Murdstones in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations

Murdstones in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations

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Murdstones in Charles Dickens' Great Expectations


I think the Murdstones are the two main villains in the story.
Mr.Murdstone, step dad of David, he is evil, cruel and treats David
harshly. He hates David and wants him out of the way. Mrs Murdstone,
sister of Mr.Murstone also vicious and self-centred. Both of them
together ruin the early childhood of David and have control of the
Copperfield family. The sheer evilness of the Murdstones resulted in
the death of David's mother-Clara, although at one point he did love
Clara, but her pretty house and her income probably added to her
attractions in his eye. I think worst of all the Murdstones tormented
David both physically and psychologically.

Dickens is very clever in describing the appearance of the Murdstones,
it very much relates to their ruthlessness. He describes the eyes of
Mr.Murdstones as "…. with his ill-omened black eyes…." Already we are
given a warning of impending disaster from the looks of his eyes.

". Shallow black eye…an eye that has no depth in it to be looked into"
This just shows the wretched character he is. As much as I hate the
character, I noticed that Dickens have put a touch of gentleness to
the character of Mr.Murdstone. This is stated when David notices his
'handsomer' side.

"…In spite of my misgivings, a very handsome man." I think this
description is very cleverly done. It makes the character more real
and life like so we can relate to. It emphasizes "never judge the book
by its cover".

Miss.Murdstone, sister of Mr.Murstone, doesn't perform well either,
description wise.

". Gloomy-looking lady she was: dark, like her brother…" This shows
the similarities of the characters, not only connected by blood, but
also by appearance and by heart.

Jane Murdstone is stronger, colder, and more heartless than her
brother. Dickens makes her seem inhuman by comparing her to metallic
objects, especially locks, chains, and prisons. In a society where a
spinster is a dependent creature, she uses her power over her brother
to secure a home for herself.

"…Hard lack boxes…" "Hard brass nail."

". Hard steel purse…" ". Jail of a bag…."

". Heavy chain." ". Metallic lady."

All the above quotes describe the 'characters' of the things she carry
and how they resemble her. The word "hard" have come up several times
and so has anything that has got to do with it. This just shows how
much wickedness she posses only in her belongings.

I think the main feature in which Dickens expresses that really brings
out the villainous of the characters are the things they do. Ever
since entering the Copperfield household they have been controlling

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the family from simple dutiesaround the house to the education of
David. Miss Murdstones in particular chooses to do the duties around
the house, claiming to relieve the troubles of Clara. She says:

"…. Give me your keys, my dear, I'll attend to all this sort of
thing…" Only within a day, Miss Murstone already gains the authority
in managing the house.

"…From that time, Miss Murdstone kept the keys…"

Mr.Murdstone, the only male who is older then David, gained the most
authority around the house. One of the worst things he did was
educating David and how it resulted in the psychological suffering; he
did it with such strictness that it was unbearable.

". You must be far more careful to-day…."

He eventually beat David for answering wrongly,

". Pray don't beat me!" Beating was not illegal at the time of
Dickens, and Dickens wanted to express how cruel children were being
treated during this period and how little anyone can act, because of
the dominance of men.

". I heard my mother crying…" This sentence shows that even David's
mother could not act to protest; even when a 'monster' is beating
someone she loved dearly.

Linking to what the Murdstones did, they also said a lot of
disgraceful things that portrayed their characters, especially during
the beating of David and their attitudes towards house keeping.
Miss.Murdstone, in particular added a lot of unnecessary comments. At
the very first time she met David, she gave a very rude speech.

" Generally speaking….I don't like boys." Only in two words it made
David feel so disposed.

Miss. Murdstone was like an echo of Mr.Murdstone; Anything
Mr.Murdstone said that was significant, Miss Murdstone have to back it
up with an unnecessary comment. For example when Mr.Murdstone was
educating David he said:

" He knows his lesson, or he does not know it.."

Miss Murdstone cunningly replied, " He does not know it.." This whole
lesson and the reply by the Murdstones make David feel stupid and
disgraceful. David says "…the more stupid I get.." This perhaps itself
is torturing David psychologically, thinking everything is his fault.

Despite the constant comment from Miss Murdstone, it had to be said
that the things Mr. Murdstone says is the worst and do really scare
David, especially this sentence,

".. if I had an obstinate horse or dog to deal with, what do you think
I do?"

"…I beat him….and if it were to cost him all the blood.."

Here Mr.Murdstone is comparing David with an animal and it just sums
up the merciless soul that he has. The poor boy David describes his
feelings "..hear my heart beat fast and high."

Overall the characters Miss and Mr.Murdstone were successfully
portrayed as two iniquitous characters. This is mainly done by the
vocabulary and language Dickens use.

First of all, the story is written in first person narrative, which
helps us enter the mind of David and actually seeing his suffering.
For example when Clara was having a disagreement with Miss Murdstone
about consulting development around the house, and Miss Murdstone is
obviously winning, David naturally feels sorry for his mother. He says
in first person narrative

"..through the tears that stood in my eyes.." Using 1st person makes
the situation more meaningful and more real and we readers feel more
towards him. Dickens also shows his awareness of the symbolic value of
words in his descriptions. The 'fetters' and 'rivets' worn by Miss
Murdstone are effective symbols of the barren, unfeeling soul within.

However, I think one of the best techniques Dickens uses is naming the
characters. The Murdstones, who in my opinion are the main villains in
the story, and their names are extracted from the words 'murder' and
'stone' which are both evil and cold blooded words. Stone is an object
of sheer solidity and brutality.
I have found the names resembled greatly on their personalities.

Overall I think Dickens portrayed the Murdstones extremely well, not
only in personality but also in the physical appearance and created a
sense of evilness when they are around.

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