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Mrs. Joe and Miss Havisham in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens
'Great expectations' by Charles Dickens centres on its protagonist
Pip. It follows him from his childhood where he is a poor orphan
living with his sister and brother in-law to his growth into a young
man trying to become a gentleman. Several events shape Pips life, his
meeting of the convict Magwitch, and his meeting Miss Havisham and
Estella. During the novel Pip tries to cast aside his poor background
and those associated with it in order to win Estella, however his
strong conscience and sense of good finally prevails and he returns to
his poorer beginnings. It is a good example of the Bildungsroman
novel, which was a popular genre during the Victorian time, as it
depicts Pip's growth and personal development and the reader sees Pip
grow to manhood. Dicken's uses Pip to narrate the story. This gives
the reader a greater insight to Pip's character as everything we read
is from his point of view. There are really two characters of Pip
throughout the novel, the older Pip narrating the novel and the
younger Pip who is the character in the story. It is through Pip's
narrative that shapes the readers' thoughts and perceptions about the
events and other characters in the novel. Two of the most influential
characters in the novel are the characters Mrs Joe and Miss Havisham
and in this essay I will be discussing both and explaining the ways in
which they are products of the society they belonged to.
Mrs Joe Gargery was Pips sister and was 20 years older than pip
himself. She was married to the local blacksmith, Mr Joe Gargery.
Pip was brought up by his sister Mrs Joe as their parents died, she
was a very hard working-class woman who intimidated both Pip and her
husband. Her physical description is as follows:
'She was tall and bony, and almost wore a course apron, fastened over
her figure behind with two loops, and having a square impregnable bib
in front, that was stuck full of pins and needles.'
From this description I can already tell that she is a harsh woman who
shields herself and she is hard working and never stops, she is also
quite a prickly person from the needles. Also I can tell this because
she keeps her apron on a lot of the time which is full of pins and
needles preventing anyone from physically getting near her and she has
no maternal feelings possibly can't get pregnant, perhaps an insight
into her dislike for Pip. She is then described again by Pip but this
time her face is described in more detail.
'Black hair and eyes' and 'had such a prevailing redness of skin that
I sometimes used to wonder whether she ever used to wash herself with
a nutmeg-grater instead of soap.'
This description helps to paint a picture in your mind of what Mrs Joe
looks like, whilst also suggesting that the coarseness of her face may
also be a link to the coarseness of the actual person.
Miss Havisham was a wealthy local lady who expressed her wish for a
baby to play in her house with Estello. Mr Pumblechook, Joes uncle
decided to take Pip to Miss Havisham's house to do so. Miss Havisham,
when younger was jilted at the altar and it had scared her for the
rest of her life. Pip then describes her:
'dressed in rich materials-satins and lace and silks all of white' and
then 'Her shoes were white and she had a long white veil dependant
from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair
was white, some bright jewels sparkled on her neck and on her hands,
and some other jewels lay sparkling on the table.'
This gives us an impression of her richness and that she is a bride
but there is something wrong with this picture, the contrast of bridal
flowers and her white hair. Also this to me sounds like she is rotting
away and the only thing that can make her beautiful are the jewels.
Another quote that backs up this idea of her decaying is:
'I saw that the bride within the bridal dress had withered like the
dress, and like the flowers and had no brightness left but the
brightness of her sunken eyes.'
This is saying that she does not care about life anymore and she can't
let go of the fact that she has been stood up at the altar. This is
also a comparison to her and the flowers and gives us a negative
image, And that the house she lives in had gone to ruins and Miss
Havisham had left everything exactly how it was on the day she was
jilted at the altar, "All the clocks have been stopped at twenty to
Another powerful quote and a lot of meaning is when Pip first sees the
feast in another room:
'The most prominent object was a long table with a tablecloth spread
on it, as if a feast had been in preparation when the house and the
clocks all froze. A centre-piece of some description of some kind was
in the middle of the cloth and it was so heavily overhung with cobwebs
that its form was quite indistinguishable, and as I looked along the
yellow expanse out of which I remember it seeming to grow, like a
black fungus, I saw speckled-legged spiders with blotchy bodies
running home to it, and running out from it.'
This quote shows that she can't let go and that she is in a time frame
and won't let go.
From reading the book I can tell that Mrs Joe and Mrs Havisham don't
treat Pip that well, but both treat him quite badly both in their
different ways. Mrs Joe physically intimidated Pip and thought she was
so kind bringing him up "by hand" that he deserved all the beatings he
got. Pip is so badly beaten sometimes that even Joe tries to protect
"Mrs Joe has been out a dozen times, looking for you Pip and she's out
now, making it a bakers dozen."
"Yes, Pip," said Joe, "and what's worse, she's got ticker with her."
'Tickler was a wax ended piece of cane, worn smoothly by collision
with any tickled frame.
The name tickler has a lot of irony although it's called a ticker it
actually hurts a lot and doesn't tickle at all.
Mrs Joe insults people a lot and has no respect for people of a lower
class than her, but then changes to someone with a higher or same
class as herself and shows a lot more respect. Mrs Joe uses the catch
phrase "brought you up by hand" here she is trying to make Pip feel
guilty, that he owes her something.
Mrs Havisham on the other hand was just as bad but not physically. Her
daughter Estella was brought up to be tough on boys as a way of
revenge. I can see the past coming in here because she was jilted at
the altar she now thinks that all men are the same and so she's
brought up her daughter to be the same. During Pips first meeting with
Mrs Havisham he is introduced to her daughter Estella, Mrs Havisham
'Well? You can break his heart.'
This makes Pip feel put down and worthless. This is backed up by
"He calls the knaves, jacks, this boy!' said Estella with disclaim,
before our first game was out. "And what coarse hands he has and what
thick boots!" Here she is looking down on him as if he is a peasant
compared to her making him feel very unwanted.
"With this boy! Why, he is a common labouring-boy!"
This is how Miss Havisham has taught Estella to act and it makes Pip
feel very ignorant.
Mrs Joe always speaks in dialect this is her working class status.
When Pip's Uncle comes round she speaks as if she is more important
than he is a higher class.
Every Christmas day he presented himself, as a profound novelty, with
exactly the same words, and carrying the two bottles like dumb bells,
every Christmas day, Mrs Joe replied, as she now replied, "Oh un-cle
pum-ble-chook! This is kind!" She commands people all the time instead
of asking, but she is more reflective and uses more complex when
speaking to Estella and herself. She rarely varies her speech for
different people this shows she has the same amount of respect for
When she spoke like this, she makes out that she doesn't know she's
getting it even though she gets it every year and that Pip has told
her she gets it every year.
Mrs Havisham spoke a lot differently to Miss Joe. Mrs Havisham does
not work and is very wealthy this automatically raises her class. Mrs
Havisham does not request she demands. She does this as she knows she
is of higher authority than pip and she is older.
She also asks Pip rhetorical questions such as:
'Are you obstinate' Pip is not going to turn round and say yes is he.
This is just a manner of her speech.
To sum up the two characters, Mrs Havisham and Miss Joe are both
similar but in their different ways. Miss Joe married for convenience
and Mrs Havisham was nearly wed only to be jilted at the altar.
Also both brought up children that were not their own Miss Joe brought
up Pip her younger brother as their mother and father died and Mrs
Havisham brought up Estella an adopted child. Neither of the
characters had a job but again both for different reasons Mrs Havisham
didn't work because she was a wealthy woman and Miss Joe because she
was a house wife. Lastly neither of them lived particularly happy
lives Miss Joe had a boring and bitter life and this made her angry
and Mrs Havisham had a bitter, resentful sad life due to being left at
the altar. Women had not many rights in those days and were just
expected to do the cooking and cleaning and never got much of a say in
anything. Overall the two characters are very different in there own
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"Mrs. Joe and Miss Havisham in Great Expectations by Charles Dickens." 123HelpMe.com. 11 Mar 2014