Estella is as beautiful and cultured as she is cold and brutal, and Pip immediately falls in love with her at a tender age. The daughter of Magwitch the convict, she is taken in by Miss Havisham from the age of three and taught to hate and mistreat men of all kinds, Pip among them. The more Pip loves her, the more Estella seems to enjoy torturing and manipulating him. She is from even lower stock in the class system than he is, and one might think she resents his intrusion into the life she has found among the wealthy.
Dickens doesn’t leave Estella so one-dimensional—he shows us the inner life of this girl who has herself been so tortured and twisted by a desire to be more than her station at birth. We get a sense that Estella struggles against the cruelty and shame she is made to endure; as she and Pip get older, she continually tells him she has no heart to spare his feelings and keep him from being as dependent on her as she has been on the heartless Miss Havisham. In so doing, Estella proves that she does have a heart, albeit a damaged one. Her marriage to Drummle prolongs her own agony, but near the end of the novel she learns the same lesson as Pip: Feelings can’t be suppressed enough to prevent us from feeling, and holding emotions back cripples us, as evidenced by Miss Havisham and Magwitch, among others. At the novel’s end Estella experiences her own kind of evolution, bent into what she hopes is a better shape that will allow her to undo some of the damage she has caused. Estella’s gradual change over the course of the novel has caused some critics to call her Dickens’ first truly developed female character.
Abel Magwitch, also know simply as "The Convict" is a career criminal at the beginning of the novel, with what seem like no redeeming qualities. He stalks Pip in the cemetery after escaping from prison as the novel opens; Pip’s resulting kindness melts his icy heart, and he becomes determined to emulate the self-improvement that tiny boy has devoted his own life to. Magwitch makes his fortune, secretly using his money to finance Pip’s education and lifestyle through Jaggers, elevating the boy into increasingly higher social circles. At the end of the novel, however, his crimes catch up to him and he is caught; like his daughter Estella, Magwitch has to come to terms with the damage he has caused.
Miss Havisham begins and ends Great Expectations as a victim, but hardly the sympathetic kind....
(The entire section is 1051 words.)