MY CHARACTER THIS WEEK: Estella Havisham
Estella Havisham is a character in Charles Dickens’s novel Great Expectations. I chose this character for this Thursday’s Character Connection not because I love this character, but because she intrigues me. Once I was done with reading the book, and also watching the BBC series with Justine Waddell as Estella and Ioan Gruffudd as Pip, Estella was the character that really remained in my thoughts afterwards.
Estella was adopted and raised at Satis House by Miss Havisham, a wealthy, but very eccentric lady. Miss Havisham wanted Estella to become a lady and the most important part of Estella’s education is that Miss Havisham has taught her to be an Ice Queen, practically. Estella’s heart is empty of any emotion; it is as cold as ice. Her goal in life is to make men fall in love with her and then break their hearts with no feeling. Miss Havisham’s heart was broken cruelly by her intended in her youth and she never recovered from that, so she takes revenge on all men through Estella, her work of art. Estella is an epitome of an unattainable dream.
When Estella and the hero of the novel, Pip, meet as children, Pip is captivated by her and Estella expects nothing else. She taunts him, chastises him for his coarse behaviour (he was raised in a blacksmith’s house), but still she manages to make him fall for her charms even then. Miss Havisham wants Estella to entrap Pip’s heart and then crush it, and once Estella and Pip meets as adults, Estella succeeds in making him fall in love with her and then, she marries someone else, breaking Pip’s heart.
As Miss Havisham says to Pip,
Love her, love her, love her! If she favours you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces–and as it gets older and stronger–it will tear deeper–love her, love her, love her!"...
"Hear me, Pip! I adopted her to be loved. I bred her and educated her to be loved. I developed her into what she is, that she might be loved. Love her!"...
"I'll tell you," said she, in the same hurried passionate whisper, "what real love it. It is blind devotion, unquestioning self-humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and against the whole world, giving up your whole heart and soul to the smiter–as I did!
Estella is a cruel femme fatale, but in the end, she is only a product of someone else’s hatred for the male population and a strong desire to break every man’s heart. She does not know this at first, but Estella is a truly unfortunate young girl. She was never truly loved by anyone but Pip. Miss Havisham exploited her for her benefit, and other men admired her exterior. Pip loves Estella as whole, but this loveless and generally unloved girl cannot see it until it is too late. She is an emotionally abused woman who was never taught to love, but was always taught to hate. She was robbed of the ability to love, and at one point it is suggested she hates herself. So, she does feel something after all, but she is under Miss Havisham’s powerful influence and does not know how to break free.
At first, Estella is a really cruel and cold woman, but the more I read the novel, the more I felt sorry for her. She evokes compassion in the reader, or at least she did in me.
In the end, she learns a hard lesson. But she survives her ordeals and becomes a different woman, the woman she was always meant to be had it not been for Miss Havisham. She finds love at last, but although it is too late, she is free to feel love at last. Pip remains her friend. Estella doesn’t believe that she and Pip will be together, but Pip sees that she will stay with him and that really satisfied me. I love emotional and spiritual reconciliations, and Estella had hers at last.