What are some words to describe Miss Havisham's character?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Certainly, Charles Dickens is famous for his memorable characters: Ebenezer Scrooge, Oliver Twist, Fagin, Uriah Heep, Madame DeFarge, to name only a few. Among these Miss Havisham is arguably the most bizarre. When little Pip first comes to Satis House, having been summoned by Uncle Pumblechook under the orders of the mistress of the decaying mansion, he is taken aback by the sight of a yellowed woman in a yellowed wedding dress who has but one shoe on.

I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the dress, and like the flowers, and had no brightness left but the brightness of her sunken eyes... Now, wax-work and skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved and looked at me.

Here are some other words that can be employed in order to describe this significant character in Great Expectations:

  • delusional - In her astonishing humiliation at having her betrothed desert her at the altar, Miss Havisham feels that time stopped for her at that moment. She has the clocks all stopped from that moment and, at one point, tells Pip, "I know nothing of the days of the week or the months of the year."
  • misandrist - This is the adjective form of misandry, the hatred of men. Miss Havisham raises Estella to be heartless and cruel to the males she encounters, thereby exacting Miss Havisham's revenge upon males for what happened to her.
  • irrational - It is indeed unreasonable for Miss Havisham to hate all men and to try to hurt as many men as she can through Estella simply because one man jilted her and her money was stolen.
  • cruel - She is cruel to Pip, whispering in Estella's ear, "You can break his heart." Further, she allows Estella to insult him and treat him as though he has no feelings.
  • deceptive - Miss Havisham allows Pip to believe that she is his benefactor. When Pip asks her why she led him on, she replies, "Who am I to be kind?" 
  • pitiable - After Estella matures and receives her education, she returns to Satis House and treats Miss Havisham with disdain equal to that which she has for men. Pip enters the room to find Miss Havisham asking Estella why she is "so hard" and "proud" to her. Estella cruelly replies, "Who praised me when I learned my lesson?"
  • remorseful - During his last visit to Satis house, Pip talks with Miss Havisham, telling her how he has always loved Estella. She cries, "Oh! What have I done!...I meant to save her from misery like my own...I stole her heart away and put ice in its place." She apologizes to Pip and asks him to write on a pad that he forgives her.
  • tragic - Bereft and alone, Miss Havisham begs forgiveness. When she moves too close to the fire, her rotting gown quickly catches fire. As she dies in Pip's arms, she weakly repeats, "Take the pencil and write under my name, 'I forgive her.'"
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Great Expectations

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