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Great Expectations

by Charles Dickens

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What does Pip's friend reveal about Miss Havisham's past in Great Expectations?

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In Stage Two after Pip arrives in London, he re-encounters "the pale young gentleman" of his first visit to Satis House, Herbert Pocket. Like Pip, Herbert was sent to play with Estella; however, they did not get along at all. So, now he and Pip are to be roommates in Barnard Inn. As they dine, Pip asks Herbert about Miss Havisham; Herbert describes her as having been the spoiled daughter of a wealthy brewer in a location near Pip's home. Mr. Havisham went through two wives, the second of whom he married secretly out of pride because she was a servant. After her death, he informed his daughter that she had a half-brother, who came to live in the house with Miss Havisham; however, they did not get along with each other. The boy "turned out riotous, extravagant, undutiful--altogether bad." In fact, the father disinherited him, but relented before his death, leaving the young man a handsome sum; however, he left Miss Havisham more.

Since the brother was given to dissipation and "much madness" so that he got himself into debt. Harboring a "deep and mortal grudge against his half-sister as having influenced her father's anger against him," the brother conspired with a rake named Compeyson to cheat Miss Havisham: this rake managed to seduce Miss Havisham, who fell deeply in love with him, and he convinced her to buy out her brother's half share in the brewery. When Matthew Pocket warned her against trusting Compeyson, the haughty young woman refused to believe him; instead, she ordered him out of her house. Then, when the wedding day arrived, Miss Havisham received a note at a twenty minutes until nine in the morning, the time at which all her clocks have been stopped, and she suffered a grave illness. At this point, too,Herbert tells Pip that Compeyson conspired with the half-brother Arthur against his sister.

"When she recovered from a bad illness that she had, she laid the whole place waste, as you have seen it and she has never since looked upon the light of the day."

When Pip asks Herbert what has become of the two conspirators, Herbert replies that they fell into "[D]eeper shame and degradation." And, as a consequence of her great embarrassment, Miss Havisham raises her ward Estella to wreak revenge upon men by teaching her to be cruel.

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