Women are powerful. Though society has not always recognized and respected women as they deserve, members of the female gender have strongly influenced the world ever since the beginning of time when Eve ate of the forbidden fruit. Today, women continue to increasingly achieve power and status. Likewise, in Charles Dickens’s Great Expectations, women play an important role in influencing the protagonist, Pip, although both positively and negatively. Through their words and actions, women cause Pip to make significant lifestyle changes, either beneficial or adverse. He is continuously pushed to pursue different personae by Mrs. Joe, Miss Havisham, Estella, and Biddy, and he learns important lessons from each of them.
In the first few chapters, Pip is immediately introduced as having no living parents and, consequently, being the quasi-adopted orphan child of his sister and her husband, Joe Gargery. Pip’s sister, commonly referred to as “Mrs. Joe”, is said to have raised Pip “by hand”, which really means that she abused him. When there are guests in the house, he is mocked or chastised by his sister for the guests’ amusement. An exhausted, irritable woman, Mrs. Joe frequently employs a wooden stick known as “Tickler” to punish Pip, such as in this passage: “My sister, Mrs. Joe, throwing the door wide open, and finding an obstruction behind it, immediately divined the cause, and applied Tickler to its further investigation” (Dickens 7).
Mrs. Joe is cruel and selfish, and Pip fears her abusive anger. She fails at being the mother figure she ought to be, and this harsh upbringing makes Pip a shameful, fearful boy. He is quiet around others, and seeks approval and appreciation from the only friend he has, Joe. Furthermore, Mrs. Joe’s quest for social status plagues Pip as he grows older. Though he does not necessarily get the idea from her, he later shares her selfish ambition to escape the lower class at all costs, for as a child he was never taught otherwise. This attitude, as well as much of Pip’s corruption as an adult, can be attributed to the lack of a proper, nurtured childhood while under Mrs. Joe’s care.
The next woman to abuse Pip is Miss Havisham, the eccentric and wealthy recluse. Pip relates what little he knows of her in this: “I had heard of Miss Havisham up town…as an immensely rich and grim lady who lived in a large and dismal house barricaded against robbers, and who led a life of seclusion” (Dickens 50). In truth, Miss Havisham is as much of a victim as Pip; her actions are, she believes, a justified quest for revenge. Having been deserted at the altar, she makes it her life’s objective to victimize select members of the male sex, seeking revenge on all men. Pip is ‘lucky’ enough to be one of her select. She invites the boy Pip to her house to play and instantly the mental games begin. Throughout their years in acquaintance, Miss Havisham taunts Pip with her beautiful adopted daughter Estella by encouraging him to love her:...