Miss Havisham, of Great Expectations, is one of Charles Dickens’ most memorable characters. Dickens uses her character to show how a person can be so overwhelmed by disappointment and rejection that they actually end up devoting their life to it.
Estella is a beautiful, desirable young woman who is worshiped by the novel’s protagonist, Pip. Miss Havisham, in her inconsolable grief over being left at the altar as a young woman, uses Estella to get even with the world. In fact, Miss Havisham grooms Estella from a young age for this purpose. Estella’s arrogance comes from Miss Havisham’s training; she wants Estella to grow up to break hearts, to visit upon others the grief that she has endured for years. Pip is the unlucky object of Miss Havisham’s/Estella’s revenge.
Late in the book, Miss Havisham realizes that she has done a great wrong and injured the lives of several people, when she cries out:
"Oh, What have I done! What have I done!"
Despite Miss Havisham’s realization, Estella cannot be saved from the chilling effect of her training. She will never be able to have a meaningful relationship of mutual love and respect with a man.