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The power of female strength in great expectations by charles dickens

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But for anything beyond monsters or paragons, for the grey areas of ordinary female psychology, explored in all their subtle shades by his contemporaries George Eliot and Anthony Trollope, Dickens had no feeling.

Or so it has often been said.

  1. Biddy's persona is defined by her role as a domestic servant — her life revolves around hearth and home. Is gendered space stronger than gendered disposition?
  2. This is also the case with Mrs.
  3. Nobody who reads the novel ever forgets her first appearance in Chapter 8, in which her decrepitude is so richly and evocatively described. Females in the novel are indubitably confined to the domestic realm throughout the book.
  4. Especially the three main female characters are rather destructive than protective for men. On the other hand Mrs.

Such a view needs qualifiying. Great Expectations contains several such powerfully vivid female figures who transcend caricature to take on a distinctively Dickensian form of life.

Outstanding among them is Miss Havisham: Nobody who reads the novel ever forgets her first appearance in Chapter 8, in which her decrepitude is so richly and evocatively described. I saw that everything within my view which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and lost its lustre, and was faded and yellow. 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.

Women in Charles Dickens’ "Great Expectations"

I saw that the dress had been put upon the rounded figure of a young woman, and that the figure upon which it now hung loose, had shrunk to skin and bone. In Chapter 49, Miss Havisham achieves the redemption of self-knowledge. The compassion Pip now learns to feel for her has a parallel in the compassion he learns to feel for Magwitch. At this point Dickens could have let her live on as a kindly old lady in a rosy cottage — and in his early novels, he would probably have done so — but in his artistic maturity, he must have seen that this would have struck a falsely sentimental note, and instead flames consume her in an accident that has an element of suicide as well as divine justice.

She inspires in Pip a frenzy of one—sided emotion which has no hope of growing into real and fertile love: Such love is doomed. Estella is not someone who is frigid because she has never known love: Miss Havisham has doted on her, but in doing so has turned her into an instrument of her will. We are not free to follow our own devices, you and I.

Dickens does not sentimentalise the result of what she has learnt: But in a book which preaches sticking to your station and making the most of what you have got rather than wasting your life in dreams, she is rewarded with a kind, respectable husband in Joe, a son and a daughter and low-level happiness and fulfilment.

But Dickens sees more in her than that. Lumbered with responsibility for her orphaned baby brother Pip but denied her own children, she has a hard lot, and even as one laughs at her needless aggression, one can guess at her suppressed misery and frustration.

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In Chapter 2, Dickens brilliantly illustrates her edge of hysteria in his depiction of the violence with which she butters a piece of bread and doses Pip with tar water. Mrs Joe is as much a victim of circumstance as Estella.

  • We are not free to follow our own devices, you and I;
  • In one sense, the actors in Dicken's work do maintain their gendered identities and live within the prescribed social space appropriate to each sex.

So what role do women play in Great Expectations? This is not a novel about greed or avarice: Pip is careless about money, not grasping of it. Without Estella, Pip would never have left the forge.

Remember what Dickens wrote to Maria Beadnell: