What are some examples of foreshadowing in chapter 8 of Great Expectations by Charles Dickens?

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

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In this chapter, we are introduced to Estella and Miss Havisham.  The chapter foreshadows Pip’s falling in love with Estella and her breaking his heart, Miss Havisham’s disastrous past and her involvement with Pip.

In the beginning of the chapter, Pip meets Estella and she treats him as if he is beneath her.  The entire house is big and decaying.  This is nothing compared to the lady of the house, Miss Havisham.  She seems to be decaying too.  Her description foreshadows revelations later of her troubled past.

She was dressed in rich materials—satins, and lace, and silks—all of white. Her shoes were 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. (Ch. 8)

She looks old, yet she is dressed as a bride.  However, her bridal wear (and in fact we learn later the entire bridal feast) is decaying.  Time stopped for Miss Havisham on the day she was supposed to get married.  It is because of this that she holes herself up in her house and decides to get revenge on men.  She uses Estella as the instrument of that revenge.  We see the foreshadowing of that in Estella’s treatment of Pip.

Miss Havisham, in order to show that men are pigs and get her retribution on the entire male gender, has decided to train Estella to make men fall in love with her and then break their hearts.  Naturally she needs practice.  All of this is foreshadowed in this chapter.  One example of this is when she asks him what he thinks of Estella.

“I think she is very pretty.”

“Anything else?”

“I think she is very insulting.” (She was looking at me then with a look of supreme aversion.)

“Anything else?”

“I think I should like to go home.”

“And never see her again, though she is so pretty?” (Ch. 8)

He is already getting entranced.

Miss Havisham will continue playing with Pip’s emotions.  Even though he is just a boy, and Estella is just a girl, he is already intrigued by her.  This continues until he cannot live without her.  Miss Havisham releases him, giving Joe the money to apprentice him.  She is paying Pip off for his service.  Pip is not happy with this.  He is not satisfied with the life of a blacksmith. 

By chance Magwitch elevates him, and Pip becomes a gentleman.  The decay that we saw in Miss Havisham’s house follows her, and she continues to deteriorate.  Each time he visits her, he sees that she has become more deranged.  Estella does exactly what she was raised to do.  She flits around, being seen in society and breaking hearts.  Yet the final heart she breaks is Miss Havisham’s.  She marries Drummle.  Pip sees a vision that day, his first day there, of Miss Havisham dead.

I turned my eyes—a little dimmed by looking up at the frosty light—towards a great wooden beam in a low nook of the building near me on my right hand, and I saw a figure hanging there by the neck. (Ch. 8)

Miss Havisham dies consumed by fire, possibly by accident and possibly suicide.  Yet this vision of Pip’s definitely foreshadows it.

 What caused Miss Havisham’s miserable existence?  Why couldn’t she smile?Why did she wear her wedding dress every day, and sit with one shoe off?  The story of her brother and Compeyson’s betrayal of her is also foreshadowed in this early chapter, because there are so many mentionings of Miss Havisham wearing a wedding dress.  Although we do not learn the entire story of how she was jilted on her wedding day and left at the altar, we know enough to realize something went terribly wrong, it involved a wedding, and Miss Havisham was never the same again.

This is an awful lot of foreshadowing for one chapter!  It shows that this first visit to Miss Havisham’s house was one of the most important events in Pip’s entire life.  It altered his future forever.  In fact, it meant that he could never love, in the traditional sense, ever again.  Miss Havisham took care of that, by twisting his mind as she did Estella’s, from an impressionable age.  All of this is foreshadowed, early on, in Chapter 8.

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