Great Expectations: Estella Quotes

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

In 'Great Expectations' by Charles Dickens, one of the best ways to get to know a character is by examining the things they say. In this lesson, we will take a look at some quotes from Estella.

Pip's Perspective

A lot of people complain about their childhoods. Estella from Great Expectations is no different. She is one of the most complex characters in the book. Since Pip is madly in love with her, and the story is told from Pip's perspective, our view of her is slightly skewed. In order to form a more logical opinion of Estella, we can look at the things she says throughout the story.

One of the very first things Estella says to Pip is ''You could drink without hurt all the strong beer that's brewed there now, boy.'' She says this when she sees Pip looking at the unused brewery. The important part of this sentence is the fact that Estella calls Pip ''boy.'' This is a blatant sign of disrespect or at least disregard. Pip doesn't need a name - he is simply ''boy.'' Pip takes note of this and observes ''Though she called me 'boy' so often, and with a carelessness that was far from complimentary, she was of about my own age.''

Estella Has no Heart

As Pip grows fonder of Estella, her contempt for him becomes clearer. Once Pip becomes a gentleman, Estella asks to see him. When Pip goes to visit her he reminds her of all the memories they had when he used to spend time with her as a child. She claims to not remember and eventually tells him, ''I have no heart,--if that has anything to do with my memory.'' In other words, it is impossible for Estella to remember any fond memories, because she is heartless.

Just in case this wasn't crystal clear for Pip already, Estella further explains by saying ''Oh! I have a heart to be stabbed in or shot in, I have no doubt, ... and of course if it ceased to beat I should cease to be. But you know what I mean. I have no softness there, no--sympathy--sentiment--nonsense.'' This leaves the reader and Pip with no doubt that Estella is either heartless or else wants Pip to believe she is heartless.

Estella's Pleasure

Another revealing quote from Estella comes when she visits Pip in London. While they are having tea together, when Estella talks about how upset her family is, she laughs. This supports her own belief that she is heartless. She also takes the time to explain to Pip why she laughs about her family's suffering. She tells him ''...I laugh because they fail. Oh, those people with Miss Havisham, and the tortures they undergo!'' She then tells Pip that she was ''brought up in that strange house from a mere baby.'' This is a pretty intense conversation. Estella is basically explaining why she finds such pleasure in the suffering of others, especially her family. She wants Pip to know just how much she suffered as a child.

Estella's Teacher

One day, Pip and Estella visit Miss Havisham together. While they are at her home, there is a tense moment between Estella and Miss Havisham. Estella tells Miss Havisham: ''I am what you have made me. Take all the praise, take all the blame; take all the success, take all the failure; in short, take me.'' Miss Havisham does not like this and calls Estella heartless and hard. Estella responds by asking ''Who taught me to be hard?' returned Estella. 'Who praised me when I learnt my lesson?''

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