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Parenthood and Friendship in Great Expectations Part 2

Updated on October 22, 2014

The second parent-child relationship that has a large impact on the story is the relationship between Miss Havisham and her adopted daughter, Estella. Miss Havisham is not only an incompetent and unloving mother, but she is also mentally unstable. Many years before, she had been engaged, but her fiancé had sent her a letter on the morning of their wedding to call it off. As a result, she became a broken-hearted, bitter, and vengeful woman. She closed all of the curtains in her house, stopped the clocks, and left everything the way that had been the moment that she received the letter (87). She even went so far as to order her wedding cake, which had already been displayed in the dining room, to be left where it was. At the time that the story takes place, it is nothing more than a rotting pile covered in cobwebs (113). This is the unhealthy environment that Miss Havisham chose to raise Estella in. Furthermore, she taught Estella to be heartless and cold. She introduced Pip to Estella with the intention of having Pip fall in love with the girl, so that she could break his heart (89). As all of these examples demonstrate, Miss Havisham was far from being a competent and loving mother to Estella.

The last parent-child relationships that should be examined are between Mr. and Mrs. Pocket and their children, including Herbert. Mr. Pocket is a kind and intelligent man; however, he is also a poor father. He has very little control over his household or his many offspring. During family meals, his method of dealing with his “domestic affliction” is to grab his hair in hands and attempt to lift himself out of his chair (215). Mrs. Pocket is absent-minded and often ignores her children all together. She has no domestic knowledge, and, to make matters worse, she is described as “perfectly helpless and useless” (212). Their combined incompetence as parents is confirmed when all of the children are brought into the dining room after dinner one night. “Mrs. Pocket looked at [them]... as if she rather thought that she had had the pleasure of inspecting them before, but didn’t quite know what to make of them” (216). When the nurse handed the baby to Mrs. Pocket, she immediately bumped its head on the table, and this event was followed by the baby nearly poking its eyes out with a pair of nutcrackers. At this time, the baby’s older sister, Jane, angered Mrs. Pocket by taking the nutcrackers away from the baby. Mr. Pocket then asked his wife:

‘How can you be so unreasonable? Jane only interfered for the protection of the baby.’

‘I will not allow anybody to interfere,’ said Mrs. Pocket. ‘I am surprised, Matthew, that you should expose me to the affront of interference.’

‘Good God!’ cried Mr. Pocket, in an outbreak of desolate desperation. ‘Are infants to be nutcrackered into their tombs, and is nobody to save them?’ (217)

This passage effectively exposes the absurdness of the situation. Mr. and Mrs. Pocket are the parents of at least seven children, yet they are both completely clueless when it comes to raising them. Mrs. Pocket doesn’t even know what to think of them, let alone being able to recognize when they are in danger. On the contrary, Mr. Pocket is aware of the situation, but he has no idea how to take responsibility for it or how to correct it.


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