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Great Expectations

Charles Dickens

Important Quotations Explained

Quotes Important Quotations Explained

Quote 3

“I begin to think,” said Estella, in a musing way, after another moment of calm wonder, “that I almost understand how this comes about. If you had brought up your adopted daughter wholly in the dark confinement of these rooms, and had never let her know that there was such a thing as the daylight by which she has never once seen your face—if you had done that, and then, for a purpose, had wanted her to understand the daylight and know all about it, you would have been disappointed and angry? . . .”
“Or,” said Estella, “—which is a nearer case—if you had taught her, from the dawn of her intelligence, with your utmost energy and might, that there was such a thing as daylight, but that it was made to be her enemy and destroyer, and she must always turn against it, for it had blighted you and would else blight her—if you had done this, and then, for a purpose, had wanted her to take naturally to the daylight and she could not do it, you would have been disappointed and angry? . . .”
“So,” said Estella, “I must be taken as I have been made. The success is not mine, the failure is not mine, but the two together make me.”

Estella makes this speech to Miss Havisham in Chapter 38, when Miss Havisham has complained that Estella treats her coldly and without love. Astonished that her adopted mother would make such an accusation after deliberately raising her to avoid emotional attachment and treat those who love her with deliberate cruelty, Estella responds with this analytical exploration of Miss Havisham’s attitude. Using sunlight as a metaphor for love (an appropriate metaphor, given Miss Havisham’s refusal to go into the sun), Estella first says that it is as if Miss Havisham raised her without ever telling her about sunlight, then expected her to understand it without having been taught. She then thinks of a better metaphor and says that it is as if Miss Havisham did tell her about sunlight, but told her that sunlight was her hated enemy, then reacted with disappointment and anger when Estella did not naturally love the sunlight.

Estella concludes this metaphor by reminding Miss Havisham that she made her as she is, and that Miss Havisham is responsible for her creation. Estella says that both Miss Havisham’s “success” (Estella’s coldness and cruelty) and her “failure” (Estella’s inability to express her emotions and inability to love) make her who she is. This quote is extremely important to Estella’s development as a character, because it indicates her gradual arrival at self-knowledge, which will eventually enable her to overcome her past. The speech is also one of the best descriptions of Estella’s character to be found in the book.