How is the Forge depicted and what does it reaveal about Joe?Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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The Forge, the blacksmith shop in which Joe works, is depicted as a manly, warm, and open-hearted place from which much light and love is emitted.  It is indeed where Joe belongs with his leather apron on him and his sleeves rolled up.  Adjoining the house, the forge is Joe's particular realm; for the child Pip it feels more like home than the house.

When Joe comes to visit Pip in London wearing his suit with hat, Joe is extremely awkward, not knowing where to put his hat that continually falls from the mantle shelf.  As he takes his leave of the new gentleman Pip, Joe apologizes and tells Pip that he will not come again to London. 

"Pip, dear old chap, life is made of ever so many partings welded together, as I may say, and one man's a blackmith, and one's a whitesmith, and one's a goldsmith, and one's a coppersmith.  Diwision among such must come, and must be met as they come.  If there's been any fault at all today, it's mine.  You and me is not two figures to be together in London...It ain't that I am proud, but that I want to be right, ...I'm wrong in these clothes.  I'm wrong out of the forge, the kitchen, or off th' meshes.  You won't find half so much fault in me if you think of me in my forge dress, with my hammer in my hand, or even my pipe...."

Throughout Great Expectations, Joe is a steady and permanent fixture much like the forge. When Pip returns for his sister's funeral, he comments, 

after the funeral Joe changed his clothes so far, as to make a compromise between his Sunday dress and working dress: in which the dear fellow looked natural, and like the Man he was.

The light of love emanates from Joe's heart just as light shines from the forge.  Whenever Pip does come to the forge, he is welcomed back into Joe's heart each time. Like the light of the forge, Joe is a beacon in Pip's life, offering him the saving help he needs after his boyish sins as well as after his burning from saving Miss Havisham.  There is a permanence to the forge and to Joe, the blacksmith.

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