The portrayal of society in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations is that of a symbol of contemporary British civilization, with Miss Havisham representing the epitome of such. By utilizing this particular character as the conduit between social body and physical body, the author successfully blends together the kinship inherent to these aspects of British life. Miss Havisham is instrumental in establishing the link between the traditional Victorian society and the manner in which women finally gained significant changes in their investments. The economic health of society at the time of Great Expectations can easily be determined by the manner in which Miss Havisham’s personal history of poor investment strategy reflects the community’s somewhat fragile situation.
Also pertinent to the social aspect of Dickens’ Great Expectations is the relationship between younger and older generations, as effectively portrayed between Miss Havisham and eight-year-old Philip Pirrip. Upon meeting this rather outrageous representation of womanhood, the boy – in a child’s infinite innocence – he is compelled to separate himself from what he deems is a strange and unusual existence of alcohol. To him, the rotting barrels that once housed unlimited supplies of beer were symbolic of how he viewed Miss Havisham, a fermentative essence that had long since dried up from disuse and moribund old age. In comprising these thoughts, the young boy was left with the conclusion that such descriptive characterization is both frightening and hostile, choosing to abide by his inner instinct and institute avoidance.
“Better not try to brew beer there now, or it would turn out sour, boy; don’t you think so?””It looks like it, miss.””Not that anybody means to try,” she added, “for that’s all done with, and the place will stand as idle as it is, till it falls. As to strong beer, there’s enough of it in the cellars already, to drown the Manor House” (Dickens PG).
Clearly representative of an impoverished society is that of Miss Havisham’s forsaken brewery, left in its decaying state with barrels and their “sour remembrance of better days” (Dickens PG). Indeed, the decrepit condition of the brewery is indicative of a more affluent class of social acceptance that once existed, only to ultimately give way to the likes of Miss Havisham’s degraded reality. The life that has left the brewery can be equated to the life that has been lost from society, as Miss Havisham has led an existence rife with humiliation, deception and heartache.