How do the characters of Jaggers, Joe, Wemmick, and Magwitch further the lessons learned in Great Expectations?Great Expectations by Charles Dickens

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Throughout the narrative of Great Expectations, the orphaned Pip searches for a father.  While the characters of Joe Gargery, Magwitch, John Wemmick, and Mr. Jaggers all contribute traits of fatherhood, not one of them can completely fulfill the role for Pip. 

Joe, his brother-in-law, is sympathetic and loving to Pip, but he is more the big brother than father.  For, in his efforts to protect Pip from the wrath of Mrs. Joe, Joe fails to control her rage as a husband should be able. That Joe fails as an adult is connoted in this passage,

...nothing he wore then fitted him or seemed to belong to him, and everything tht he wore then, grazed him.

When Joe visits Miss Havisham's to obtain the papers of indenture for Pip, he is awkward and embarrasses Pip by talking to Pip when Miss Havisham asks him a question. Likewise, when he goes to London, Joe is clumsy and unworldly.  He resolves to stay at the forge and asks Pip to visit him there where he is "right," and where they can have "What larks!"

While Joe does care for Pip as a father after Pip has been badly burned, Joe replies to Pip's apologies,

"Which dear old Pip, old and me was ever friends.  And when you're well enough to go out for a ride--what larks!"

Still, Joe teaches Pip the importance of home and love and friendship, values that know no social class.

Magwitch connects to Pip in the relationship of guilt.  After Pip steals the "wittles" for him, when poor Magwitch makes a clicking sound in his throat and wipes his eyes with his ragged sleeve, Pip pities his desolation and tells the convict he is glad that the food is good.  "Thankee, my boy. I do."  Magwitch replies.  Later in the narrative, Pip alludes to Magwitch as "my convict." 

After Magwitch returns to London, he seeks his "boy"; however, Pip is uncomfortable around him because Magwitch is outside of society.  Nevertheless, after becoming repulsed by the old convict, Pip learns to respect him in perceiving how victimized by society Magwitch has been.  Guilty that he has taken Magwitch's money as his benefactor, Pip tries to help Magwitch escape; however, the convict is fatally injured, so Pip stays by his side, seeing a rather noble side to Magwitch that is to be admired. Again, Pip learns that love and devotion surpass social class.

Wemmick provides Pip the example of the loving and devoted son as he invites Pip to dinner at his home where he dotes on his Aged Parent, a behavior that throws Pip's relationship with Joe into releif for him. A practical advisor to Pip, in providing his advice he acts as a father. As foil to the taciturn and mercenary Jaggers, Wemmick also sets an example of charitableness as he walks among the prisoners at Newgate, talking with them.

Mr. Jaggers represents the rational part of fatherhood, reminding Pip to always

"Take nothing on its looks; take everything on evidence.  There's no better rule."

However, Mr. Jaggers fails to show Pip affection.  Instead, he contributes to Pip's guilt, accusing him,  "Of course you'll go wrong somehow, but that's no fault of mine." Nevertheless, he does teach Pip the importance of control.

Certainly, Great Expectations is a "moral treatise on the superiority of human concern over social station"; Pip, with all his foibles, becomes worthy of a noble outcome as he learns from his guilt and his searches for a father-figure.


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