Who is Miss Havisham?

Miss Havisham plays a major role in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations. Throughout the novel, she represents herself as a mad woman, full of sadness, depression, misery and anger.

"I had heard of Miss an immensely rich and grim lady who lived in a large and dismal house barricaded against robbers, and who led a life of seclusion (53)." - Pip

This is the first impression our readers get of Miss Havisham, and already it is obvious that she lives a sad, lonely life. She does not interact with people much at all, being isolated in her dark, dreary home.

"Saving for the one weird smile at first, I should have felt almost sure that Miss Havisham's face could not smile. It had dropped into a watchful and brooding expression - most likely when all the things about her had become transfixed - and it looked as if nothing could ever lift it up again (63)." - Pip

This phrase by Pip shows how depressed and drained from life Miss Havisham is. It shows how much she was effected by an event from her past, and how hard it is for her to overcome her sadness.

"That girl (Estella) is hard and haughty and capricious to the last degree, and has been brought up by Miss Havisham to wreak revenge on all the male sex
(186)." - Herbert Pocket

Herbert Pocket's statement shows Miss Havisham's hate towards men. She was, and still is, so hurt by what the man in her life had done to her. Because of her sadness and anger, she wants others to suffer the heartbreak that she did, and because of this want, she is using Estella as the heartbreaker. This also shows that Miss Havisham is careless of the feelings and emotions of others

"'I'll tell you'
said she, in the same hurried passionate whisper, 'what real love is. It is blind devotion, unquestioning self-humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and against the whole world, giving your whole heart and soul to the smiter - as I did (254)!'" - Miss Havisham

From this quote by Miss Havisham herself, we can see that she was so much in love with a person that hurt her and left her impacted in the strongest way. She was left crushed, and completely heartbroken. From this, we can decipher the reasons behind her madness.

Miss Havisham's Development throughout Great Expectations

Miss Havisham develops slightly throughout the novel. There are some parts of the book that show how she changes, yet stays the same.

"'What do I touch?'

'Your heart.'

'Broken!' She uttered the word with an eager look, and with strong emphasis, and with a weird smile that had kind of a boast in it.' (60)" - Pip and Miss Havisham

Miss Havisham is indeed depressed and heartbroken, but she says the word 'broken!' in such a boastful way. This shows that Miss Havisham, despite her sadness, is somewhat proud of the circumstances she is in and what she has gone through.

"'Love her, love her, love her! How does she use you?' Before I could answer (if I could have answered so difficult a question at all), she repeated, 'Love her, love her, lover her! If she favours you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces - and as it gets older and stronger, it will tear deeper - love her, love her, love her!' (254)" - Miss Havisham to Pip

Miss Havisham shows her carelessness for the feelings and emotions of others in this quote. She is obviously using Estella to break Pip's heart, and is making this clear to Pip. She does not realize that what she is doing is wrong, and cruel.

"Did I never give her love! Did I never give her a burning love, inseperable from jealousy at all times, and from sharp pain, while she speaks thus to me! Let her call me mad, let her call me mad (324)!" - Miss Havisham

From this statement, our readers can see that Miss Havisham is in denial. She wants to believe that she has given Estella nothing but love, but the truth is that she has only been using Estella to break the hearts of others.

"Who am I, for God's sake, that I should be kind (381)?" - Miss Havisham

Miss Havisham wants pity from Estella and Pip for the sadness and madness of her own character. It is as though she believes she is not to blame for Estella's heartbreak of so many men.

"Until I saw in you a looking-glass that showed me what I once felt myself, I did not know what I had done. What have I done! What have I done (424)!"
- Miss Havisham

Finally, nearly at the end of her life, Miss Havisham is realizing the hurt and heartbreak she has caused Pip through Estella. She has realized how wrong she was to wish that on such a person as Pip, or anyone for that matter, just because she had gone through that hurt and heartbreak herself. She has changed her ways of thinking since the beginning of the novel.


Miss Havisham is faced with an inner conflict; a conflict between herself and her emotions. On the morning of her wedding day, Miss Havisham's soon-to-be-husband, which we learn is a convict named Compeyson, flees the scene, and leaves her heartbroken. From that day, Miss Havisham falls into a deep depression, and livs a life of darkness in her dreary home. She is so strongly impacted by what Compeyson has done to her, and she refuses to be reminded of that awful event in her life. She becomes terribly mad. Because of her strong emotions, Miss Havisham forms hatred for all men. She raises her adopted daughter Estella to be cruel and heartless in order to break the hearts of others, just as her heart was broken. One of the victims of her scheme is Pip, who falls madly in love with Estella only to have his heart crushed. The conflict Miss Havisham is faced with does, eventually, get resolved. As Miss Havisham is dying, she finally begins to realize hhow much she was to blame for the suffering of others, and how careless and wrong she was in doing so. She realizes how much she has effected Pip and his emotions through Estella, and feels truly sorry for what she has done.

Personal Response

Dear reader,

I recommend Charles Dickens' Great Expectations to anyone who enjoys a lot of action. This book contains a mysterious and puzzling plot that keeps you thinking and keeps you wondering throughout the entire story. Characters, such as the two convicts Pip meets as a child, appear at various times throughout the book and tie together the plot of the story, along with many of the other characters. While reading this book, you will make many new, unexpected discoveries that may surprise you. You will find yourself reading some of the parts of the story over and over again, because Charles Dickens writes in a way that forces you to interpret and dissect his words. Great Expectations is definitely interesting, and it keeps you guessing. When I reached the end of the book, I wondered what the fate was going to be for Pip and Estella. That is something the author leaves you to figure out on your own. Enjoy!


If I were casting a movie, I would cast Meryl Streep as Miss Havisham. I saw her performance in A Series of Unfortunate Events as Aunt Josephine. She took the form of her character so well. Aunt Josephine possesses the same crazy qualities as Miss Havisham. Streep would be perfect for displaying Miss Havisham as the insane lady she is.

If I were Miss Havisham, I would have forced myself to overcome my heartbreak. Miss Havisham went mad from what Compeyson did to her, and let if affect her entire life from that point on. I wouldn't want to live a depressed, lonely life as Miss Havisham did, and keeping yourself isolated from the rest of the world for your entire life does not help you overcome your emotions. I think Miss Havisham had an opportunity for a much better life if she had tried to move on from her past.

If I chose a theme song for this novel, it would be "Devil in her Heart" by The Beatles. The lyrics of this song remind me of Miss Havisham and her hate for men. She uses Estella to break the hearts of others, and it is questionable as to whether Miss Havisham, Estella, or both have the devil in their hearts. This song speaks of a girl who's going to "tear your heart apart", which is exactly what Miss Havisham taught Estella to do unto others.

Quinn McCoy