One of Dickens’ most prominent figures in Great Expectations is the character of
Estella. She plays a major role in the life of the main character, Pip. He is completely consumed with love and desire for her even though she has been influenced not to expose any feelings towards men (Dyson 235). Estella’s cold-hearted, proud, and blunt mannerisms are in contrast to the symbolism of her name that is likened to a star in the galaxy. Similar to that symbolism, however, she shines but is unattainable (Partlow 201). Throughout Estella’s life, she eventually learns how to deal with feelings in relationships (Dyson 239).
Estella was the adopted daughter of Miss Havisham. She was raised in a controlled environment where she was, in essence, brainwashed by Miss Havisham (Pickrel 160). Estella was a beautiful young girl, but she had a heart of ice. This indifference was due to Miss Havisham’s own vengeance and self-indulgent influence. Estella was to provide Miss Havisham the spectacle of males’ agony. Unfortunately, Pip was a target for Miss Havisham’s plans for Estella in continuing her hatred on men (Dyson 235). Miss Havisham had reared Estella with the avowed intention of avenging her own ill-feelings against men in general by breaking as many hearts as possible (Oliphant 440). Pip was fascinated with Estella’s beauty, but being of the higher stratum of society, she treated him disdainfully through her proud and cold demeanor. He desperately wanted Estella to love him as he loved her, but she was unable to love because of her warped upbringing (Partlow 201).Estella remained the focal point of Pip’s thoughts and intentions throughout the novel (Oliphant 440).
Estella was as beautiful and coldly distant as the star whose name she beared
(Oliphant 440). Estellas name is defined as a star, an unreachable object, and an illusory expectation upon which life’s happiness founders (Oliphant 554). Like the character
Estella, stars are beautiful to behold but are very far and cant be reached by the human hand. Stars are far and can’t be reached by the human hand. Likewise, in Great Expectations, Estella was presented as an impossible dream for Pip (Pickrel 440). Estella was the star for Pip’s bark, the inspirer of his desire to rise (Partlow 201). Pip was hopelessly smitten by Estella’s beauty, but he soon realized the cruel reality that he couldn’t have her. Pip was blinded by his love for her but terribly broken hearted knowing, like a very beautiful star, unattainable (Pickrel 160). Estella’s name symbolizes the distant and unreachable star that also signifies her character in the novel.
By the end of the novel, Estella changed as a result of her loveless marriage with Bentley Drummle. She endured some suffering that taught her valuable life lessons which led to the transformation of her heart and character. She didn’t marry Bentley out of love but rather to break Pip’s heart as Miss Havisham cruelly taught her (Dyson 239). Through this experience, she becomes warmer and more compassionate. Pip remarks on the stark reversal of the once hard Estella, “… what I had never seen before, was the once saddened softened light of the once proud eyes, what I had never felt before, was the friendly touch of the once insensible hand” (Brazilai 221). The great lesson that Estella learned was that goodness doesn’t come from high social rank; it comes from the feelings of the heart or inner nature (Partlow 202).
Estella’s cold nature and indifferent nature eventually transformed, despite the horrible education she received when she was young. Her effect on Pip’s life also affected his thoughts and decisions while growing up. Estella’s personality throughout the novel is symbolized to that of a star (Pickrel 165). Pips love couldnt reach her heart because she didnt know any other way than to reciprocate with cold feelings. However, through life experiences and suffering, the once hard Estella soon realized that she had goodness within her.