Miss Havisham is one of the most fascinating characters in literature. Devious, manipulative, perhaps
mad. A dreadful thing happened to her, but dreadful things do happen to people and for the most part they soldier on. Why was Miss Havisham so completely devastated that she chooses not to engage with the world, but to exist in a twilight state, in a moment frozen in time? This novel attempts to show how she came to be sitting in an ancient wedding dress, next to a mouldering wedding feast, loving no-one and no-one loving her.
Ronald Frame shows Catherine Havisham as the indulged only child of a successful brewer. Her mother died when Catherine was born and her father is busy with the business. Catherine is left a lot of the time to her own devices.
My father must have supposed that no other child could have had a happier time of it than I did. He showered me with gifts, which he didn't consider treats but things I had a perfect right to enjoy. But even amplitude and generosity pall. When I was by myself, I had a finite amount of imagination to help me play; when another child was brought along, I became possessive, only because I was afraid of having to reveal my embarrassment at owning so much.
Her father wants her to move up in the world and educates her as such. She is outwardly worldly, but because of her secluded childhood has very little understanding of other people's feelings and motives.
There are tragic hints of what is to come; as a young woman she acts in tableaus, staged scenes just as her wedding day becomes like a stage set. When she meets Compeyson I was hoping against hope that this time it would turn out differently! But of course it didn't.
The story is narrated by Miss Havisham at the end of her life. She is quite honest with herself, though perhaps not quite so honest to Pip or Estella. Jaggers the lawyer is the only one with whom she seems to be able to let down her guard. It is a tragic story, she wasn't a bad person but there was nobody in her whole life who she could trust (actually that's not quite true but she didn't recognise the worth of that person). Her pampered life and her lack of imagination didn't allow her to expect that her life would be anything other than gilded and glowing. When it didn't turn out that way she didn't have the resources to deal with it.