p. 210)
Pip is devastated when he learns that the convict, not Miss Havisham, is his mysterious benefactor. He realizes he has made a terrible mistake. In the end, he settles for the passionless life Miss Havisham has bequeathed to him. Whichever ending you consider, Pip and Estella succumb to friendship more than love.
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