Explore the Evolution of Pip and Joe's Relationship – How It Changes and Develops

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Explore the Evolution of Pip and Joe's Relationship – How it Changes and Develops

Joe is actually Pip's brother-in-law and the village blacksmith. Joe stays with his overbearing, abusive wife—known as Mrs. Joe—solely out of love for Pip. Joe's quiet goodness makes him one of the few completely sympathetic characters in Great Expectations. Although he is uneducated and unrefined, he consistently acts for the benefit of those he loves and suffers in silence when Pip treats him coldly.

From the start of Great Expectations you can tell that the relationship between Pip and Joe is ample strong but what you can't tell from the opening chapters is how there relationship turns out to be a meaningful theme throughout the novel with low points and high points which help define the moods and stages at which Pip and Joe are.

The first noticeable change in Pips and Joes relationship is in chapter 7 when Pip learns of Joe's illiteracy and why. This happens as Pip hands over a slate to Joe which reads,


To Pips obvious surprise, Joe can seemingly only decipher "J" and "O" from whole letter, saying things like this,

"Why, here's a J, and an O equal to anythink! Here's a J and a O, Pip, and a J-O, Joe."

Joe has an extremely unusual love for reading, despite him not being able to read, he simply reads just to see "…a J-O, Joe." After Pip discovers this illiteracy he asks why and finds out that's its due to Joe's dad who unfortunately hit him when he was younger. The conversation in which these quotes are taken from bring Joe and Pips relationship to a much higher level, now they are much more like friends as Pip is starting to see Joe as an equal instead of someone to look up to, Pip has developed from Joe being his father figure to much more of a friend/equal now.

Strangely, despite having a poor up bringing, Joe refers to his dad as;

"But my father were that good in his hart that he couldn't abear to be without us."

Again this points out Joe's illiteracy due to his generally lack of correct grammar and wrong choice of word. Generally this sentence shows how Joe still loved his dad and felt that he was trying to do all he could for Joe and his mother and despite the beating that they both took due to when he was overtaken by drink. This also leads onto the ambiguous way in which Joe uses the word ‘hammered'. Firstly he says;

1st Use - "…he hammered away at my mother, most onmerciful [Unmerciful]."

2nd Use - "…only to be equalled by the wigour [Vigour] with which he didn't hammer at his anwil [Anvil]."

The first use of the word describes how his father hit his mother, most unmerciful and the second use describes how this force was not even equalled by the vigour he used at the anvil while in the forge. This is a very effective use of language which helps define how Pip and Joe's relationship is changing as Joe is starting to tell him a lot more about his past.

Almost directly after this conversation Joe speaks of Mrs. Joe as a "Fine figure of a woman." Which Pip, funnily, disagrees with. In this conversation Joe explains to Pip how he is only still with Mrs. Joe due to "…the poor little child…" which was Pip.

"…there's room for him [Pip] at the forge!"

Joe said this when he heard Mrs. Joe was raising Pip by hand as he felt Pip was a "…poor little child…" Again, after this there relationship is amplified – At this point Pip adores Joe for what he has done to help him and how Joe has endured a gruelling childhood but still has enough heart to live with Mrs. Joe for the sake of Pip.

Throughout the whole of chapter 7, the contrast between Pip's adult narrative and his language as a child is vast.

Adult Narrative - "Joe recited this couplet with such manifest pride and careful perspicuity that I asked him if he had made it himself." Childs Viewpoint – "Certainly, poor Joe!"
Adult Narrative – "I sagaciously observed, if it didn't signify to...
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