Havisham Essay


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A poem in which the speaker’s personality is gradually revealed is “Havisham” by Carol Ann Duffy. The poem is delivered in the persona of Miss Havisham, a character from Charles Dickens’ novel, “Great Expectations”. In the poem, Miss Havisham was cruelly stood-up on her wedding day by her fraudster fiancé, and as a result she stopped all the clocks, stayed in her wedding dress and left the wedding banquet out for decades. Miss Havisham’s bitter and violent personality is revealed by Duffy’s use of word choice, oxymoron, inversion and structure. The poem is started by an oxymoron which conveys Miss Havisham’s feelings towards her ex-fiancé. “Beloved Sweetheart Bastard”. The words “Beloved” and “Sweetheart” have connotations of precious and loved so one would assume that Miss Havisham loves this person as you would use these words with someone you love. However, these words are in contrast with the harsh swear word “bastard”.

“Bastard” has connotations of an awful, repulsive man towards whom she only feels hatred. This shows that one aspect of Miss Havisham’s personality is that she is bitter due to her heart being broken by this man. Miss Havisham’s goes on to talk about the man that left her and says that “Not a day since then/ I haven’t wished him dead.” The writer’s use of inversion emphasises that Miss Havisham thought about her ex-fiancé every single day for decades, since the day he left her on their wedding day. From this, Miss Havisham’s harsh personality is revealed. Although she feels bitterness and hatred towards her ex-lover, she still cares about him so much that she is unable to forget about him. Also, another aspect of Miss Havisham’s personality that is revealed is that she is a jealous woman. Miss Havisham is portrayed as being envious as she has “Dark green pebbles for eyes”. Green is the colour of jealousy while dark is creating a dark and sinister atmosphere. Her eyes are also compared to “pebbles” which are stones. This shows another aspect of Miss Havisham’s personality as “pebbles” suggests that she is a cold, emotionless woman. Furthermore, in the second stanza another aspect of Miss Havisham’s personality is revealed – Loneliness. begins with the one word sentence “Spinster”. Spinster means an unmarried woman.

The short sentence structure makes it sound as if Miss Havisham has spat the word out, rejecting the title, and it also emphasises Miss Havisham’s loneliness. The next aspect of Miss Havisham’s personality is revealed further on in the stanza. “Whole days/in bed cawing Noooo at the wall;”. This shows that Miss Havisham has been made depressed by what should have been the best day of her life. One of the signs of depression is the unwillingness to get out of bed in the morning, which is shown here. This also emphasises how alone she is as she has no-one to cry to so instead she is crying to the wall. In the last stanza, the violent aspect of Miss Havisham’s personality is revealed. She “stabbed at a wedding cake” which conveys her hatred towards that dreaded day. “Stabbing” has connotations of killing with intense pain which shows that this is the revenge she thinks her ex-fiancé deserves. Miss Havisham’s violence continues as she says “give me a male corpse”. This shows that Miss Havisham shows that she thinks the whole male population should suffer for what has happened to her. A “corpse” is a dead body which suggests that Miss Havisham would go to the extent of killing someone due to her bitterness. Furthermore, Miss Havisham’s violent personality is also revealed by the balloon bursting. “A red balloon bursting/ in my face”.

The balloon bursting symbolises Miss Havisham’s temper bursting. “Bang” – Miss Havisham is talking about the balloon. The bang symbolises what she would like to do to her ex-fiancé. Throughout the poem, the majority of it has been describing Miss Havisham’s bitter, harsh and violent personality. As a result, the reader assumes that Miss Havisham is a cold, emotionless woman therefore they may not feel sorry for her. However, the last line of the poem, “Don’t think it’s only the heart that b-b-b-breaks”, shows that in fact Miss Havisham does have feelings and her personality is not as bitter as the reader would assume. She is talking directly to the reader, trying to explain the pain that they are not able to understand. “b-b-b-breaks” shows the extent of her pain as she is so upset that she can’t give reasoning for her pain without being reduced to tears.

The b’s being repeated emphasise Miss Havisham breaking down. In conclusion, “Havisham” by Caroline Ann Duffy is a poem in which the personality of the speaker, Miss Havisham, is gradually shown. Miss Havisham has a violent, cold and bitter personality, which is shown through Duffy’s use of word choice, oxymoron, inversion and structure. 809 words.

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