Great Expectations

by: Charles Dickens

Antagonist

Main ideas Antagonist

Miss Havisham is the antagonist of Great Expectations. She works to prevent Pip from achieving his goal of winning Estella’s love. Her role as an antagonist is complex because at first she seems to be supporting Pip in his goals: when he first meets Estella, Miss Havisham urges him to “love her, love her.” Pip assumes that Miss Havisham is his benefactor, and that she is grooming him to be a gentleman so that he will eventually marry Estella. However, it is later revealed that Miss Havisham had nothing to do with Pip’s fortune, and that she encouraged Estella to manipulate him and break his heart. Miss Havisham reveals her motivation for thwarting Pip’s ambitions when she tells him “if you knew all my story… you would have some compassion for me, and a better understanding of me.” Miss Havisham was cruelly mistreated by her brother and her fiancé, and has been seeking revenge against all men. Despite her role as antagonist, Pip shows forgiveness and empathy to Miss Havisham, explaining that “could I look upon her without compassion, seeing her punishment in the ruin she was.”