In what ways does Miss Havisham from Great Expectations contrast the Intended from Heart of Darkness in how they have deceived themselves in choosing to live their lives?

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caledon eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Miss Havisham and the Intended (Kurtz's fiancee) behave like polar opposites; where Havisham dwells on negativity, the Intended is positive. More specifically, they focus upon optimistic and pessimistic views of men and their relationship with men, preferring a monochromatic fantasy to reality.

(It should be noted that Havisham is a significant character in Great Expectations and receives far more character development, including a change of heart and "redemption", whereas the Intended is largely ancillary and serves more as a literary device than a participatory plot-driving character.)

To be specific, Miss Havisham deceives herself (repeatedly) by wallowing in self-pity and in seeing people more as objects to perform her bidding. Our impression of her grows gradually and there is probably no single quote that fully characterizes her nature, but she is described as corpse-like, her home like a tomb, and that she doesn't go into sunlight (note that it would be inaccurate to consider this a reference to vampires, as the idea of vampires being harmed by sunlight was not a significant part of popular culture until the 1922 film Nosferatu). She goes on throughout her life, and the novel, believing that she gains something by this eccentric behavior and her tutelage of Estella - namely, a personal revenge for being jilted on her wedding night.

In contrast, the Intended seems to think only of Kurtz, and only positively at that. She does reference herself as being "proud to know [she] understood him better than any one on earth" - though this is largely self-deception that is only encouraged by Marlow's linguistic trickery ("he end was worth of his life" and so forth). Similarly to Havisham, the Intended goes into a period of extensive mourning, and seems unable to extricate herself from the identity that she built from her relationship to Kurtz. Nevertheless this is done out of a sense of obligation and respect for Kurtz, or at least her impression of him, rather than a self-fulfilling need or an attempt to draw attention to herself.

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Heart of Darkness

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