Where does Miss Havisham use power and dominance over Pip and Estella in Great Expectations?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss Havisham dominates Pip and Estella’s lives from the time they are children to the time she dies, leaving them with a lasting impression of pain.

Miss Havisham suffers, so she wants others to suffer.  When Jaggers gives her Magwitch’s daughter Estella, he assumes that the little girl will have a better life with a rich lady, and Miss Havisham wanted a daughter.  He does not realize why she wants a daughter.  She wants a girl so she can get revenge on men.

When Pip first meets Estella, he does not know why he’s there.

I thought I overheard Miss Havisham answer—only it seemed so unlikely—“Well? You can break his heart.” (ch 8, p. 42)

Pip is a helpless poor boy, and Estella is a helpless orphan.  Miss Havisham has complete control.

Estella does break his heart.  She is cruel to him, calling him coarse and common, but she also causes him to fall in love with her because she is so beautiful.  Miss Havisham tells him to “love her” and he does.

Later, when Pip asks Estella if she remembers making him cry, she replies that she doesn’t.

“You must know,” said Estella, condescending to me as a brilliant and beautiful woman might, “that I have no heart—if that has anything to do with my memory.” (ch 29, p. 162) 

Pip does not realize what Estella really is, and what Miss Havisham really is, until he is an adult.

I saw in this, wretched though it made me, and bitter the sense of dependence, and even of degradation, that it awakened—I saw in this, that Estella was set to wreak Miss Havisham's revenge on men... (ch 38, p. 205)

Yet he still thinks Estella will not break his heart.  Surely for him she will be different.

Miss Havisham complains that Estella is also cold to her.  She says she is “stock and stone” and Estella is surprised.  She tells Miss Havisham she made her who she is.

“At least I was no party to the compact,” said Estella, “for if I could walk and speak, when it was made, it was as much as I could do.” (ch 38, p. 206)

She asks what Miss Havisham wants from her, and she says simply, “Love!”  She does not expect Estella to be cold toward her too.

Miss Havisham's manipulation of Pip and Estella has a lasting effect. Neither of them can really fall in love again, even with each other.


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Great Expectations

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