Dickens’ Estella: A Game of Love and War

Character Review

Noshin Nisa


An amazing novel by Charles Dickens, Great Expectations, is a story about the dreams and ambitions and expectations of a young boy named Pip, how he reached to the highest level of expectations, how his expectations were shattered into pieces, how his dreams were born by the magical feeling of his first love for Estella and how he got into the game of revenge for a betrayed woman, Miss Havisham who was controlling several lives together.

The story is mainly all about Pip’s high expectations caused by his innocent ambition to be good enough for Estella, the girl he loved. And it is also about the cunning revenge game of Miss Havisham, who, in order to hurt the heart of a man (as a mirror of her own heartbreak by a man), used her adopted daughter Estella to play the game of love with Pip. It was a game of love and bitterness in which Estella also got emotionally involved since she was not supposed to put her heart in it. The story, the incidents of Pip’s life, his desires, his outrageous act of leaving his home and brother-in-law, followed by his shocking knowledge of the truth that Miss Havisham did not pay for his education, the consequent disappointments and the burst of the bubble of his dreams, most of all this pivoted around the character of Estella and Estella only.

And she didn’t resist anything because she wasn’t supposed to resist. She was supposed to obey and listen to only Miss Havisham, no matter what. In order to be ‘a domestic angel,’ she had to be aptly ‘applied’ by the mother in any way possible. However, what she should have resisted was her own self from the heinous crime of misleading Pip, which she didn’t. Despite holding herself as tightly as possible, she let herself go. From the very beginning of her life, she was only told, taught, advised and ordered. But never asked, “Dear, what do you think?” or “Dear, what do you feel?” She was never consoled, “Alright dear child, for this time, what you want will happen.” She was always invariably told, “No, don’t even dare to wish anything for you own peace of mind; you have to do be what is pre-decided for you, and nothing else, especially anything from your poor soft stupid heart!”- the heart that no one cared to know how deep could be.

So, she gave in. She never even tried to rise against any chain of ‘musts’ and ‘must nots’ that was always strangling her throat- it was just a matter of managing to breathe somehow. But as she met Pip, that’s when she let her heart flow in the waves of ‘forbidden, irrelevant’ dreams. She was just pretending to love Pip and make him fall in the love-trap enticing him with her dangerous beauty, obeying Miss Havisham.

At the other end of the spectrum, she also loved Pip ardently. In love with Pip, she briefly dreamt of flying with the white winter wind merging into the horizon right across the snow-covered voids, where a glowing airiness in league with the white snow and the bluish grey haze of the sky kept reflecting the transient fascinating time of her life. However, soon this enchanting phase ended. After all, how could she forget?! Her fate was in the hands of Miss Havisham. She soon crushed Pip’s soul and also her own in the process. Still, she never lost her rich sophisticated composure. For how long, you ask? Right at the day of her confrontation with Pip about the falsity of their love, she burst in front of the mother, to Miss Havisham’s shock. All the poisonous fruits of tears that she buried in her heart- she poured it all out, shouting like a child, losing the painfully heavy facade of elegance.

She confessed the screaming calls of free dreams and free love from the inside that nobody cared to hear. Miss Havisham, shocked by the revelation, accused her for being ungrateful, and kept boosting over the imposed comfort and luxury she gave her daughter in the name of grooming her and making her desirable for the ‘unfortunate fool boy,’ so that she could destroy his trust as a way to exact Miss Havisham’s bizarre revenge. Yes, Estella accepted that she was being terribly ungrateful. But, for the first time in her life, she held on to what she actually felt, dipping herself again and again into the venom of bitter burning tears, and she meant what she expressed. These revelations opened Miss Havisham’s blinded eyes and also filled her heart with such a repentance that kills.

In the meantime, out there somewhere Pip was gone from this story. And Estella got successfully trapped with another maniac like a nightmare, who, the most insignificant one in the story, left the plot soon enough. Then like Pip, it was Estella’s turn to be a cold statue, devoid of emotions and sensibilities, love or any tinge of dream. That was all she was ‘meant for’ after all her rich grooming: a beautiful enticing girl, a prima donna, a heart breaker rolling around the earth like a hard, grey piece of stone.

However, the story was never over, at least not yet. One day across a green wet valley in the late winter afternoon when the light drapes of clouds were fluttering all over the skies and the golden Sun was emanating sparkles of life, Pip occurred from the vagueness of a dream. Suddenly, the only dream Estella ever saw, emerged from the deepest layers of her mind – emerged again with dews of hope – dews that magically drenched the dried meadow of her mind.

What else, you wonder?! Well, let’s just say when love thrives, you live.

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