Great Expectations Great Expectations question

miss Havisham, realistic or unrealistic?
deleted member Mar 17, 2013 04:51AM
just wondering what everyone's opinions are on miss Havisham, she is often perceived as an unrealistic character and is classed as a perfect example of dicken's "caricature" writing style for his characters. but personally i believe she is one of the most realistic people throughout the novel but she is often seen as weird because she shows how broken she is while the other characters hide it. she sais what she thinks which leads the other characters to believe she is so crazy that she should be left alone. it was clear she had a breakdown yet no one supported her, she was left to rot along with the house. it would be good to hear everyone's opinions on her, thanks :)

She is realistic.

She was ditched and she spent the rest of her life pining for the man who ditched her. Time stopped for her and her broken heart could not be mended. She felt she needed to teach men a lesson because of what happened to her. What did she do? She used Estella, she used him to break Pip.

She refused to move on, she chose to stay hurting.

I am sure you have met, heard about or read about a woman like Havisham. That should make her realistic.

Miss Havisham is an unexpectedly honest portrayal of loss, desolation, isolation, and mental illness that I never expected to come across in Dickens. I always found her character to be one of the most compelling (and sad) he ever wrote (along with Sidney Carton from A Tale of Two Cities, whom I've always had a soft spot for).

Not realistic, in my experience. Everyone I know has been ditched by someone and managed to move on, get over it and lead a productive life.

Miss Havisham had to have had some mental illness which led to her extreme way of life. The first time I read the book as a child she, and more specifically, her house, scared the hell out of me.

I love Miss Havisham. I know the wedding dress would have rotted of of her in twenty -years time but i see her as static heartbroken creature who cannot get over being hurt. She symbolizes the" until death do us part clause in the marriage vows that never came about. To be ditched by a man during this time would have been tragic for a woman.

Kerry wrote: "just wondering what everyone's opinions are on miss Havisham, she is often perceived as an unrealistic character and is classed as a perfect example of dicken's "caricature" writing style for his ..."

I think she is realistic in terms of what many "broken" people feel on the inside. She just wears it on the outside and from that point of view seems unreal. Many people have experiences that cause them to feel the same feelings and react in similar ways but cover it by looking and seeming normal in most ways. She does not. She wears it openly. She is an honest character.

for some reason,i feel she was negative.of course i can imagine what she must have gone through .the betrayal ,the heartbreak and the lack of 'sunlight' from her life forver.but that doesn't or shouldn't make one misuse or mistreat someone else.
i am obviously talking about things idealistically.
she's added to the book what i call "scratch" that lasts be it good or bad.
what strikes me the most is how she and 'her world' is described..dressed as a bride,the clocks stopped,old old wedding cake,'s haunting and still makes one so curious.

Andrew (last edited Jul 13, 2015 02:59PM ) Jul 13, 2015 11:25AM   0 votes
Of course she is realistic! Just ask any guy about his mother-in-law.

i think her characterisation is quite realistic and capturing! There are many people who get so caught up by one event in their life.

Miss Havisham all too often has been portrayed as a witch. And elderly. Dickens's original notes indicate that she is in early 50's. My opinion of her is that she is a very sad depressed woman who uses a little girl (Estella) to reek revenge on men. But she doesn't realise how cruel she can be as when she says to Pip "if she tear your heart to pieces love her". She is realistic as she is more developed than say Estella. Or indeed Clara Coppefield in "David Copperfield".

S Aug 14, 2013 02:32PM   0 votes
She might not be realistic, but she certainly is one of Dickens' greatest creations.

Angela Tyler Exactly! Who cares if a character is "realistic" if they are so well-written and powerful that we'er still discussing them a hundred+ years later? It' ...more
Jul 06, 2014 08:14PM · flag

Readers might be interested in a creative portrait of Miss Havisham painted by Horspool (Spellin?) The Mould of Time. I met the author at the Dickens Bicentennial where we were both promoting our novels on Dickens.

She is very realistic to me, insofar as she represents the personality of someone who allows themselves the luxury of unforgiveness. Although it seems as if she is trapped in a place wherein time stops, in fact she is very much within the moment. Otherwise her focus wouldn't have remained on creating a furie to wreak her vengeance upon the world of men.She never leaves the present and her hopes are fully embedded in the future--a future of triumphant, vicarious heartbreaks, via Estella. That's where her space becomes the most realistic portrayal of her delusions. She lives as an obsessed and bitter woman trapped in her own world of never-ending hurt and emotional decay, and The Manor is symbolic of this, but time hasn't truly stopped; her desire to live for her own happiness has.

she is really weird... but broken heart can makes us the weirdest creatures !!
i really hated what she did to pip, she really needed therapy ...
Ummm... Broken heart+ loneliness can make us revenge very badly and it does not matter to whom
so yep she is realistic !!

apparently she symbolises the decay of the upper class which dicken tries to comment on throughout his novel too? so maybe in trying to represent that, he gets a little carried away

Pain can cause you to do crazy things and then when you don't get help for it, you become stuck in that craziness. My favorite quote in this book is when Miss Havisham realizes her mistake in staying broken and not allow healing to come in. We all have "great expectations" thinking when we are young the course our life should go. My favorite quote in this book was Pip's realization of Miss Havisham, "But that, in shutting out the light of day, she had shut out infinitely more; that, in seclusion, she had secluded herself from a thousand natural and healing influences; that, her mind, brooding solitary, had grown diseased, as all minds must and will that reverse the appointed order of their Maker, I knew equally well." I sometimes skim that fine line of seclusion especially these last few years and Charles Dicken's assessment of seclusion in 1861 is just as pertinent today.

i am in between i mean she seems legit
but i cant make up my mind as to wether
she is realalistic

I don’t know if she is realistic but she is interesting and entertaining. We’re talking about her in the year 2013. If she had been a shallow eccentric, dull, or just simply insane, I doubt that would be the case.

What`s that Hamlet said to Horatio? Those doubting Miss Havesham`s authenticity need to reconsider.

I think Miss Havisham, and almost all of the characters in this novel, are very realistic because they are not perfect.

They experience joy and sorrow and they take their own decisions depending on how they feel, if they take things either positive or negative and how they affect them in their own decisions, like we do in our lives.

Life lessons are the most complicated ones, because there is not an accurate formula like in Physics and Maths. Part of those lessons had to teach us about how to deal with our Relationships and Love Lives.

There has been people around the world who had passed what she had passed: being heartbroken.

Some people become like her: become bitter and bitter, not wanting to forget the past and look for ILL ways to make oneself feel better.

However, there is people who decide to overcome the adversities, decide to improve and become better persons, and achieve a true happiness.

Two characters who I have always loved are Miss Havisham and Lady Bertram (from Jane Austen's Mansfield Park) both are clearly as mad as cut snakes, but their significance perceived or otherwise just puts a smile on my dial, initially they both seemed completely unrealistic, but the older I get the more I glean a sense of authenticity in their characters.

Kerry wrote: "just wondering what everyone's opinions are on miss Havisham, she is often perceived as an unrealistic character and is classed as a perfect example of dicken's "caricature" writing style for his ..."

I agree! What's more real than the emotions that she felt and showed through out the book!!

I think a real interesting literary parallel to pursue is Miss Havisham and Estella and Mrs. Danvers and Rebecca (in Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier). The difference is that Miss Havisham groomed Estella to break men's hearts, as opposed to Rebecca, who took the lead in that department.

Miss Havisham fascinates me whenver I read Great Expectations. While her reaction to being jilted at the alter is extreme by stopping time and wearing her wedding dress as a constant reminder I would still consider Miss Havisham a realistic character. She's a representation of those people who have that one moment in their life that they feel is what their identity is based on and cannot move past it.

You can see it in the way she pits Estella and Pip against one another. The manipulation and deceit she would have experienced at Compeyson's hand is manifested in another generation through Pip and Estella. Miss Havisham controls that relationship as a way to make sense of what Compeyson put her through and her instructions to Estella to enact her revenge on all men is because her feelings of betrayal were so great that it probably caused Miss Havisham to doubt whether she could trust another man again on a personal level.

Also I think when Miss Havisham tells Pip she meant to raise Estella for good it shows some level of self-awareness and hatred for what she had become because of Compeyson's betrayal. Yet the isolated life she had led meant that when Estella showed to be a promising beauty there was no one there to 'check' Miss Havisham for training her to break men's hearts.

Her character was flawless.
I can say she is real because Estella reflects her in almost every way. She was raised by her.

How about just plain creepy?

I agree on the manipulative point - it was something that made her more realistic and pathetic. She was in pain and took it out on two children. Add to that the fact that she held on to the hurt from twenty years before. She couldn't let it go and allowed it to consume and poison her, making her a little nuts.

Who cares if she isn't realistic? She is a fun character, which is more than I can say for most of Dickens' female cast. Usually his female characters are quite dull.

It is interesting to read all of your opinions as to why Miss Havisham is a realistic portrayal. I think Miss Havisham is another of Dicken's exaggerated caricatures who is unbelievable in almost every way; however, I think I can see why others might disagree with me. Thanks for your insights.

Geoffrey Considering how psychotic her behaviour was, how can we not understand her suitor´s change of heart. Her mental state is pathetic and I would not blam ...more
Jul 26, 2014 01:54PM · flag

deleted member Jul 11, 2013 10:24AM   0 votes
Realistic. Considering the pain she had to go through. And the idea of taking revenge on people responsible or indirectly responsible for your heartbreak is neither new nor uncommon.

I have met people more or less like Havisham, and I can understand where her sour personality comes from.

I didn't like what she was doing to Estella's and Pip's minds, but based on her experience it is realistic.

There have always been Miss Havishams- and there will be as long women are told that their #1 Purpose in Life is to Get Married.

Realistic. Estella and her are very realistic, there is little "romantic"about them. They both represent women's hardships very nicely,

I think she is a very exaggerated representation of emotions that are very realistic, even relatable.

I think she would be less "weird" and more realistic if she only got out of that wedding dress and let some sun in!

Monty J (last edited Mar 18, 2013 07:09PM ) Mar 17, 2013 04:55PM   0 votes
I read somewhere that Miss Havisham is based on a "crazy" woman Dickens once saw on the street, who went around in a dirty and tattered wedding dress.

Havisham the character wasn't overly realistic because Dickens only revealed the casual and superficial information about her that would have been available to those who observed her. Estella was the only person who knew her well, and Estella doesn't say much about her.

I suspect Havisham is a composite of women Dickens had met or knew of. She's two-dimensional. We have a physical description and know her activities and interactions with others and their views of her, but we are denied her thoughts and motivations or much about her personal history that would shed light on her psychologically.

She serves the plot function of being the one who molded Estella into the tool of her own revenge against men. Havisham is symbolic of the control parents can have over their children, especially parents who want to re-live their lives through them, settle scores, fix flaws, etc. Through Estella, Havisham is exacting revenge over men who represent the man who stilted her. Hell hath no wrath like a woman scorned, etc.

Havisham may also personify and express British women's feelings of the era about the laws of pimrogeniture favoring male ownership of property and inheritance, rendering them dependent on males. By tapping into this deep well of unexpressed pent-up emotion, Dickens cleverly appealed to a huge audience of female readers without offending male readers, who were largely clueless about this social injustice.

“Miss Havisham shoulda throwed dat cake out so it don’t like mess all up da bitch’s house.”

-Family Guy

The annotations at the back of my copy say Miss Havisham was based on a real woman - "Not in the slightest part exaggerated."

If that's the case, what a tragedy for her.

Miss Havisham is realistic in her story, and that's all that matters. I have loved her since I first read Great Expectations at 14 years old, and she remains a favorite. If you'd like more insight into the woman she really was read Jasper Fforde's Lost in A Good Book. You will be pleasantly surprised!

I think the psychological games she plays with Estella and Pip are quite believable. She is a manipulative personality at work - and just occasionally (near the end) you get a glimpse of her more human heart. But she also serves as a symbolic presence in the book - someone left behind by time, a jilted bride, a ghostlike figure who wants to haunt the more vital characters. Even today, the character of Miss Havisham and her cobwebbed house are known as a sort of myth, even by people who haven't read the book.

What she seems to think and do appears realistic, I can believe a person would become as bitter and unhinged as she became, and her history is just as believable. What I found hard to swallow was her outward appearance - wearing the wedding dress after all those years, and the house in the same state. There seems to be some magic realism in it.

If I found any character unrealistic it was probably Estella. Can I believe that anyone can be unfeeling? Yes. Do I believe that it's possible that Miss Havisham could train Estella to be that way? Not really. Even people who are abused (and sometimes especially) usually do not seem to become unfeeling or unable to love or understand love. It seems to be something that comes naturally. I could understand her being raised to have the appearance and attitude of someone unfeeling, but I don't think it's possible to be taught not to love in the way that Estella supposedly was.

Dickens describes a scene in which Pip confesses his love for Estella and she literally seems to feel nothing - this doesn't seem realistic to me. I don't think a young girl of any culture would react by literally not understanding the concepts being raised. Act that way, yes. Really not feel anything, no.

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