Charles Dickens used Miss Havisham as a symbol of hypothetical imprisonment. Miss Havisham; although not being physically imprisoned as Abel Magwitch, was a strong representation of a mental imprisonment. She was never told to stay locked up in her house rotting away and tormenting herself for years without any human interaction besides that of her step-daughter Estella and eventually Pip. She not only physically imprisons herself but mentally she imprisons her mind into the state of being that all men must suffer, not only trapping herself into an unstable mind set but trapping her daughter as well.
First and foremost the obvious physical imprisonment, she stays in her house locked in with her wedding memories: being the “guilt of the crime”. Miss Havisham sits alone in her house staring at these wedding items that any sane women would have ripped up and destroyed in moments. She’s just simmering in her despair. Miss Havisham’s heartache is what keeps her in her mansion: the “guards of the prison”. She lays alone because of the pain she’s feeling. She’s unable to escape from the pain and hypothetically “the guards.” Finally Estella: “The sentencing of the crime.” Miss Havisham raised Estella to hate men and crush their hearts, in the end Estella crushed Pip’s heart and Miss Havisham couldn’t believe what a monster she had created. Miss Havisham had to deal with the fact that now she was the monstrous heartless man that once broke her heart.
Additionally, all of Miss Havisham’s clocks have been stopped at precisely 9:20, she has imprisoned herself in the past in a hypothetical manner. Being that 9:20 was when her fiancé left her at the altar. She’s painfully reminding herself of the moment of her heartbreak. Being stuck in this moment has trapped her emotionally so she can only feel that terrible depression from her heartbreak. In a way she’s frozen in the past and unwilling to leave: imprisonment.
The Satis House: Miss Havisham’s “prison” in a way reflects her feelings. “Miss Havisham’s house, which was of old brick and dismal, and had a great many iron bars to it. Some of the windows had been walled up; of those that remained, all the lower were rustily barred” (55). When first presented this description one’s mind should think of a prison. This description of the house shows being neglected and not cared for, in a way this shows how Miss Havisham must have felt when Compeyson left her at the aisle. Miss Havisham’s feelings then reflect upon the house as a prison.
In summation, Miss Havisham is a strong symbol of imprisonment in “Great Expectations” because of the many different physical and emotional imprisonments she’s gone through in her life. Miss Havisham’s whole life was a very depressing gloomy mess and she spent much of her life trapped with nowhere to turn. Her dress being burned and set in flames gave her freedom and eventual peace. This being the obvious freedom after imprisonment.
Courtney from Study Moose
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