“In a literary work, a minor character, often known as a foil, possesses traits that emphasize, by contrast or comparison, the distinctive characteristics and qualities of the main character. For example, the ideas or behavior of the minor character might be used to highlight the weaknesses or strengths of the main character. Choose a novel or play in which a minor character serves as a foil to a main character. Then write an essay in which you analyze how the relation between the minor character and the major character illuminates the meaning of the work.”
Charles Dickens’ Great Expectations is a bildungsroman pertaining to the life of Pip. In this novel, Dickens establishes a foil as Miss Havisham; her cruel unkindness and coldness helps a reader to draw similarities between Miss Havisham and Estella. Pip’s seeming “unattainable dream” of Estella’s hand in marriage is a major conflict throughout the novel, and it drives the novel foreword time and time again.
Pip is crafted—hand-picked rather—for estella by the static character Miss Havisham. As Pip is ushered to meet Havisham and Estella he senses a coldness, a eerie foreboading sence of hoplessness, a lost cause, yet he remains poised, because he was “brought up by hand”. In his first encounter, Miss Havisham tells Pip to play, to which Pip is impugned. Pip plays cards with the young Estella, and he realizes her weirdness as well. Yet, Pip describes his first sight of Estella as her being, “…about my own age. She seemed much older than I, of course, being a girl, and beautiful and self-possessed; and she was scornful of me as if she had been one and twenty, and a queen”(56).
Moreover, Miss Havisham is also described as having an inherit beauty, but a more jaded expression. She was wearing a bridal gown, which looked to Pip as if it had outlived its use. Pip depicts it as one of the “weirdest things” he had ever seen. Even in the...