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Explore the ways in which Charles Dickens portrays the female

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Explore the ways in which Charles Dickens portrays the female
characters in the novel Great Expectations.

Throughout the novel great expectations Dickens interprets female
characters in a way that is quite unique and specialized. It could be
said that he was a great philosopher about their sex.

In great expectations there are three principal female characters,
these being Miss Havisham, Estella and Mrs Joe. My aim is primarily to
explore each of these principal characters and then link them
altogether.

When one studies woman and their status in the nineteenth century some
important conclusions can be made. Firstly great expectations was
written in 1861 and it was in keeping with the nineteenth century
period. It could be said that Dickens presents his female characters
in Great Expectations in a very unique way, a way that differed from
the ‘way of the world.’

In the nineteenth century it is a fact that women were seen in a
different light to men, They were disregarded and carried a lower
social status than men. When writing a novel, one would think that the
writing would reflect the times, it could be said that Dickens totally
reversed this in Great Expectations.

The three main female characters are Miss Havisham, Estella and Mrs
Joe. Dickens carefully chose names and one can presume a lot about the
character from the simple knowledge of a name. An example of this is
Miss Havisham, this could be linked to a very rough Latin translation
of ‘Have I shame’ Estella can also be linked to a Latin translation of
‘star’ Dickens does not give a Christian name for the character of Mrs
Joe, this remains constant throughout the whole novel. This fact alone
suggests that her character could be could, as her first name isn’t
even shared. Another name in Great Expectations is the name ‘Sattis
House’ It’s the name of Miss Havishams house. The word Sattis is
Latin, and when translated it means ‘enough house’ this suggests its
old and has literally had enough of life, much like the owner.

As mentioned before, Dickens places women in a higher position than
men during most of the novel. A good example of this is Mrs Joe. In
Great Expectations Mrs Joe’s role is a housewife, however she is not a
‘typical’ housewife of the nineteenth century. During this period one
would expect the mane of the house to be the head of the household and
bin charge. This is totally the opposite in this case. “My sister
throwing the door wide open and finding obstruction behind it
immediately divined the cause and applied tickler to its further
investigation. This quotation suggests that Mrs Joe is physically
beating her brother, Pip with ‘tickler’ a cane. It shows that she is
very domineering and that Pip is quite frightened of her.

Another example of this is in chapter nine when Mrs Joe is very
inquisitive to details about Pips visit to Miss Havisham. “she was
very curios to know all about Miss Havishams and asked a number of
questions. And I for some reason found myself getting heavily bumped
from behind in the nape of the neck…and having my face ignominiously
shoved against the kitchen wall because I did not answer her questions
at sufficient length” This shows that Mrs Joe is being domineering and
manipulative to get what she wants. For Pip, it is also a case of
‘knowledge is power.’ The following quotation suggests this in more
detail. ‘…Miss Havisham for she was nothing of the kind’ Because the
other characters have not seen Miss Havisham, Pip is in way more
powerful than them because he can tell them what he pleases.

Another key character in Great Expectations is Miss Havisham, she too
could also be described as a quite domineering and manipulative
character. This starts from the point when Pip first meets her, she is
full of direct instructions for him. ‘Look at me boy, come close, come
nearer.’ ‘ Look at me.’ This shows that before Pip even knows her she
is in effect ordering him around. Pip also obeys all of her
instructions, this shows that Miss Havishams tactics work. Therefore
she is placing herself in authority for the rest of the time that Pip
knows her.

Another example of this manipulation and downward-looking is later on
in Pips life when he re-visits Miss Havisham. “Does she grow prettier
and prettier Pip?” This suggests that Miss Havisham is bringing up the
past and making Pip look somewhat babyish, by mocking his words.

The final principal female character is very closely linked with Miss
Havisham is Estella. One could say that this character is the most
domineering and manipulative and derogatory. An example of this can be
found in chapter eight. Estella is closely linked with Miss Havisham
and Miss Havisham has taught her ‘her ways.’ Estella was actually
instructed to ‘break pips heart.’ This inevitably happens. Therefore,
Estella is similar to Miss Havisham however it could be said that she
was much worse than her mentor.

“He calls the knaves, Jacks this boy!” This quotation is Estella
talking to Pip in a rather derogatory way. Firstly she is calling him
boy, a term indicating she was far superior when infact she is the
same age a Pip. The first part of this quotation indicates that
Estella is in a higher social class than Pip, because she refers to
the term less commonly, whereas Pip uses the common name. It would not
be usual for one to make fun of it. Estella suggests that Pip is
‘course and common.’

From the analysis of each of the principal female characters a main
character flaw can be established. The main character flaw in Miss
Havisham could possibly be her eccentricity or her bitterness. This
conclusion can be made from the way she is around Pip and the
resentful attitude she shows towards men. This attitude can also be
linked with Dickens use of caricature, this is a grotesque
representation by over emphasis on character traits. Arguably, Miss
Havishams main character trait is her fashion to hate men and inflict
this attitude upon other people. It could be said that Dickens made
use of caricature through Miss Havisham in Great Expectations.

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