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Essay about Miss Havisham in Great Expectations

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The renowned poet, Richard Lovelace, once wrote that "stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage." Most people imagine a prison as a physical building or a jailhouse; however, it can also be a state of mind. A large number of people are imprisoned physically, mentally, and emotionally. Charles Dickens conveys this idea through many characters in his famous novel, Great Expectations; the most prominent being Miss Havisham, a bitter old woman whose life came to a standstill after she was abandoned by her lover on her wedding day. The novel is about a young, low-class boy named Pip, who becomes a gentleman, and through his journey realizes that no matter the course of events in his life, nothing could alter who he truly was inside. On the road to this insight, he meets many confined and imprisoned people; the first and most powerful of whom is Miss Havisham. Dickens explores the theme of imprisonment using Miss Havisham's home as a physical prison, her inability to let go of the past as a mental prison, and her hatred of men as an emotional prison.
After Miss Havisham is betrayed on her wedding day, she isolates herself from the outside world in her grand, unchanging manor, Satis House, with her adopted daughter, Estella. Estella acts as a bridge for Miss Havisham and the outside world. The house, in many ways, is comparable to an actual prison. When Pip initially arrives at Satis House, he is greeted by the young Estella, and notices the great front entrance had "two chains across it" (Dickens 51) as if preventing entry to and exit from the house. After entering the house through a side door, "the first thing [Pip] noticed was that the passages were all dark" (Dickens 51) and there was "no glimpse of dayl...


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... she is doing is cruel and continues to selfishly use Estella as a tool to break men’s hearts.
Being jilted at the altar on her wedding day, Miss Havisham plummets into a life of desolation, despair, and anger. Her suffering causes her to never leave her home and never interact with the outside world again, creating a physical prison. Her inability to let go of the past causes her to constantly remember her heartbreak, creating a mental prison. Lastly, her heartbreak causes her to develop a hatred of men which results in her using Estella to break men’s hearts just to please her, creating an emotional prison. Ultimately, Miss Havisham's imprisonment physically, mentally, and emotionally brings herself and the others around her much strife, pain, and suffering.



Works Cited

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Ed. Edgar Rosenberg. New York: Norton, 1999.


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