Joe Gargery

Joe Gargery

Joe is the village blacksmith, strong but gentle, kind and forgiving. Though Pip is his wife's (Mrs Joe) younger brother, he treats Pip like a son. He guides him through his childhood years, shielding him from Mrs Joe's spiteful attacks and providing employment to him when he becomes a young man. He is also Pip's truest friend throughout the book, sticking by him in times of trouble and never being critical of the way Pip behaves.

Although Joe has rough and ready manners and looks uncomfortable in formal clothing, he is a true gentleman. The reader realises how badly Pip is going wrong when he feels ashamed of his old friend when he comes to visit him in London. Joe is 'rewarded' at the end of the novel by a second marriage to Biddy who is one of the kindest people in the book.

How is Joe like this?EvidenceAnalysis
ProtectiveJoe offers to take Pip into his home rather than see him be an orphan. When Mrs Joe goes on one of her 'rampages' with Pip, Joe is there to help him out. At the end of the novel, when Pip is ill, Joe nurses him back to health and pays off the money he owes in debts."When I offered to your sister to keep company, and to be asked in church at such times as she was willing and ready to come to the forge, I said to her, 'And bring the poor little child. God bless the poor little child,' I said to your sister, 'there's room for him at the forge!'"Joe acts as a true father figure to Pip, keeping him from harm. His words here echo those of Jesus who said 'Suffer the little children to come unto me'. Joe is a true Christian man.
ForgivingDespite being cut off by Pip for quite some time, Joe looks after Pip when everyone else has left him. He also forgives Magwitch when he confesses to stealing the Gargery's meat pie."O dear old Pip, old chap," said Joe. "God knows as I forgive you, if I have anythink to forgive!"As soon as Pip asks for forgiveness it is given immediately. The mispronunciation of "anything" reminds us that Joe is not an educated gentleman but still a real gentleman at heart.
LoyalThough he is clearly uneasy about Mrs Joe's temper Joe never criticises her. When Orlick dares to argue with her Joe fights him and wins easily.If any man in that neighbourhood could stand up long against Joe, I never saw the man. Orlick...was very soon among the coal dust and in no hurry to come out of it.Joe defends his wife's honour. The humorous description of the almost non-existent fight highlights Joe's strength without making him a show-off. It also shows how loyal he is to his wife, to defend her even though she mistreats him.

Social and historical context

Dickens believed in the power and necessity of hard work and that a true gentleman was one who was honest, supportive, polite and self-disciplined. All this is demonstrated in Joe's character. Many of these ideas may have come from one of the most popular non-fiction books of the time: Samuel Smiles' book Self-Help was published just a year before Great Expectations.

Analysing the evidence

Not wishful to intrude I have departed fur you are well again dear Pip and will do better without...Jo. P.S. Ever the best of friends.Joe Gargery's note to Pip

How does Joe's note to Pip reveal his character?

How to analyse the quote:

'Not wishful to intrude I have departed fur you are well again dear Pip and will do better without...Jo. P.S. Ever the best of friends.'

  • 'wishful' – Joe means wishing
  • 'fur' – Joe means for
  • 'Ever the best of friends' – Joe's catchphrase from happier and friendlier times

How to use this in an essay:

The note which Joe leaves contains mistakes; he writes 'wishful' instead of 'wishing' and confuses 'for' and 'fur'. However, it shows Joe's true nature. He has stayed by Pip’s side long enough to nurse him back to health but does not want Pip to feel uncomfortable by overstaying his welcome. He signs off with the phrase he always used when Pip was a boy, 'Ever the best of friends'. This recalls happier and friendlier times. The note also demonstrates that Joe has learned how to read and write, showing his determination to improve himself.