In the passage describing Miss Havisham Dickens employs an innovative technique that anticipates modern cinematographical devices, including shifting views, zoom and focus, all in an attempt to capture what the human eye can behold.

The description of Miss Havisham and her room is composed of four distinct layers of perception, each progressively revealing more detail than the previous one. In this manner, Pip, when entering the room only sees the bare essentials: the largeness of the room, its gloominess, and the dressing table with its matching mirror. Next he sees Miss Havisham, and then her resplendent whiteness and all her jewels and dresses lying about. In this sweep he notices her missing shoe, and assumes she is in the process of putting them on. In the final sweep, the true image is revealed in full: the element of time and age becomes evident in the yellowness of the bridal garments and the state of decay in which everything lies--Miss Havisham herself is described as a “waxwork and skeleton," in a dress destined for the well-rounded figure of a young lady.

This cinematographic technique is realistic in the sense that it conveys accurately what the brain first interprets upon entering a strange new scene, and then re-interprets after receiving more information. This representation of vision therefore accommodates a temporal interpretation of what is viewed as opposed to a static one. Modern cinematographic techniques attempt to emulate this kind of temporal interpretation in much the same way, by progressing from an unfocused to a focused picture, then to the general view and finally zooming in on a scene of particulars.


Victorian Web Overview Charles Dickens Great Expectations

Last modified 1993