Great Expectations

by: Charles Dickens

Chapters 11–13

Although Pip increasingly believes that Miss Havisham intends to make him a gentleman (at least until his disappointment in Chapter 13), Dickens creates dramatic irony by giving the reader a sense that the old woman has no such intention in mind. Rather, Dickens indicates that Miss Havisham is not really interested in Pip at all but only in somehow using Estella as a weapon against men. As the novel progresses, the source of her strange hostility will become clear, but in this section of the novel the reader is already able to make a fairly good guess: jilted on her wedding day (hence the dress and the feast), the old woman has raised Estella as a tool of revenge on men, training her to break men’s hearts as her own heart was broken years ago. Throughout this section, unbeknownst to him, Pip is her test case, an experiment to measure the young girl’s prowess at winning the love of men. Toward this purpose, Miss Havisham is delighted by the speed with which Pip falls in love with Estella.

Pip’s realization that the extent of Miss Havisham’s assistance will be her help on his apprenticeship papers—that he will be bound to Joe’s forge and to his social class after all—is devastating to him; it is the first of a series of disappointments that seem to be the inevitable result of Pip’s great expectations.