Great Expectations

by: Charles Dickens

Joe Gargery

Joe Gargery functions as a symbol of the life Pip tries to reject, but ultimately comes to value. Joe is described as “mild, good-natured, sweet-tempered, easy-going,” and provides a loving and nurturing presence during Pip’s childhood. When Joe reveals to Pip his own difficult childhood, lack of education, and commitment to doing everything he can to make life better for Pip and Mrs. Joe, Pip initially “feel[s] conscious that I was looking up to Joe in my heart.” However, once Pip becomes obsessed with measuring up to Estella’s lofty standards, he becomes increasingly ashamed of Joe. He is embarrassed by Joe’s behavior when the older man accompanies him to Satis House, and then again when Joe comes to visit him in London. As Pip admits, “I wanted to make Joe less ignorant and common, that he might be worthier of my society.”

While Joe never gets angry or frustrated with Pip’s behavior, he is shrewd enough to observe the way he is being treated and responds with quiet dignity. Joe ends his London visit by explaining “You and me is not two figures to be known together in London … I’m wrong out of the forge, the kitchen, or off th’ meshes.” Unlike Pip, Joe has a strong sense of identity, and no desire to pretend to be anything he is not. Later, after nursing Pip during his illness, Joe leaves a simple note explaining, “Not wishful to intrude I have departed.” Joe’s choice to pay off Pip’s debt shows that he is faithful and loving, further inspiring Pip’s admiration. By the end of the novel, Joe’s consistency and dignity have been revealed as a model of what it means to be a good man. Unlike Pip, Joe also ends the novel in a loving marriage with children, showing that his gentle and nurturing ways have been rewarded.