Charles Dickens’ Character in Havisham by Carol Ann Duffy
Miss Havisham one of the main characters of the novel “Great Expectations” written by Charles Dickens in 1860. Miss Havisham is a wealthy woman who was left at the altar by a man named Compeyson who defrauded her. Humiliated and heartbroken, she remained alone in her mansion, Satin House, never removing her wedding dress, leaving the wedding breakfast and wedding cake uneaten on the table, wearing only one shoe, and only letting very few people see her. Furthermore, she also had all her clocks stopped at twenty past nine as it was the exact time in which she received Compeyson’s letter leaving her. Duffy then took this main character of the novel and wrote the poem “Havisham”. Duffy named the poem “Havisham” instead of “Miss Havisham” to create some distance between the poem and the novel as well as to remove any reference to the characters gender as she may be jilted between male and female to show with a deeper meaning how she is not either and therefore has lost her role in life. The poem is made of four stanzas that do not rhyme which helps create a more defined and realistic voice.
Stanza one starts with “Beloved sweetheart bastard” which reveals in a clear way that the poem is going to focus on the confused hatred she feels with an oxymoron. The alliteration of the b’s, one with a positive connotation and one with a negative connotation, emphasize the irony. This line also makes it seem like she’s just spitting words out, which shows furthermore how she is expressing the hatred and anger she’s feeling and this bitter tone is continued throughout thi2 whole poem. For the duration of the whole stanza we see how she is paralyzed in time and in the rejection she went through, and therefore curses her former lover lengthening the hatred. By saying that she hasn’t wished, but prayed for his death it further explains the depth of her hatred and anger. She’s done so so hard that her eyes have become “dark green pebbles”. She exposes the darkness of the poem and in a way of herself. Green is portrayed as the color of envy while the imagery of the pebble shows how her soul is now cold, dead and hard. “ropes on the back of my hands I could strangle with.” this line shows how much she would want him dead, and personally strangle him with the “ropes” which are actually the veins on the back of her hand which also shows how her temper and anger continue to raise.
Stanza two starts off with a one-word sentence, “Spinster.” which is a word used to describe an unmarried woman who is typically over the usual age for marriage which shows how Miss Havisham is feeling isolated by a society which often defines women by their marital status and to emphasize this more, Duffy isolates the word. She then goes on to describe her new role in society which is to “stink and remember” giving us the impression that she has completely given up on herself and life. The “yellowing” dress is used for negative associations like decay and her emotional atrophy. “The slewed mirror” suggests that the mirror is not facing her which represents her inability to face reality as her reflection would be evidence of her aging as well as seeing the reality of things meaning that what she once knew has now become unfamiliar.
By starting the third stanza with a sentence from the previous one, it emphasizes the tension and anger of the poem as it gives it a sputtering feeling which is used to reinforce the persistence of her suffering. She uses the color “puce” as it gives negative associations of disease. “sounds not words” is used to accentuate her loathing as her hatred has left her quiet and speechless and incapable to speak her emotions. In the next two lines we notice a change of tone, and we get a hint of her more forgiving side, where she also shows how things have drastically change by contrasting what she said before as her tongue is now “fluent”. The use of the indefinite article “the” instead of the possessive pronouns “his” or “its” shows how she is trying to distance herself from him and denying him of his humanity making it easier for her to keep on hating him. She then brutally returns to the present, where by using the word “bite” she reminds us of how regardless of the passing of the years, her anger has remained as it was when she was first abandoned. It also may infer that she bites her tongue in her sleep expanding on her inability to pronounce what she is feeling to him and that she may be fantasizing about causing pain on her ex-lover.
Again in stanza four, Carol Anna Duffy links to the previous stanza with two opposing words “Love’s, Hate” to create an oxymoronic expression. This exposes how the two contrasting words are actually indistinguishably linked between each other and how there is something unique and controlling about this unambiguous and permanent type of hate which is triggered by this betrayal of love. The “white veil” is associated with the purity and innocence that she now hides behind, which she soon contrasts with “red balloon bursting” representing her heart and hatred that is destroying her which she cannot continue with. The alliteration of the “b” highlights how her dreams were violently and permanently crushed by the shock of her experience which is shown by the isolation of “Bang”. She continues throughout the stanza with another violent image as she is “stabbed at the wedding cake” which contrasts the usual positive associations to it. She does this again in the next line with disturbing feelings as she says “Give me a male corpse for a long slow honeymoon” where she, yet again, disrupts our usual joyful associations to the honeymoon and transforms it in a much darker image. The final line of the poem “Don’t think it’s only the heart that b-b-b-breaks.” Is more poignant, where the last word is broken up to imitate the sound of the speaker breaking down in agony at last and to highlight the extent of her emotional and mental collapse.
In conclusion, we see how hate is the only emotion she is able to feel and that although this may be a negative thing, it’s what prevents her from being entirely numb and therefore is preserving her loathing so she has a purpose in life. The tone throughout the poem is bitter and acidic, and shows how fast love can be exchanged with hate and vicious thoughts, which is supported by the brutal imagery she exchanges. It gives an insight into “Miss Havisham” mind giving clear thoughts on how it feels to get jilted.
The Identity of Miss Havisham in Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations
Charles Dickens was a writer whose style of characterization was unlike that of any other writer during his time. Dickens was gifted with being able to create characters who have unique traits, personalities, complexities and flaws. For example, in the novel Great Expectations, first published in 1861, Dickens is able to create a world in which the characters have complex personalities and character traits, most of them seeming to stem from psychological roots.
The character of Miss Havisham is one of the characters to whom Dickens is able to give a very complex and interesting personality. When Pip first meets Miss Havisham, She was dressed in rich materials…all of white. Her shoes were white. And she had a long white veil dependent from her hair, and she had bridal flowers in her hair, but her hair was white….She had not quite finished dressing, for she had one shoe on- the other was on the table near her hand- her veil was but half arranged…. (p.87).
In addition, all the clocks in the room had been stopped at the time of twenty minutes to nine. This is a very interesting way of life, and we find out later in the novel that Miss Havisham had been jilted on her wedding day, receiving the note from her fianc calling the wedding off at exactly twenty minutes to nine. Dickens way of writing about Miss Havisham is also very indicative of his extreme talent for characterization. His writing takes on a melancholy tone when he speaks of Miss Havisham. …everything…which ought to be white, had been white long ago, and had lost its lustre, and was faded and yellow…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. (p.87) This passage seems to exude the essence of Miss Havisham s existence- what once was new and beautiful has now become old, withered, and decaying, the remains of what used to be.
Miss Havisham uses the character of Estella as a personal pawn in her giant game of chess against men. Dickens is very good at being able to create Miss Havisham as a cruel and calculating individual whose main focus in life is making the lives of the people around her, especially men, miserable. Because she was abandoned on her wedding day, she feels that all men should have to pay for the pain and suffering she has endured throughout many years. This shows the extreme amount of talent that Dickens has because he was able to create a character with actions that seem inexplicable when first seen, but which can be explained by reading on in the book.
Another character to whom Dickens is able to give life and meaning is Joe Gargery, the unfortunate husband of Pip s sister. A very mild man in nature, Joe is constantly demeaned and belittled by his wife, who most likely forced him to marry her. When describing Joe, Dickens says Joe was a fair man, with curls of flaxen hair on each side of his smooth face, and with eyes of such a very undecided blue that they seemed to have somehow got mixed with their own whites. He was a mild, good-natured, sweet-tempered, easy-going, foolish, dear fellow- a sort of Hercules in strength, and also in weakness. (p.40) Dickens seems to change his tone when writing with each new character. While the tone with Miss Havisham is melancholy, Dickens describes Joe in a sweet and flattering manner which seems to suit his personality. Joe as a character is an extremely nice and gentle person who is always willing to help Pip or anyone else who else is in need of his help. Although he isn t extremely smart or knowledgeable, Joe is good at what he does and takes great pride in his work. He spends long hours each day at the forge perfecting each piece of iron, and finds great pleasure in his trade.
In spite of Joe s strengths, he also has some weaknesses. For example, he allows Mrs. Joe, his wife, to treat him as though he was her slave or child rather than her husband. As a direct consequence, he is very afraid to stand up for himself and will let people commit injustices towards him without so much as saying a word on his own behalf. However, when Joe goes to see Pip in the city after he has become a gentleman, Pip treats him very badly and rudely, as though Joe had never done anything for him throughout all those years they had lived together with the haunting presence of Mrs. Joe. As Joe is rising to leave, he comes forth with a great speech detailing his feelings at that moment. …life is made of ever so many partings welded together…and one man s a blacksmith, and one s a whitesmith, and one s a goldsmith, and one s a coppersmith. Diwisions among such must come, and must be met as they come…you and me is not two figures to be together in London; nor yet anywheres else but what is private, and beknown, and understood among friends…you won t find half so much fault in me if you think of me in my forge dress, with my hammer in hand, or even my pipe. You won t find half so much fault in me if, supposing as you should ever wish to see me, you come and put your head in at the forge window and see Joe the blacksmith, there, at the old anvil, in the old burnt apron, sticking to the old work. (p.246)
Dickens was able to allow Joe to speak his feelings without sounding too forthright and bold. Dickens also uses dialect in his language to create a more in depth character. Dickens style of writing provides a complete character. He uses the pasts of the characters to explain their actions, and uses in depth details to describe their appearances and background. This provides the reader with a stronger grasp on the overall meaning of the book and a greater insight into the lives of the characters.