My Miss Havisham

I met Miss Havisham late at night when I was 14 and alone in the house. I lived with my father, and he, as he was wont to do, was out for the night. Perhaps he’d be home at 3am or Sunday afternoon. He never promised any particular time.

from Great Expectations

We lived far from everything, fields around most of the house, a lake in front of the house, a highway in the distance. An only child, I had to find my own way to forget that the neighbors might not actually be close enough to hear screaming.

I’d curl up on the sofa and watch television. We got 5 channels, but two of them required going outside into the dark to turn the antennae, so after a certain hour, we really only had 3 channels.

On one of the channels I met Miss Havisham and fell in love with Charles Dickens. Perhaps you know his 200th birthday was the other day?

I watched the movie Great Expectations, and afterwards couldn’t stop thinking about Miss Havisham and Estella. They seemed to confirm my 14 year old perspective on love, and while I felt I was supposed to feel bad that Estella was being raised impervious to love, I also suspected this was not all together a bad thing. I rather wished I was Estella.

She was not afraid of boys.

But I feared I had far more in common with Miss Havisham–unstable and most likely to be left at the altar. Years later on my wedding day, when I was 27, I walked to the church in my wedding dress, my father at my side, with the slight nagging notion that my soon-to-be husband was going to change his mind.

I didn’t tell anyone Miss Havisham was at my wedding, but she was, quietly sitting in the corner of my mind, rather disappointed I wouldn’t be joining her.

Still, back when I was 14, having watched the movie, I went and read the book. The book was even better, and so I fell for Mr. Dickens.

Yes, he was flawed–seriously so–and not everything he wrote was perfect by any means, but how perfect does a writer need to be?

What if I could write one character that could stay with someone all of her life?

Is there any character like that for you?

Happy Birthday, Charles Dickens. Glad you’re still with us. You know, in the way great story-tellers always are.

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8 responses to “My Miss Havisham

  1. I just happened upon your site here and really enjoyed your post. You’ve got me thinking now, and I really can’t think of a character that has stayed with me like that. Except maybe Dilly from ‘Dilly the Duck’ which was a book I loved when I was very small!

    • I’m glad you happened by. Thank you for reading.

      Maybe if the idea stays in your head a few days that character will come to mind–though there’s nothing wrong with Dilly! And I think the right character has to come along at the right time. If I’d been older or watching the film under other circumstances, I might’ve responded differently. Hard to say.

  2. Dickens literally changed the Society of his time by giving voices to the poor. Thereby he has changed our world – no mean achievement for a writer of popular fiction!
    Nice post

  3. I have many characters that have stayed with me (mostly from horror, yes, it’s been that kind of life), and mostly from King books. I would love to be that person, to write a book with a memorable character that would be with someone all her life. Good post.

    • Thank you, Karen. I’ve read little horror. I don’t have the stomach for it. But I do tend to like those gothic mad characters…it’s been that kind of life!

    • Oh, thank you, Pat. You are so supportive!

      And I’m ashamed to say I’ve never read Gone with the Wind. I saw the movie, of course, but since it beat The Wizard of Oz for best picture that year–1939–I’ve always had a tiny grudge against it. Silly me. But I completely see why people love it and Scarlet.

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