Being jilted or scorned unleashes a compilation of feelings known as chagrin. This feeling is defined as “disquietude of mind caused by humiliation, disappointment or failure.” Jilting alters the female mind and changes a person in ways one can only imagine. We see this alteration of the mind vividly in two of the best-selling novels of all time. The first, Great Expectations, a classic from Charles Dickens, written in the late 1800’s. The second, a thrilling novel by Stephen King, Misery, written in the late 1900’s. Both novels are written by male authors and rely heavily on the female psyche as their main typographical focus. Many critiques have wondered why both males present scorned women in contrasting ways, which arguably could be down to one of two reasons. Was Dicken’s ahead of his time when he was writing? And further questioning stems to the era in which dickens lived, was his portrayal simply based on a woman he had an encounter with, that he used as his muse due to the lack of scientific proof behind psychosis? Furthermore, King wrote in a time of evolving mental health awareness and growing scientific and psychological proof of the mind’s inner workings, debatably, this alludes to the idea that King’s writing and artistic vision was based on evidence rather than opinion or experience. Moving further into the novels and their content, Miss Havisham, one of the many antagonists in Great Expectations, is jilted before the novel begins, similarly to Annie Wilkes in Misery. Miss Havisham is said to be in her mid-fifties, as stated by dickens notes, however, her lifetime spent in the dark has aged her at a much faster rate. Another clear example of Dickens writing being ahead of his time. Annie Wilkes, the modern era Miss Havisham, has shared experiences that almost mirror those of the former. She was married for a short time to a fellow named, Ralph Dugan, who divorced her for claims of mental cruelty, which is believable given the nature of her character. The one major contrast between these two strong female characters is the nature of their jilting. Miss Havisham doesn’t do anything to warrant being jilted, however, Wilkes has a history of abuse which would lead one to suggest that she perhaps deserved her comeuppance. Although the fate of their relationships differed, their behaviour was a further difference between the two.
Female behaviour has always been a staple in male writing. Throughout literature women have often been portrayed in negative ways. In modern literature females tend to be shown as ‘psycho’ or ‘controlling’, especially in relation to a male’s behaviour. Arguably, male writers enjoy using their power to portray women is because the female mind and behaviour is always going to be a broadly discussed topic within society. The female voice and female behaviour are a key aspect of many feminist movements that argue women need to have their voices heard, and that women don’t have to behave a certain way to appease the male view of them. By writing about such topics, male authors are sure to have a best seller, or at least a widely controversial novel that is bound to be discussed. This is the case with Dickens, Great Expectations. This book is over a hundred years old and is still spoken about and studied to this day. It’s even recently been made into a short series. This highlights the significance this piece of literature has had on past and present societies and the continued effect Dickens’ interpretation of women has had throughout the years, there has even been a phrase coined by scientist called the “Miss Havisham effect”, used to describe those suffering a longing for lost love. Miss Havisham’s behaviour throughout the novel is the readers only interpretation to her experiences and her life. Her behaviour towards the males in this novel is the biggest example of her past betrayal and hurt. As she is practically the manifestation of heart break and despair, this reflects onto the men she interacts with, whether this be a direct or indirect action. She has an impact on these men through her adoptive daughter Estella, and almost passes these traits on to her. She tries to ‘protect’ Estella from the same hurt she experienced, so it could be argued that her behaviour is in the attempt to save someone else. However, Miss Havisham’s’ actions are an act of revenge on all males based on an experience with one singular male. This differs with Annie Wilkes actions as her revenge is on one man, based around that male. Annie Wilkes works out all of Paul Sheldon’s worst fears through out his stay at her home, and she uses these against him. She becomes the direct manifestation of all his fears. A crazed fan trying to get to him and his work. Annie’s obsession with Paul begins before she meets him. She’s a long-time fan of his work, and almost consumes herself with his Misery Chastain series of books. When she gets him to her house after his crash, she learns he is extremely vulnerable, dazed and clearly scared. She builds up his dependence on pain relief, only to use it in her torture games to make him break at her mercy. She behaves erratically, which eventually is discovered in the novel that it may not be the first time she’s been involved in incidents like this. She gets her revenge on Paul, in a way to avenge Misery Chastain, the main character of his novels, as he killed the character off, much to Annie’s disappointment. Similarly, to Miss Havisham’s actions, Annie does this in the name of someone else, only this time it’s a fictional character. This factor almost enhances Kings portrayal of the psychotic woman. She’s not only obsessed with the author, Paul Sheldon, she’s obsessed with the characters he creates, and continuously uses phrases “How could you? She can’t be dead… Misery Chastain cannot be dead!”, almost humanising her and making her seem real in her own mind. Not only that, Annie seems to have a problem grasping Misery’s death, which is also ironic as Paul learns that she was once a nurse, dismissed for murdering infants in her care. It also appears that Annie’s actions towards Paul are in honour of her love to Misery, and to protest her death.
It’s clear to see in Kings writing, that his portrayal of Annie’s mind is far from normal. The way he examines the lay out of her house when Paul breaks out of his prison cell of a room in chapter 16 of the novel. It is depicted to have numerous locked doors and windows, much like a prison. This could be a physical representation of Annie as a person. While she is incredibly over bearing towards Paul, she is also incredibly reserved about her own life outside of reading and fantasising over Pauls characters. She keeps her files locked away with all the different types of medication, which can be inferred as stolen from the hospital she used to work at. She also keeps thin pieces of thread around the files and books, so she can tell if anyone’s looked through them or touched them, more specifically, to see if Paul had seen them. Which he eventually does. Paul and the reader also come to learn that she in fact used hairs from her own head in place of thread, King uses this small detail to highlight the lengths Annie is willing to go to, to make sure she knows exactly what Paul is doing in her house and if he’s gone through her personal property, not only to mention the implication that she is also incredibly high maintenance, which is also a crucial part of her personality and how her mind works. This event leads to one of the most infamous scenes from the book, where Annie cuts off the lower part of Paul’s leg and cauterizes it with a blow torch. To which her only response after the incident is, “now you’re hobbled … it’s your own fault”. King used Paul as his own voice throughout this novel, to reference Annie’s mental state numerous times, yet he also directly referenced her disposition, “she was crazy, but he needed her” to survive, she kept Paul dependent on Novril, painkilling drugs and without them, the pain of his injuries would most likely kill him.
Annie also had a lot of strong beliefs about what Paul should or shouldn’t be writing, which is said to be a vivid insight into the psychology of her. She is a controlling person who justifies her actions on her beliefs and what she has been brought up to know as right and wrong. This internalised moral system is the whole basis for her treatment of Paul and her actions towards everyone she encounters in the novel. It is a clear example of how the cycle of abuse has affected her mental health and psychological processes. Annie forces her religious views about profanity onto Paul and criticizes his writing for the excessive use of it. Paul goes on to explain how the subject of his writing is “a slum kid, trying to get out of a bad environment”, however, Annie refused to listen to Pauls justification and continued to berate his writing. Kings portrayal of a hurt woman is incredibly fascinating as his writing shows how her past has affected her, yet compared to Dickens, its vastly different as Dickens writes about a woman who is stuck in the past, rather than someone who is learning from the past.
Similar to Kings portrayal of Annie’s house, Havisham’s room was incredibly restricting to herself. Pip, after examining the room, realises that “in shutting out the light of day, she had secluded herself from a thousand natural and healing influences”. Pip, our narrator, realises how mentally unstable Miss Havisham truly is. Her room and her house are true reflections of how damaged and scorned she really is. From her failed marriage and a lifetime of isolation, its understandable that she would become such a recluse with a hope of stopping time. It is clear throughout the novel that Havisham’s past experiences have had such an impact on her mind and her behaviour, it has changed the way she vies the world. These experiences have simultaneously caused her to love in the past, and plan and envisage her death. Havisham believes that real love is “blind devotion, un-questioning self-humiliation, utter submission”, which highlight to the reader the sheer negativity of her experiences with love in the past. This is the result of Miss Havisham being jilted. In fact, it would be fair to say that Miss Havisham is “twice as deadly” as her actions are not directly harmful to the male species, she manipulates Estella and uses her as a vice for her own anger and pain towards men.
Both Wilkes and Havisham have experienced jilting and heartbreak through the hands of a man, however, Annie is arguably the deadlier of the two. Havisham’s heartbreak is channelled in isolation, with very little implication on others, with the exception of Estella and Pip. Annie’s experiences cause her to impact others directly, such as Paul, the numerous people she killed before she met Paul, and the Colorado state trooper she kills. Not only that, her mental state is a large contributing factor to why she hurts Paul as much as she does. She allows her experiences to manipulate her mind and her behaviour, and to an extent, Havisham does this also, yet it could be argued that Havisham has a certain amount of control over how her mental disposition affects her.