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Vanity and Virginity: Mrs. Wickham versus Miss Havisham

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Introduction

ENGLISH LITERATURE Prose Assignment Vanity and Virginity: Mrs. Wickham versus Miss Havisham If Lydia Wickham had known of the existence of 'Pride And Prejudice', she would have wanted to be the star. She is self-centered ('seldom listened to anyone for more than half a minute'), boisterous ('laughing and talking with more violence than ever') and foolish ('she has no money, no connections, nothing that can tempt him to...she is lost for ever'). Her elopement is, as she knows, unacceptable and unless she is extremely shortsighted she should be able to see that there is no hope for a respectable marriage at the end of it. Miss Havisham, when she was Lydia's age, had the world at her feet. She was young, beautiful, accomplished and rich (in Herbert Pocket's words,'Miss Havisham was now a heiress, and you may suppose was looked after as a great match'). She could have had any man she wanted but she chose the one who would break her heart ('he practiced on her affections in a systematic way, that he got great sums of money out of her'). And she knows this. Because of her mistake she is bitter and she has 'set out to wreak revenge on the whole of mankind'. Victorian England was nowhere near as cosmopolitan as it is now. The main religion now is Christianity; then it was the only acceptable one. ...read more.

Middle

Another theme in Great Expectations is the glorification of people with money; this is also a major issue in Pride and Prejudice. Miss Havisham has had her fair share of it ('Miss Havisham was a spoilt child') and is now pestered with fawning and jealous relations - Pip 'found Sarah Pocket: who appeared to have become constitutionally green and yellow' by reason of him. Dickens makes us laugh at these people, but they also awaken something in our own conscience. Pip himself has his head turned by the wish for money; he lives extravagantly and lazily and tries to be a 'gentleman'. What is a gentleman anyway? Pip says to Biddy 'I want to be a gentleman' meaning that he wants to make money. When he does he becomes a snob and forgets his old friends and the forge, making us think that they who are not blinded by worldly ideas were the true gentlepersons. Pip's betrayal of Joe can actually all be blamed on his connection with Satis house as the first time he leaves to go there he says 'I had never parted with him before', later he is ashamed of Joe and later still when Estella says 'what was fit company for you once would be very unfit company for you now' it rids him of 'any lingering intention' he had left of going to see Joe. ...read more.

Conclusion

This shows Austen's ironic sense of humor and her optimism; however I could be a pessimist and point out how they are profiting from someone else's suffering... which brings us nicely to my next point. Miss Havisham is seen through Pip's eyes, with awe - first fear, then respect. As a boy he is scared of money, and we can see this in the instance of the fight with the pale young gentleman, when Pip's social conscience tells him 'that village boys could not go stalking into the country, ravaging the houses of gentlefolk and pitching into the studious youth of England, without laying themselves open to some severe punishment.' She is very influential in his life especially as she leads him on to believe she has planned something for him, but of course none could be as influential as Estella. Pip is infatuated with Estella at first, but the first sign of this turning into love is when he pleads with her not to marry Drummle; does he know how badly she will be treated? 'I had heard of her leading a most unhappy life, and as being separated from her husband, who had used her with great cruelty, and who had become quite renowned as a compound of pride, avarice, brutality and meanness'. This does not go to say that all Victorian women were treated badly, or that all people with money were snobs. I think that the main thing we learn from this essay is the importance of balance. Balance between luxury and drudgery, between love and hate and between naiviety and mistrust. ...read more.

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