Daughter of Air - Estella

Character:

Estella Magwitch

Book:

Great Expectations

     Estella is a young woman of beauty, grace, and rich prospect. Though an orphan herself – in fact, the daughter of the convict Abel Magwitch - she criticizes Pip for his coarse and base ways. This plants a seed of dissatisfaction in Pip, prompting him to shun his former life and family. For Pip is in love with Estella, despite her being cold and inaccessible – or, indeed, perhaps for this very reason. As Miss Havisham's protégé, she has been raised by the jilted spinster to toy with men's emotions and despise them. As a tool of Miss Havisham's cold-blooded vengeance, Estella is – despite herself - one of Dickens' more pathetic and deprived characters.

 

 Fundamentally unloved, Estella is incapable of loving or being loved. While she treats Pip with what seems to be higher regard than she does some others, refraining from breaking his heart like she does other men, this may be little more than an aspect of her strategy since in the end Pip's heart is well-nigh broken, or it may simply reflect Pip's wishful thinking since the book is recounted through his own eyes. As adults, Estella continues to rebuff him, and he continues to languish under fruitless delusions. She was never anything more than direct and honest with him regarding her feelings – or lack of them – which seems only to drive him to further extremes of torment and despair. She, meantime, marries a horrible man named Drummle, and he in turn abuses her physically.

 

 One may be forgiven for feeling in this that Estella has gotten what she deserves, but it must be remembered Estella was the product of Miss Havisham's cruel instruction. In the novel's original ending, after Drummle is killed by a horse he mistreats, Dickens had Estella and Pip meet up again years later, where Pip notes: “in her face and in her voice, and in her touch, she gave me the assurance, that suffering had been stronger than Miss Havisham's teaching, and had given her a heart to understand what my heart used to be.” 

 

 Great Expectations ended as it should have, with Pip finally set free from Estella's curse, representing as she did his desire for status, the ideal, the unattainable. Sadly, however, Dickens' novelist friend Edward Bulwer-Lytton – infamous as the writer who penned the book opener: “It was a dark and stormy night...” - convinced him to change the ending of Great Expectations. The rewrite was managed deftly enough by Dickens, but the union of Pip and Estella is in total contradiction to both the book's tone and underlying logic. This alternate ending mars the book's realization, but stands as testament to the strength of the human will to rewrite reality. In the end, Great Expectations was not a novel sorely lacking a conventional happy ending, it was a novel in which the conventional happy ending was shown to be sorely lacking.

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Shorthand : cutting - an air of superiority - an apt pupil - sharp-tongued - remote - shining - singular - unattainable - devious and vindictive - star-crossed - seeks out hidden weaknesses - cold as ice - hard as a diamond - professes friendship - toys, but is herself being toyed - too clever by half - incapable of love - unlovable - in the end, small and pitiable.