Same Mindset

If Dickens used Miss Havisham’s character to subvert the traditional female image in the Victorian Age, do Pakistani match-makers use the same ploy?

By Sophiya Qadeer | June 2020

May be Charles Dickens wanted to teach us something deeper than the usual, conventional discourse when narrating the troubles impeding women’s psycho-social independence during the Victorian age. Thinking about Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, I realized what if Dickens were trying to comment on the futility and overrated disposition of marriage as an institution? What if he was trying to comment on the emotional fragility of women which makes them their own foe? Despite Dickens’ inspiring sense of social depiction in the 19th century, certain aspects about his real life — that not many people know of — lend him a very Khaleel-u-Rehmanish convenience in treating his female characters. After all, for someone who dumped his wife after 22 years of marriage and abandoned some ten children, this assumption could not be just too far-fetched. Dickens’ infamous affair with the much younger Ellen Ternan, was the reason why his marriage was on the rocks for years before he finally divorced the poor old, sagging mother of his ten children, Catherine, in 1858.

Coming back to our wrinkled, dirt-draped Miss Havisham whose cob-webbed life lapidated her existence for years, I wonder why she could never move on? For all those who might have forgotten about her harrowing experience: as a young girl, Miss Havisham was all set to tie the knot with the love of her life. Being interested solely in her wealth and property, he unabashedly left her a farewell letter stating his unwillingness to proceed with the event, on the very day they were to get married. That day she declared herself in a state of eternal mourning, renouncing all forms of worldly pleasure. She spent all her years to come in that god-forsaken wedding gown and veil— punishing herself perhaps for not being able to realize the fault in her judgment about him or may be for so blindly trusting this man with her life so easily.

However, the question is as to why could she not move on? Did she not realize that had she been married to him, he would have diseased her life in so many unthinkable ways? She should have been thankful to the honesty he offered in that farewell letter of his, where he generously admitted harbouring insincere intentions towards her. He would have never been a good husband or father anyway, and so could Dickens not fashion a more mature, sensible woman out of Miss Havisham’s character? A character who could grasp the simplicity of the notion that watching her wedding day preparations crumble into nothingness was still better than wasting away her life facing the brunt of an unhappy marriage later.

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One thought on “Same Mindset

  • June 2, 2020 at 1:41 pm

    You have highlighted the social taboo of our society.These taboos like Wanni and others, are against the teachings of our religion. Such taboos can be curtailed if not finished through literature and women empowerment.