Miss Havisham and Havisham: Two Entirely Different People Carol Anne Duffy’s poem is intertextual. The character Havisham was built, off of Charles Dickens “Great Expectations” and more specifically off of Miss Havisham. Both Miss Havisham and Havisham are described as decaying skeletons and because of their similar names it would make sense to think of them as the same person, but are they really? At my first glance it seemed as if both Dickens’ and Duffy’s Havisham were the same character and I will admit there are some similarities like their obsession, but even these so called similarities have differences at their core.
In reality they are very different characters that act differently and have different personalities. Even the way they are depicted, is very differently from one another, but when one looks at them together they do seem to help Dickens’ Miss Havisham be seen in a different life; a more human light. So even if the do seem similar, they are in fact very different. You can see these differences most strongly by looking at the Havisham’s personalities. Dickens’ Miss Havisham is strong, powerful and driven for revenge towards Compeyson, and every other man alive.
She even plans to and manipulates Estella so she may complete her revenge and hurt many men the way she has been hurt. Duffy’s Havisham on the other hand seems to be more fragile and weak and tells everyone she hates “him” but seems to be tottering on the edge of her conviction and on the edge of her desire for him. Both Miss Havisham and Havisham seem to have a strong obsession, both are obsessed with their former fiance and have lead there life surrounding themselves with that obsession. Dickens’ Miss Havisham obsession does tend to differ from Duffy’s Havisham.
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Dickens’ Havisham is obsessed with destroying and breaking any and all men she meets. Her obsession has even lead her to destroying Estella, the only one that she had at first sought to protect. My Dear! Believe this: when she first came to me, I meant to save her from misery like my own. At first I meant no more. " "Well, well! " said I. "I hope so. " "But as she grew, and promised to be very beautiful, I gradually did worse, and with my praises, and with my jewels, and with my teachings, and with this figure of myself always before her a warning to back and point my essons, I stole her heart away and put ice in its place (Dickens 365) At first, Miss Havisham wished to protect Estella from the harsh world, to protect her from any man who would hurt her as she herself was hurt, but obsession lead her down a darker path. We can see part of this darkness when she tries to make Pip like herself, to make him obsessed and live his life trapped by his love for Estella, just like she lived her life for preserving the time before she was left by Compeyson.
We can see her fueling his love for Estella several times throughout the novel, one of the most noticeable would be when she tells him to love Estella even if she hurts him. "Love her, love her, love her! How does she use you? ' Before I could answer ... she repeated, 'Love her, love her, lover her! If she favours you, love her. If she wounds you, love her. If she tears your heart to pieces - and as it gets older and stronger, it will tear deeper - love her, love her, love her! ” (Dickens 219).
Pip, like Estella is becoming a marionette for Miss Havisham’s obsession, for if she could not have a life of happiness, a life being married to the one she thought loved her, no one could. Her revenge towards the man she once loved turns her bitter and twisted, putting anyone in her path in danger. At this time she is like a broken toy, malfunctioning and working herself into a frenzy, her revenge that started off towards one man has become a revenge and hatred towards love, and anyone who may achieve it.
The Havisham from Duffy’s poem seems to have a more single minded obsession. She is obsessed with what has happened to her and the one who did this to her. Her obsession for the man who jilted her takes both and envious and murderous tone, for example she has “dark green pebbles for eyes” and “ropes on the back of my hands [she] could strangle with”(Duffy Lines 3-4). No her eyes have not turned into pebbles, but she is envious and jealous of her former lover, after all she is rotting from the inside out while he is living without even having regretted hurting her.
The “ropes” on the back of her hands could mean many things but it could be an indication of her age, or her veins swollen with age and sticking off of her corpse like body. The fact she could strangle with her own veins shows a sinister scene, who she wishes to strangle could be herself but is most likely the man who jilted her. The only real similarity between the Havishams would be there decayed appearance. After all both of Havisham descriptions are dark and tend to make them seem like the living dead of skeletons; for example Dickens’
Havisham is described as follows; I saw that 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. I saw that the dress had been put upon the rounded figure of a young woman, and that the figure upon which it now hung loose, had shrunk to skin and bone. ... Now, waxwork and skeleton seemed to have dark eyes that moved and looked at me (Dickens 52) Miss Havisham has decayed and withered away, she still wears her bridal dress, and it has yellowed and decayed along with her.
She has no substance, she is a person that has already died long ago, and only an empty crazed shell remains. Duffy’s Havisham has a similar description, “Spinster. I stink and remember. Whole days/ in bed cawing Nooooo at the wall; the dress/ yellowing, trembling if I open the wardrobe;/ the slewed mirror, full-length, her, myself, who did this/ to me? ”(Duffy Lines 5-9). Havisham has both the appearance of Miss Havisham and her name, she even is still wearing her own bridal dress, even after all the years it has been since she was jilted. She has also yellowed, decayed and her withered body trembles from the strain of life.
But Havisham spends days “cawing” at the wall, she has gone past the point of straight forwardly get revenge, her words are choppy, disconnected and she can’t seem to follow a though. She has fractured mentally and can only think of her pain from being betrayed. She, unlike Miss Havisham, has no grip on reality and cannot accomplish her revenge. Another one of the differences between the Havisham is that Dickens Miss Havisham is strong and steady in her desires, whereas Duffy’s Havisham is weak and wavers in her feelings. Miss Havisham is defined by her rejection on her wedding day.
She is determined to live in heartbreak while making it impossible for those around her to have healthy relationships. She stops all the clocks, she wears the same dress, she never eats in front of anyone and only every wears one shoe. She essentially stopped time for herself by not allowing anything to change after she learns about her lover’s betrayal and her determination has helped her to do this. “I'll tell you what real love is. It is blind devotion, unquestioning self humiliation, utter submission, trust and belief against yourself and against the whole world, giving up your whole heart and soul to the smiter--as I did” (Dickens 219).
Duffy’s Havisham on the other hand is constantly wavering, she can seem to make up her mind about her true feelings, and after all when you look at how broken she is it is not a big surprise. Even her fist line has a contradiction about her feelings, “Beloved sweetheart bastard. ... / Some nights better, the lost body over me,/ my fluent tongue in its mouth in its ear/ then down till I suddenly bite awake”(Duffy Lines 1, 10 -12). After seeing these lines we can be sure that Havisham has mixed feelings about her ex-fiance.
She obviously bounces between bitter hatred and self-loathing that she still desires them. Her ex is both something that she finds beloved and a sweetheart, but also feels betrayed by; after all she does call him a bastard. We can see she still desires his body when she speaks about “the lost body” on top of her. But you can see her bitterness remains by her dehumanization of him. When you first read “Great Expectations” Miss Havisham does not seem to be real. She seemed to me to be a creation from a child’s imagination.
She is a ghost, a skeleton and an engineer who takes pleasure in manipulating everyone from Estella to Pip. Though after having read Duffy’s Havisham, it seems as if Miss Havisham is more human. Duffy’s Havisham wants to have “a male corpse for a long slow honeymoon” (Duffy Line 15). She is quite twisted according to our standards and makes Dickens’ Miss Havisham seem tame and mild is they are shown together. Havisham is dark and has a slightly murderous intent; she is violent and is more dangerous, especially if we compare her to Miss Havisham. Havisham is but a tool to make Miss Havisham seem softer, and nicer.
A tool that makes it possible to have pity upon Miss Havsham and place the blame of her current state upon her insensitive ex-fiance Compeyson. So, in conclusion, the two Havishams that at first seem to be one and the same are in fact different. Dickens’ Havisham is strong and unwavering, determined and manipulative, while Duffy’s Havisham is weak and wavering, helpless yet dangerous. They both have very different personalities, and very different ways of looking at things. They are two completely different individuals that just happen to have a similar name and appearance.
They don’t act the same; they don’t have the same desires or motives so they can not be the same person. When they are placed side by side they just use each other to let the other be seen in a different light. Whether we see a crazed, dark evil or a pitiful, lonely soul depends on the Havisham you wish to view. Works Cited Dickens, Charles, and Margaret Cardwell. Great Expectations. Oxford: Oxford UP, 1998. Print. Duffy, Carol Ann. "Havisham. " Introduction to English Studies. North Bay: Nipissing University Coursepack, 2012. Black Board. C. McFarlane. Web. 02 Mar. 2012.
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