The renowned poet, Richard Lovelace, once wrote that "stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage." Most people imagine a prison as a physical building or a jailhouse; however, it can also be a state of mind. A large number of people are imprisoned physically, mentally, and emotionally. Charles Dickens conveys this idea through many characters in his famous novel, Great Expectations; the most prominent being Miss Havisham, a bitter old woman whose life came to a standstill after she was abandoned by her lover on her wedding day. The novel is about a young, low-class boy named Pip, who becomes a gentleman, and through his journey realizes that no matter the course of events in his life, nothing could alter who he truly was inside. On the road to this insight, he meets many confined and imprisoned people; the first and most powerful of whom is Miss Havisham. Dickens explores the theme of imprisonment using Miss Havisham's home as a physical prison, her inability to let go of the past as a mental prison, and her hatred of men as an emotional prison.
After Miss Havisham is betrayed on her wedding day, she isolates herself from the outside world in her grand, unchanging manor, Satis House, with her adopted daughter, Estella. Estella acts as a bridge for Miss Havisham and the outside world. The house, in many ways, is comparable to an actual prison. When Pip initially arrives at Satis House, he is greeted by the young Estella, and notices the great front entrance had "two chains across it" (Dickens 51) as if preventing entry to and exit from the house. After entering the house through a side door, "the first thing [Pip] noticed was that the passages were all dark" (Dickens 51) and there was "no glimpse of daylight" (Dickens 52) throughout the rest of the house. The house is portrayed as a dark, unwelcoming place. Upon first meeting Miss Havisham, she confirms that - like a prisoner - she has not left her home in a very long time; claiming she " ‘has never seen the sun since [Pip] was born’ " (Dickens 53) and intends for it to stay that way. Using Estella as her connection to the outside world, Miss Havisham lives a life of seclusion and loneliness in her home and her prison: Satis House.
The Satis House acts as a physical prison but, coupled with the static appearance of Miss Havisham, also demonstrates her inability to let go of the past. She also demonstrates an unwillingness to move on and or escape from her mental prison. After her wedding day, she suspends herself and her house at "twenty minutes to nine"
(Dickens 166): the exact time at which she received the rejection note from her lover. Throughout the entire novel, Miss Havisham appears in a "faded and yellow" (Dickens 52) wedding dress that she first wore years ago, and the house is left in the same state as it was on her wedding day. In addition, when Miss Havisham places a jewel on Estella during their card game, Pip notices that "...Miss Havisham put down the...