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How might the readers respond to Dickens' portrayal of women in "Great Expectations"?

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Introduction

How might the readers respond to Dickens' portrayal of women in "Great Expectations"? "Break their hearts, my pride and hope, break their hearts and have no mercy" (Miss Havisham, Chapter Twelve) When Miss Havisham tells Estella to 'break their hearts', this shows us the hurt she received through Compeyson. Miss Havisham refers to Estella as her 'pride and hope', as she feels the only way she can inflict pain on the male species is through her charge. We only get the most cursory explanation for these actions until we are half way through the novel. Readers already realise, however, that Dickens is unsympathetic as he uses the rotting wedding cake to act as a visible expression of Miss Havishams self-destructive way of life. Throughout the novel, Dickens presents the reader with two extremes of women: the obedient and the overpowering to give the reader an insight of how different women could be in the all-changing Victorian Era. I believe that Miss Havisham increasingly manipulates Pip and Estella because she wants to feel needed; she enjoys the fact that they rely on her so much. ...read more.

Middle

Mrs. Joe relishes in the compliments she receives from Uncle Pumblechook and Mr.Wopsle and uses them to her full advantage and says to Pip "You listen to this" a number of times throughout Chapter Four. Feminists may sympathise with her as she was given Pip and expected to look after him. They would see that the reason she treats Pip and Joe so badly as she feels they are the reason for her not meeting her 'Great Expectations'. Also, the reason why Pip allows Estella to treat him cruelly is due to the only 'love' he receives from Mrs. Joe being false. Some readers might come to believe that this is why Pip falls in love with Estella. "Out of my thoughts! You are part of my existence, part of myself." (Pip, Chapter Forty-four) Even though Estella has always been cruel to Pip, he truly believes that she is part of his 'existence' because from a very young age he was led to believe he was destined for her. Dickens uses dramatic language to concern the reader as to how Estella is 'driving' Pip to madness to the point where he seriously believes she has become a part of him. ...read more.

Conclusion

Nevertheless, Biddy is a useful character as she often acts as Pip's conscience; she hates the way he treats Joe and is the only person who tries to warn Pip of the heartache his ambition will bring him. When Biddy says "Are you quite sure, then, that you WILL come too see him often?" shows that she understands Pip more than he does himself when she doubts that he will return. As with Estella, Dickens is being ironic in giving Biddy her name. To bid is to offer, and to be biddable is to be obedient; Biddy is always there to offer Pip advice, and she is obedient in the fact that she ha accepted that she will never amount to anything more than a teacher. Throughout the novel, Dickens deliberately presents men and women in a different way. I believe that this is because he does not understand women; his approach to the female characters in the book is very psychological, he displays his confusion through their actions. Some might establish that the novel is semi-autobiographical as Pip suffers the same hurt through the women in his life that Dickens does. I come to believe that this is true, but all that aside, Dickens could just purely be seen as having a male point of view. Natalie Randall 10C ...read more.

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