An Analogy of the Characters: Estella in “Great Expectations” and the Monster in “Frankenstein”
Estella, a significant character in the Charles Dickens’ novel, “Great Expectations”, and the Monster, the protagonist of “Frankenstein”; both being creatures composed by other humans for the particular purpose of satisfying the needs of those people. In this essay we are going to examine the two unique creations, while it is possible for an individual to argue whether Victor Frankenstein’s actions are more bizarre in comparison to Miss Havisham's, it should also be taken into account that Frankenstein does not possess the justification of mental instability. Without a doubt, both creators consider their own before their creations, which has disabled Estella and the Monster to pursue their ordinary lives and resulted in an utmost tragedy as expected.
It does not take long for the reader to realize that Miss Havisham’s intention is to turn Estella into a young lady who can inflict pain upon men for the pain they have caused her. This becomes apparent when Miss Havisham instructs Estella to play cards with Pip at Satis House. At first, Estella hesitates, not wanting to play cards with a “common labouring boy,” but Miss Havisham takes her aside and says: “Well? You can break his heart” (Dickens 54). In an instant, it becomes clear that Estella is being groomed by Miss Havisham to break the hearts of men and every conversation between the two is directed towards this end. It may be said that Miss Havisham does not want to create a new life but create someone who acts as an instrument for taking the pride, vanity and hearts of men.
Without placing too much emphasis upon it, it is possible to argue that Victor Frankenstein is similar to Miss Havisham in the sense that both are transformative in their plans: Miss Havisham wants to transform an innocent girl into the twisted instrument through which Miss Havisham will create destruction on men, while Victor Frankenstein takes the waste of dead men, pieces them together, and tries to give life to those pieces. In many ways, his actions are more ambitious than Miss Havisham’s, but those actions also bear with them even more terrible costs.
Put simply, Victor Frankenstein appears motivated to become something more than a man; he wants to become a God. As Shelley writes: “What had been the study and desire of the wisest men since the creation of the world was now within my grasp....I was like the Arabian who had been buried with the dead, and found a passage to life, aided only by one glimmering, and seemingly ineffectual, light (Shelley 34). Shortly afterwards, Shelley writes about Frankenstein’s inner feelings as he moves towards his final objective: “A new species would bless me as its creator and source; many happy and excellent natures would owe their being to me. No father could claim the gratitude of his child so completely as I should deserve theirs” (36). He will create his monster so that it will kneel before him and treat him just as men treat their God.
In many ways, Frankenstein’s narcissism is even greater than Miss Havisham’s: she attends her early injury, bitter and outraged that anyone would dare to hurt her. However, she does not think that she can actually create a new species of human life; rather her objective is to transform an innocent little girl into something dark and evil so as to satisfy her own lust for vengeance. Frankenstein does not have any of the excuses Miss Havisham has: he has not suffered at the hands of anyone – his childhood was a happy one (Shelley 22) and he has been lavishly praised by his instructors (34). However, he somehow develops the terribly wrong idea that is to create a new race of being that will follow him obediently and with endless gratitude. Having never been wounded in the deep way like Miss Havisham, one can only conclude that Frankenstein is actually more wretched than her because his strangeness is the result of extreme arrogance and not the result of mental illness. For instance, while Victor does suffer through the death of his mother while still a teenager, her departure does not appear to scar him: “she died calmly, and her countenance expressed affection even in death....My mother was dead, but we had still duties which we ought to perform; we must continue our course with the rest, and learn to think ourselves fortunate, whilst one remains whom the spoiler has not seized” (27). Although it is not evident from reading the text, it is a possible to say that his mother’s death was the impulse that lead him to master death by giving life to a creature which should have remained dead.
As this paper has made clear, Estella and the monster in Frankenstein are beings created by other human beings to satisfy their needs. When Miss Havisham reminds Estella that she can “break his (Pip’s) heart” she is really saying that the focus of Miss Havisham’s training for Estella is from the time she was a child. In their second meeting, Estella acts just as she has been instructed to act, striking Pip violently when he actually suggests that she has not been as insulting to him this time as she was the first time they met (Dickens 74). While Pip tries desperately to suggest that he has not been hurt by this latest cruelty from Estella, the truth is another matter. Thus, when he tells her that he will never cry for her again as he did before, he sadly recalls that “it was as false a declaration as ever was made; for I was inwardly crying for her then, and I know what I know of the pain she cost me afterwards” (75). Estella, just as Miss Havisham might have hoped, is acting precisely as she has been trained to do.
Unfortunately for Victor Frankenstein, the monster does not act as it is supposed to act and it is really no wonder: their initial meeting is a horrified realization of Frankenstein at what he has done and so shaped by his understandable desire to get away from the hideous thing that he has created that it is unlikely any sort of useful instruction could ever have been possible (Shelley 38-39). On the other hand, Miss Havisham has crafted a relationship of sorts with Estella that binds the child to her, which can be considered as an odd and malicious relationship. Frankenstein immediately rejects the thing he has worked for so long and at such cost to create; he is the classic case of a father who cannot bear to be around his own son because his son has disappointed him in a deep way. Because of this, whereas Estella is an obedient follower of Miss Havisham’s rules for some time, the Monster turns on Frankenstein and on those he loves. Both Estella and the creature are made by others, but Victor Frankenstein wants to give up all responsibility for what he has created.
The monster is created as a monster; he is the product of a hideous practice whereby the wastes of dead men are stitched together. Estella, on the other hand, is progressively transformed into a monster. In the case of Estella, this results in her never being able to love or to feel for others as she should, because her whole life has been terrible, depending on Miss Havisham’s bitterness and hatred. Not surprisingly, only a short while before her death, Pip confronts Miss Havisham about what she has created and wants her to set things right: “You may dismiss me from your mind and conscience. But Estella is a different case, and if you can undo any scrap of what you have done amiss in keeping a part of her right nature away from her, it will be better to do that, than to bemoan the past through a hundred years” (Dickens 388). It is possible to make the conclusion that Miss Havisham has disabled Estella’s ability to love others.
As for the monster, his monstrosity does not make him evil forever, but it does make him isolated and inclined to make a sudden boom in hatred. Its pain comes from never knowing what it is to be loved by others, from never knowing what it feels like to be accepted by others and to have family or a home to call his own. For this, he rightly accuses Frankenstein: “Remember that I am thy creature; I ought to be thy Adam; but I am rather the fallen angel, whom thou drivest from joy for no misdeed. Everywhere I see bliss, from which I alone am irrevocably excluded. I was benevolent and good; misery made me a fiend. Make me happy, and I shall again be virtuous” (Shelley 77). As we know, the monster eventually asks Frankenstein to give him a wife so that he can be happy and content, which is rejected by Victor, and the monster’s revenge is to continue with his monstrous ways.
The stories of Estella and Frankenstein’s Monster are cautionary tales about how those with ill intentions can forget about the consequences of trying to shape other beings into a form pleasing not to the created but to the creator. Unsurprisingly, both of the stories end in a tragic way.
Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein: Or, the Modern Prometheus. New York: Oxford University Press, 1994.
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