The perennial pursuit of humankind is finding and establishing a unique identity while still maintaining enough in common with others to avoid isolation. This is the central pursuit of many of the characters in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations, and it shapes the way that characters feel and interact in profound ways. Those who are certain of their selfhood are the most successful, and the acquisition of an identity is fundamental to achieve happiness and satisfaction for characters in Great Expectations.Miss Havisham, perpetually unhappy, is a woman who is stuck in the past. She once had a sense of who she was, but after being abandoned by her fiance, she can’t move on. From that moment forward, she is only seen in ““a long white veil” and a “splendid” wedding dress, with “but one shoe on” (Dickens, 143). Havisham lives in a blend of fantasy and reality, in both the past and the present. Her inability to move on interferes with her identity because the world around her changes continually while she makes an effort to stay the same. She no longer knows who she is, and the resulting emotional trauma hinders her ability to empathize. Her lack of empathy negatively affects how she interacts with people, especially Estella. Miss Havisham believes she is God, and uses her influence to breed Estella into a numb, unfeeling heartbreak machine. Miss Havisham’s self-proclaimed purpose is to make Estella “break [men’s] hearts and have no mercy”, in an enraged revenge plot to get back at the universe for her misfortune (Dickens, 238). Miss Havisham lives in a world far from reality, and cannot accept who she is or the circumstances that she finds herself in. As a result, she is heinous, vengeful, and malicious in every action she perfor…
…e purposelessly until the bitter end.
Works CitedCapuano, Peter J. “Handling The Perceptual Politics Of Identity In GreatExpectations.” Dickens Quarterly 3 (2010): 185. Literature Resource Center.Web. 22 Apr. 2014.
Cohen, William A. “CRITICAL READINGS: Manual Conduct In Great Expectations.”Critical Insights: Great Expectations(2010): 215-268. Literary Reference Center.Web. 22 Apr. 2014.
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. 1860-61. Project Gutenberg. Etext 1400.Project Gutenberg, 1998. Web. 22 April 2014.
Lecker, Barbara. “The Split Characters of Charles Dickens.” Studies in EnglishLiterature, 1500-1900 19.4 (1979): 689-704. Print.
Pickrel, Paul, “Great Expectations.” Dickens, a Collection of Critical Essays. Ed.Martin Price. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prentice-Hall, 1967. 164. Print.