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The forge is symbolic of the strength of character in Joe Gargery. He is an honest man who wears his heart for all to see on his rolled up sleeve as he works and values industry as a virtue. Yet, despite his physical prowess, Joe acquiesces to his termagant of a wife, demonstrating his strength of character, for he will not allow her to abuse little Pip. In another instance, when Mrs. Joe takes "Tickler" to Pip, he intervenes and takes the blows; then, when Pip appears to gulp his bread and butter on Christmas Eve (instead he hides it in his pant leg), Joe is concerned that he will choke, so he tells Pip to cough up some of it. Hearing him, Mrs. Joe sharply asks, "What the matter now?" but Joe ignores her so that Pip will not be whipped or mistreated.
Possessing great integrity, Joe chastises Pip when he confesses to lying about his visit to Miss Havisham, instructing him that lying is a terrible thing. But, at the same time he rebuilds Pip's battered ego at having been called "common" by telling him he is "an uncommon scholar."
Throughout the narrative of Great Expectations, Joe is a permanent fixture much like the forge. As light emanates from the forge, Joe's loves emanates from his heart, even when Pip is rude to him during his visit to London. Charitably, he tells Pip that he will no longer visit him in London as he does not belong. But, whenever Pip comes to the forge, the fortress of Joe's love, he is received warmly. Like the light of forge, Joe is a spiritual light in the gloomy marshes.
The forge likewise represents the life of a blacksmith, which in most cultures means a common class or even lower class lifestyle. As readers reach Pip's London experiences, we see Pip come to despise returning to the forge, and even returning to see his old "e'er the best o' friends" Joe. As Pip begins to value a higher class, including education, objects and place in society, he realizes Joe has none of those. Joe is reduced to what his life ultimately is, confinement to the forge. The forge defines Joe as a long-term low class citizen. It is important to remember though, money isn't everything.
Joe's own humanity is somewhat lost in the forge as it is imprisoning. Mrs. Joe acts as his jailer limiting what he can do, while only having the skills he has limits his potential for success. Nonetheless, Joe's character is like a savior in the end as he caters to Pip in Pip's illness. That forge that kept him in poverty symbolizes the meek life Jesus Christ had to live to save humanity. The forge contributes to this archetype.
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