Great Expectations

The Psychological Black Hole: Female Versions of Arrested Development in Dickens Novels College

“Time is what keeps everything from happening all at once.” This quote, often attributed to Einstein, is actually said by many physicists and writers – the oldest confirmed being Ray Cummings in a short story. However, Dickens’s novels have redefined the interpretation of this quote by allowing characters to (attempt to) manipulate and condense time and acknowledge it in atypical ways. While may characters in Dickens obsessively check their pocket watches, deliberately tracking time’s passing and feeling the urge to move forward, characters such as Miss Havisham, Mrs. Clennam, and Mrs. Skewton function as epitomic cruxes that shirk this desire to move with ever-passing time – these women strive to maintain a stasis, manipulating time into a metaphor for a disappointed future that’s wrought with rot and decay. This stasis only disintegrates once these women are removed from the domains they control. Time serves as a controlled function in Dickens that is not only arrested by the aforementioned characters, but becomes the arrested development of them entirely in their ruin.

In Great Expectations, Miss Havisham overtly attempts to freeze time in her dismal, deliberately unchanging house. This attempted temporal manipulation speaks...

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